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ROTC Action Apporpriate Now

Next month, the administration working group on ROTC ends its unremarkable five-year tenure. The last half-decade has seen little action by the group and a similar lack of motion on changes in the program's anti-homosexual policy - "don't ask, don't tell" violates the Institute's own non-discrimination policy as much as the old government rules did.

The "working" group deserves special criticism for its failure to do much of anything. Surveys, meetings, policy endorsements, and advertisements hardly qualify as legitimate efforts to effect a policy change. All to often has the provost reported on the "little progress" of the group at annual faculty meetings.

The end of the working group is the right time for the Institute to take decisive and conclusive action on the ROTC issue. Simply put, if a program violates the Institute's discrimination policies, as ROTC does and will continue to do for the foreseeable future, then it has no further place on this campus. MIT should not accept the discrepancy between its high-minded ideals and its practical desire to keep ROTC on campus. Administrators are right not to link threatened funding cuts to the ROTC decision; not because they are unrelated (because they are, in the Solomon Amendment, for example) but because they ought not to be.

By ending its support of ROTC, MIT would be taking a positive action to influence the federal government. Our leaders have to face the fact that our armed forces continue to require intelligent and well-trained officers. Without the support of top science and technology institutions such as MIT, the armed forces' mission will suffer. By letting its actions speak for themselves, MIT will exert pressure on our leaders in Congress and the Pentagon to bite the political bullet and scrap the current, discriminatory policies.

While we feel MIT should plan to end its ROTC program, we acknowledge the program has its benefits. Especially important are the funds MIT students receive in the form of ROTC scholarships. MIT should be prepared to buffer the repercussions of expelling ROTC, and offer matching scholarships to students hit mid-way through their academic career. And, when the offending policies are reversed or removed, the Institute would be well-served to consider re-establishing a ROTC presence.

But for now, MIT should cut its affiliation with ROTC. Such a move would undoubtedly be hard on some students, but this is one instance where MIT has no choice but to do what is right. The symbolic implications of such an action would be deep, and would reaffirm the Institute's democratic values.

The time for petition-signing and hand-wringing will pass with the end of the working group next month. Then, the administration must act with the force of its convictions, or risk forfeiting those convictions forever. Unless ROTC abandons its policy against homosexuals, it has no place on this campus.