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MIT poised to lead the nation in the battle to change ROTC (2)

Timothy M. Townsend '90 portrays the controversy over discrimination in the Department of Defense and the Reserve Officers' Training Corps as a misdirected "attack on ROTC and its student members" waged by the faculty and other members of the MIT community ["Elimination of ROTC will not change policy," Oct. 23]. Townsend states that severing ties with ROTC "will only hurt those students who want to attend MIT and participate in ROTC."

I hope that Townsend's perception of this issue is not shared by all members of the ROTC program at MIT. Despite my disdain for DOD policy, I believe that ROTC is a worth-while program that benefits MIT in several ways. I also believe that the faculty's goal in supporting the Committee on ROTC's resolution was to affect change at the national level, not to attack ROTC or it's students.

Townsend is correct on one point: MIT's cutting ties with the ROTC program will do nothing to change the DOD policy. This is why the bulk of the resolution described other measures which should be taken by MIT at the national level to affect change. Only if these efforts prove fruitless, said the resolution, does the faculty expect MIT to eliminate ROTC.

So why should MIT end ROTC if it cannot change the policy? ROTC is a discriminatory organization which -- for reasons even many in the military find silly and without justification -- prohibits gay people from becoming commissioned officers and receiving scholarship money. This prohibition runs directly counter to MIT's policy of non-discrimination.

Tim Townsend is a member of Air Force ROTC at MIT and is, presumably, straight. Because I am a gay man, I cannot participate in ROTC. Nor can I receive the over $15,000 per year in scholarships for which Townsend is eligible.

I ask him and all straight people at MIT to consider what it would be like to be officially barred from a recognized MIT program because of something which no individual can control, namely one's own sexual orientation.

Last week, I happened to pass a group of ROTC cadets running along Memorial Drive as part of their training. Imagine what it felt like to see that group of people, a few of whom were friends of mine, and know that I am not allowed to join them because I call myself "gay."

I am just as healthy as they, just as strong, just as smart. I love America just as much as they do. Yet, I cannot participate in this MIT program with them. In fact, according to military law, they are not allowed to associate with me or even be seen with me!

The discriminatory policy of the DOD and ROTC is deeply offensive to every gay man, lesbian, and bisexual on this campus. I am willing to temporarily live with ROTC's presence at MIT if MIT can bring about change in a reasonable amount of time. If we fail to do this, however, ROTC must go.

Joe Melvin '92->

Committee on ROTC->