Faculty approves timetable for ROTC
By Andrea Lamberti
On Wednesday, the faculty took a definitive stance on MIT's relationship with the Reserve Officers' Training Corps, whose policy excluding gays and lesbians conflicts with the Institute's non-discrimination policy.
The faculty approved a resolution giving the Department of Defense five years to end its discriminatory policy. If the policy is not changed, MIT will most likely break with ROTC.
A resolution proposed by the MIT Committee on ROTC outlined a comprehensive, but flexible, course of action for the Institute to take over the next several years. If the DOD fails to eliminate the conflict between the policies of MIT and ROTC, the ROTC program might be made unavailable to MIT students.
The committee was charged with setting a deadline by which MIT should end its participation in ROTC if the DOD does not change its policy. In May, the faculty asked the committee to set a date by Wednesday's meeting.
The resolution asks the administration to work to reverse the DOD policy within five years. MIT should both work individually and collaborate with other schools to achieve this goal, the resolution states.
According to the resolution, the president will then establish a task force to evaluate whatever progress has been made and recommend a subsequent course of action, with the "expectation that inadequate progress toward eliminating the DOD policy on sexual orientation will result in making ROTC unavailable to students beginning with the class entering in 1998."
MIT publications would note the end of the ROTC program beginning no later than the fall of 1996.
The resolution requests that the ROTC committee report at least once a year on MIT initiatives toward change in the DOD policy. It should also report on "the committee's assessment of progress at the national level," it adds.
The Executive Committee of the MIT Corporation and the ROTC committee should begin a dialogue, focusing on the need for action and possible cooperation among schools by faculties, administrations, and corporations, according to the resolution.
Alvin W. Drake '57, chair of the ROTC committee and professor of electrical engineering, introduced the resolution and explained the the process behind the committee's consensus.
The coming battle to reverse the policy is not with the DOD or ROTC, Drake said. It is "with Congress, [and] the people who send those people to Congress."
Most faculty support
David M. Halperin, professor of literature and faculty advisor to Defeat Discrimination at MIT, supported the motion. Although it might be moderate compared to the actions of some other institutions, he said, it is not a "tactical retreat. [The resolution] represents a plan for action."
President Charles M. Vest saw the resolution as a vehicle for uniting the MIT community, characterized it as an "excellent motion," and said he will embrace it "with a great deal of enthusiasm."
Paul E. Gray '54, chairman of the corporation, qualified the entire motion as "constructive," and pledged to serve as the link between the faculty and Corporation on the issue. Faculty Chair Henry D. Jacoby voiced the strong support of the Faculty Policy Committee.
Provost Mark S. Wrighton, at his first faculty meeting as provost, saw the situation as an opportunity for MIT to become a leader in forging new policy, and vowed to do "all in his power" to work toward the change.
Some faculty members at the meeting felt that the resolution was not strong enough. Professor of Literature Louis Kampf said he would vote for the measure because "if we don't pass it, we'll wind up with nothing."
Kampf added that the resolution created "a hint of a deadline, but not really a deadline," because MIT will not automatically break with ROTC if the policy is not changed.
Professor of Physics Vera Kistiakowsky shared Kampf's sentiments. She proposed an amendment that would guarantee a break with ROTC if the military did not change its policy in five years, but the amendment was voted down.
Status of report
Jacoby reported on the status of the study panel on policies related to demonstrations. In May, the faculty called on the president to appoint a panel to review the processes by which demonstrations on campus are handled. The panel would make recommendations for handling demonstrations and establish an advisory committee to be consulted in times of crisis and to monitor demonstrations.
Six faculty members and two members of the administration have already been chosen for an Ad Hoc Committee on Demonstrations. Two undergraduates and two graduate students will serve on the committee, but the committee's progress and discussions have been delayed by discussions of MIT governance, Jacoby said.
Steven D. Penn G, vice president of the Graduate Student Council, opposed the process by which the committee is being formed. He announced that the GSC has begun appointing representatives for Institute committees, rather than letting committee chairs select them from a list of nominees. [See story on Tuesday's GSC meeting, page 1.]
"I think the faculty should amend its rules right away" in response to the change in the GSC appointment process, Penn said.
GSC President Michael D. Grossberg G criticized the committee selection process in general, and emphasized that all members of a committee should be consulted before a final report is written.
Manish Bapna '91, president of the Undergraduate Association, offered two suggestions for the Ad Hoc Committee on Demonstrations: Its meetings and hearings should be open to the community, and a lawyer should be included on the committee.
Accolades all around
Despite the heavier tone of discussion on the ROTC program at MIT, several members of the faculty were praised by their colleagues at the meeting.
Robert J. Birgeneau, head of the physics department, commended two professors who received the 1990 Nobel Prize in physics on Wednesday. Physics Professors Jerome I. Friedman and Henry W. Kendall PhD '55 received the prize, along with Dr. Richard E. Taylor of the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, for their research confirming the existence of quarks.
And under the guise of a "faculty resolution on the leadership transition," Jacoby presented a tribute to Gray, extolling his tenure as president of MIT.
President Charles M. Vest, leading the faculty meeting for the first time, thanked the faculty, and related what he learned about MIT from interviews with faculty and students over the summer. A common thread running through all the conversations revealed a commitment to education, particularly undergraduate education; a commitment to service and the issues facing mankind; and a sense of the uniqueness of MIT.
Vest identified what he viewed as the emerging issues facing the Institute. "In no way to imply criticism of the past . . . The Institute [is] lacking a clear definition of itself," he said.
Other issues to be addressed include developing enhanced approaches to federal relations, maintaining and enhancing undergraduate education and the undergraduate experience, and dealing with difficult budgetary constraints, Vest continued.
Vest affirmed his personal goal to maintain and strengthen the presence of women and underrepresented minorities at MIT. "It is very difficult to see the changing face of America in our faculty and staff," Vest said.