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Vest Names Group to Look at ROTC Policy

By Stacey E. Blau
News Editor

A president-appointed task force has begun evaluating MIT's ROTC program in light of its policy on homosexuals, which violates the Institute's non-discrimination policy.

President Charles M. Vest announced the formation of the task force at the Oct. 18 faculty meeting. Vest appointed Professor of Management Stephen C. Graves chairman of the task force.

ROTC discriminates against homosexuals, violating MIT's non-discrimination policy which protects MIT students, faculty, and staff from discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The Institute's policy on ROTC has been under review because of this conflict. After an October 1990 faculty resolution, a five-year working group was formed to change the federal government's discriminatory policy on homosexuals in the military. The working group's term concluded at the end of last month, and the new task force was formed to continue examining the Institute's policy on ROTC.

Vest said that he chose Graves because he "was recommended by several members of the faculty as someone who is known for his ability to examine information critically, listen carefully and fairly to all sides of issues, and help groups work toward sound conclusions."

In addition to Graves, the task force includes Assistant for Government Relations in the Office of the President Sarah E. Gallop, Professor of the History of Science Kenneth R. Manning, Professor of Ocean Engineering J. Kim Vandiver PhD '75, and Professor of History and Baker House Housemaster William B. Watson.

An additional faculty member and two students are expected to be added to the committee, Graves said.

Task force will work to educate

The job of the task force "is to move forward with the faculty resolution of 1990. We are now discussing how to best do that," said Vandiver, who also served on the working group.

The task force met for the first time last Friday, Graves said. "My expectation is that we will be working very hard - probably meeting weekly for the next several months," he said.

The committee will be looking at understanding the implementation of the federal government's 1993 "don't ask, don't tell" policy and projecting what will be happening in Congress, federal courts, and other universities with regard to the the policy, Graves said.

"Part of our education would be to solicit input from various constituencies on campus," such as students, faculty, and the ROTC commanders, Graves said.

"We will need to share this information with the MIT community, gather community input, and bring the issue back to the faculty," Vandiver said. "Much of the committee's work is to put the actual facts of the situation before the faculty."

An important goal of the task force is to encourage informed debate, "not to sell a solution one way or the other," Graves said.

The task force will probably submit a report to the faculty in the mid-spring. The report will most likely be the basis from which the faculty will make its final vote on whether to keep or jettison ROTC, Graves said.

Transition runs smoothly

The transition from the working group to the task force has been "quite simple," Vandiver said. "Although largely out of sight of the general community, the working group monitored the ROTC situation quite closely" through meetings, surveys, policy endorsements, advertising, and observation of the implementation of the federal government's 1993 "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

The working group also kept track of the actions at other universities the activities in the courts across the nation. "The required knowledge is the same" for the work of the task force as it was for the working group, Vandiver said.

"My hope is that the work of the working group will be very valuable to the work in our effort," Graves said.

"Given the current climate, the judicial branch may offer the only potential" with regard to influencing the military's policy regarding homosexual conduct, Gallop said. "The task force will be updated in this and other areas," Gallop said. The transition is also expedited by the fact that three members of the task force - Vandiver, Gallop, and Manning - served on the working group, Gallop said.