The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 63.0°F | Mostly Cloudy

Clinton May Change Face of ROTC at MIT

By Sabrina Kwon
Associate News Editor

President Charles M. Vest is "eagerly watching to see if Clinton will reverse the military's gay-banning policy," according to Sarah J. Gallop, Vest's assistant for government and community relations.

Last May, Vest formally gave his support to the Military Freedom Act of 1992, which would reverse the ban on homosexuals in the military -- and in ROTC programs at universities across the country.

Secretary of Defense Les Aspin PhD '66 spoke recently of working out "a compromise" between gay rights activists and military leaders, keeping with President Bill Clinton's reaffirmed promise to allow homosexuals to serve in the armed forces.

On Jan. 25, Clinton reiterated his intention to lift the ban on gays in the military. "I intend to keep my commitment," he said.

"Nothing has really changed, though," Gallop said, adding that the MIT task force set up to induce change in the Department of Defense policy is still "continuing its work to reverse the policy."

Bettiker hopeful

"I am ecstatic," said Robert L. Bettiker '91, when asked about Clinton's promise to lift the ban. Bettiker was forced to leave the ROTC program at MIT three years ago, when he informed his Navy ROTC commander that he was gay.

Bettiker said that he supports Clinton's actions and plans thus far. "I like the approach he's taking now--phasing in change so that there won't be any major negative response in Congress," he said. Bettiker added that it was important for Clinton to continue taking steps "to educate the military so that some military leaders do not resign."

"I am trying to see what I can do to further this," Bettiker said. "Overall I am elated."

Michael J. Williams '94, a midshipman in the Navy ROTC, said that he thought the lifting of the ban "would make the job of an officer more difficult, in trying to lead people who are in solid agreement with the ban."

Emphasizing that his words represent his personal opinion, and not that of the Navy, Williams said, "Though I don't agree with that kind of lifestyle at this point, I think I would be able to work alongside anybody. However, on a ship, when you're not simply working together but living together, I don't know how comfortable I would feel. I think I could deal with it, but then again I haven't had much real experience on a ship."

Military resistant to change

In a memo leaked to the press last week, Aspin informed Clinton that both Congress, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and most military commanders do not want ban on gays in the military lifted.

Aspin also predicted that the ban eventually will be deemed unconstitutional by the courts. Aspen said that military leaders fear a coerced acceptance of gays into the military from both the executive and the judicial branches "without having a chance to control it at all." Thus they may be more willing to consider certain terms for the reversal of the ban that they may have rejected before, The Boston Globe reported.

Aspin emphasized that compromise will be needed for either side to reap any benefits, during an interview on CBS's "Face the Nation." Gay rights groups, knowing that Congress could immediately overturn any sweeping executive order Clinton might issue, are feeling pressure to minimize their demands so that Congress might not reject outright any changes that Clinton proposes.

Aspin was optimistic about how the pressure to compromise will help shape the policy on homosexuals in the military. "I think that the pressures on both sides to come to an agreement ...are real ... I think we can work something out," Aspin said last Sunday on "Face the Nation." Aspin said that the working plan for the lifting of the ban entails waiting for "six months and see whether we can do it."

Bettiker, now in medical school in Washington, D.C., said he was "trying to see what I can do to help [expedite the lifting of the ban], like contacting congressmen and senators," urging those who feel strongly about the issue to do likewise.