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ROTC Working Group Reports Little Progress

By Reuven M. Lerner
News Editor

Provost Mark S. Wrighton reported little progress by the Reserve Officers' Training Corps Working Group at the faculty's monthly meeting on Wednesday afternoon.

Also discussed were MIT's relationship with the federal government, including a lawsuit over the sharing of financial aid information with other universities, and a number of appointments to the Academic Council.

The ROTC Working Group was created in 1990 in an attempt to resolve MIT's policy of non-discrimination with the Defense Department's rules prohibiting homosexuals from participating in the armed forces. Such rules prohibit gay and lesbian students from joining Army, Navy, and Air Force ROTC programs.

"We all wish we had brighter immediate news to report," Wrighton said, adding that it was unlikely the Defense Department would seriously consider changing the rules before November's presidential election.

Still, Wrighton said that there had been a bit of progress since the group was formed 18 months ago. In particular, he said, a number of universities, including MIT, met with Christopher James, a Defense Department representative.

"The bright side of the discussion was that he indicated some receptiveness" to the universities' ideas, Wrighton said. James might be willing to create a joint committee between the Defense Department and universities to look into changing the policy, Wrighton said.

David L. Halperin, professor of literature, asked Wrighton if the administration had considered joining long-term opponents of the Defense Department's policy, such as the National Gay and Lesbian Task force or the American Civil Liberties Union.

Wrighton said that while MIT had not joined either of those groups, it had recently aligned itself with the American Council on Education, a consortium of colleges and universities planning to mount a legal challenge to the ban on homosexuals, as well as the Association of NROTC Colleges and Universities.

President Charles M. Vest spent some time discussing ways in which the Institute and the federal government have clashed over the last few months.

Vest reported that the Justice Department's antitrust suit against MIT for sharing financial aid information with other universities will probably take place in June. The suit is the result of MIT's refusal to sign a statement saying it will not share financial aid information with a set of other schools known as the Overlap Group.

"Training sessions that we would be responsible for putting people through, ways to increase the bureaucracy of the administration," as well as "the fact that we believe in the agreements on need-based aid, the importance of the Overlap Group in making that work," contributed to MIT's refusal to sign the statement, Vest said.

Vest also touched on the subject of indirect costs and the recent congressional hearings at which MIT was accused of having misspent millions of dollars in federal funds. Vest said that MIT had been and would remain honest.

Wrighton also told the faculty about a number of changes in the Academic Council made earlier this month, including the appointments of Arthur C. Smith, dean for undergraduate education and student affairs, Sheila E. Widnall '60, associate provost, and Samuel J. Keyser, associate provost for Institute life.

According to Wrighton, Widnall will work "with a number of ongoing and ad-hoc groups of faculty interest." These include a committee on federal relations, which she will chair, "taking on the responsibility of the Office of the Provost for issues related to academic responsibility," and "dealing with issues relating to the faculty."

This last point, Wrighton said, would be especially important after 1994, when mandatory retirement will not be possible, Wrighton said.

Wrighton also described a new Committee on Education that will be formed within the Academic Council. "This group will have responsibility for coordinating our education programs, including those allocated as freshman year activities," he said. Smith and Frank E. Perkins '55, dean of the graduate school, will serve on this committee, he said.