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Institute Must Plan to End ROTC

The recent debate at Harvard University over the future of ROTC should give the Institute pause. Because of the program's continuing discrimination against homosexual students, Harvard will no longer directly provide its own funds to MIT for its students who participate in ROTC here. As for MIT, all indications suggest that the Department of Defense's discrimination against homosexuals in ROTC will continue to be in conflict with the Institute's non-discrimination policy. The intended re-examination of MIT ROTC should conclude as much, and the faculty and administration should promptly and carefully plan for the end of ROTC at the Institute.

Despite laudable attempts by the president, provost, and other university leaders, the Washington political climate makes any change in ROTC discrimination policy unlikely. The hope in early 1991 that the new administration would change how ROTC treats homosexuals soon faded as President Clinton advanced his "don't ask, don't tell" policy. The situation has not changed: ROTC continues to discriminate, and MIT continues to question the policy.

In response to a 1990 faculty resolution that challenged the ROTC policy, the president and provost have indicated that they will appoint a committee in the fall to re-examine the disparity between the Institute's non-discrimination policy and the Defense Department's ROTC policy. This committee's charge should be unequivocal: If the DoD policy continues to be incompatible with ours, the committee should develop a plan to end ROTC at MIT.

Furthermore, the faculty and administration must expedite this review. The Institute has conscientiously endeavored for many years to change the policy - perhaps the time has come to let our actions speak for themselves. To do otherwise would be to hollow the substance out of our lofty policy. How many more years should we wait as we dilute the fundamental principles of our academic community?

If MIT does choose to sever its ties with ROTC, the Institute will have to plan carefully for the impact on students. Certainly, MIT should give proper notice to current students, as well as incoming and potential students. Without any doubt, ending ROTC will be expensive for MIT. ROTC students should be offered supplemental financial aid to students who would lose their scholarships. But as the Overlap case taught us, the cost of defending our principles is negligible compared to the moral price of failing our ideals.

As then-provost John M. Deutch '61 (now Deputy Secretary of Defense) wrote to then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney in 1990: "ROTC is important for this campus, for students, and for the country. 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."

We believe that the DoD policy does violate MIT's non-discrimination policy, and we should plan for the end of ROTC at MIT. A review by the faculty and administration will surely reach this conclusion. If the Defense Department's discriminatory policy does not change, MIT should respond quickly and decisively, paying careful attention to buffer the impact on students. The Institute should act with the firm conviction that our position is just, and our response appropriate.