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ROTC Proponent Ignores Moral Implications, Other Universities

ROTCProponent Ignores Moral Implications, Other Universities

Thomas J. Barber G recently argued ["Elimination of ROTC Would Unjustly Hurt Students in Program," Feb. 17] that ROTC's elimination would be ineffective in affecting Department of Defense policy on homosexuals and would discriminate against ROTC cadets. I am certain that he is incorrect on both counts.

He says it is pointless to eliminate ROTC because MIT's actions would have no effect in Washington. Considered alone, this is probably true. But he ignores both the moral implications of such reasoning and the combined effect of similar action by several schools. If the DoD policy of excluding "people who engage in homosexual conduct" is unjust, then it behooves MIT to disassociate itself from enabling (via facility provision, financial support, or whatever) that policy's continuance, regardless of its ability to effectuate change. Otherwise we admit to the moral dissolution of tacitly permitting - and in this case, abetting - injustice because it is convenient: Being helpless to change events, why resist?

He also ignores the plans of other institutions. Harvard University, the University of Connecticut, and others are moving to limit or eliminate ROTC. Far from being ineffective, MIT's action would strengthen the call to change DoD policy and pave the way for other like-minded institutions to express their dissent.

MIT alone may be ignored - but the collective voice of many institutions is potent and demands response. It hardly needs to be said that history demonstrates both the ill effects of cowardice (for an extreme example, consider Germany before World War II) and the benefits of collective action (the end of segregation).

Next, Barber suggests that ROTC elimination would "discriminate" against MIT students who have chosen to "serve their country." But discrimination is defined as "a showing of partiality or prejudice in treatment."

In excluding ROTC, MIT would simply assure consistency with its nondiscrimination statement (which imposes on all "administered programs and activities" freedom from discrimination due to sexual orientation). ROTC (and thus its cadets) would be granted no special exemption, and so would be treated impartially - no differently than any other group seeking Institute sanction and support.

In confusing discrimination and the effects of its removal, he forgets the dual impact of this invidious practice: By excluding those with undesirable characteristics, it favors those without. ROTC cadets undoubtedly lose if MIT's complicity in discrimination is ended, for they are denied sanctioned and supported access to an agency which favors their sexual orientation.

Is this "discrimination"? Hardly. It is the removal of ROTC preferences in their favor which occasions the loss; no institution of preferences against them has occurred. Carrying out Barber's logic, policies denying admission to blacks at certain southern universities would have remained for fear of the "discriminatory" impact on those marginal white students whose race no longer covered the sins of inadequate grades.

I found his glowing comments on ROTC cadets frustrating, but not because I doubt that cadets possess these laudable characteristics. I am most saddened and angered because it is precisely for these honorable reasons that gay women and men also aspire to military service. There can be no equality of opportunity so long as DoD imposes the extra condition on homosexuals to pretend they're not.

Finally, it must be emphasized that the motivation for this agitation to eliminate ROTC is not some visceral hatred of the military. It is instead the hope that DoD will change its policy and recognize the fact that patriotism and love of country don't vary by sexual orientation - that gay Americans (like myself) are no less the latter for the former.

Daniel K Skwarek G