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Deutch blasts ROTC policy

By Annabelle Boyd

In a letter addressed to Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney, Provost John M. Deutch '61 denounced the Reserve Officers' Training Corp's policy of barring homosexuals as "wrong and shortsighted." This is the strongest statement concerning ROTC yet issued by an MIT official.

"The policy discriminates against students on the basis of sexual orientation, in contradiction to the policy of MIT and many other universities," Deutch wrote.

Urging Cheney to work to "reverse this discriminatory policy" in the same manner the Department of Defense "reversed prior discriminatory policies against blacks and women," Deutch warned that if the DOD does not change its policy "many universities will be forced to end their ROTC programs."

Voicing his concern that <>

the military's discriminatory policy makes it easier for the "minority of students and faculty who oppose any connection between the university and the DOD" to advance a "generally anti-military position," Deutch encouraged Cheney to give greater consideration to the difficult situation ROTC's discriminatory policy created for universities. "A faculty member cannot be expected to support an activity on campus that is in direct contradiction to the principles of the university," he wrote.

Deutch also encouraged Cheney to recognize that "the issue of homosexual participation in ROTC and the military generally will become a vehicle for those who are dedicated critics of the nation's defense establishment and of the historical relationship between the DOD and the nation's leading universities."

To help ease the immediate "friction" between ROTC and universities, Deutch recommended that "significant latitude" be given to local ROTC units to determine if repayment of scholarship funds should be required of cadets and midshipmen who are dismissed from the program for their avowed homosexuality. As an example of one such case, Deutch cited the Navy's recent dismissal of Robert L. Bettiker '90, who has been asked to repay scholarship benefits by the secretary of the Navy against the advice of local ROTC officials.

In an interview yesterday, Deutch stated that his main motivation in writing Cheney was his concern over "the discrepancies between MIT's policy of non-discrimination and the DOD discrimination against homosexuals."

"I believe that ROTC is important for this campus, for students and for the country. I don't want to see this matter lead to a loss of ROTC at MIT. Yet at the same time, a university in full support of non-discrimination cannot endorse a group which discriminates, no matter how beneficial the consequences of that association," he said.

Deutch re-asserted his belief that "MIT must act together on this issue, not as a single faction of the campus against the other faction."

"I think that this is an occasion where the MIT community has to see itself as a united entity in a conflict between itself and the military. Our university and other universities are trying to work in a steady manner with the DOD to get them to change their discriminatory policy," he said.

Deutch, an associate of Cheney's, has been a member of the Defense Science Board since 1975, and has considerable clout in defense circles.

He has served the Reagan, Carter, Ford, Johnson and Kennedy administrations as a member of the White House Science Council (1985-89); the President's Commission on Strategic Forces (1983); the President's Nuclear Safety Oversight Committee (1980-81).

In addition, Deutch served as an undersecretary in the Department of Energy (1979-1980); director of energy research in the DOE (1977-1979); member of the Army Scientific Advisory Panel (1975-1977); and staff member in the Office of the Secretary of Defense (1961-1965).


Overwhelming support

for Deutch's letter

Deutch's letter comes in the wake of three highly publicized cases in which the Pentagon, overriding local ROTC board recommendations, demanded repayment from cadets after they admitted they were gay.

Last month, 24 US representatives issued a letter criticizing Army ROTC for forcing Washington University student James M. Holobaugh to repay $25,000 in scholarship money after being expelled from the program.

Shortly afterward, a total of 35 representatives sent a similar letter to military officials concerning Bettiker and Harvard graduate David E. Carney, who was also asked to refund money after being removed from the ROTC program because of his sexual orientation.

Bettiker praised Deutch's decision. "It is one more positive thing for the movement. I am surprised at how fast things are moving," he said.

According to Bettiker's commanding officer, US Navy Captain Robert W. Sherer, Deutch's letter "is an appropriate letter addressed to exactly the right level. There has been so much going on in this past year, addressed to the individual ROTC units, which have no power to change the policy. Finally, a senior official has gone to the top where the policy can be changed. I'm pleased to see it."

Carney, who is currently studying at Oxford University, also praised the tenor of Deutch's letter, saying that it sent an important message to top military officials, The Harvard Crimson reported Tuesday.

Professor of Literature David M. Halperin, a founding member of Defeat Discrimination at MIT, views the letter as "a strong and unambiguous statement of principle."

According to Halperin, DDMIT, which is sponsoring a proposal to remove ROTC from campus if the military's discriminatory policy is not changed within the next few years, "welcomes the letter, and recognizes its value because it comes from a Defense Department insider."

"Because of his close relations with the DOD, Deutch has enabled MIT to take a leadership role in doing something about ROTC policy. And that makes me proud to be part of MIT," Halperin said.

Halperin believed that the letter allowed "no backing away from the obvious contradiction between MIT policy and ROTC."

"The burden of action has now been placed on those people who want to keep ROTC at MIT. It is no longer enough to say ROTC should be here without a change in policy," he said.

According to the Crimson, advocates of gay and lesbian legal rights said they saw the letter as an important step forward in the effort to pressure the Defense Department to change its policies.

"I think it is important for a number of things. MIT is added to the list of institutions of higher education speaking out against this policy," said William R. Rubenstein of the American Civil Liberties Union's lesbian and gay rights project. "MIT is a very well-known institution and the one that perhaps does the most business with the military."

President Paul E. Gray '54, in a letter to Undergraduate Association President Manish Bapna '91, expressed his support for Deutch.

"Both the Provost and I are troubled by the contradiction between MIT's policy of non-discrimination and the ROTC policy of discrimination on the basis of sexual preference, and we believe the that this ROTC policy should change," he wrote.