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Task Force Discusses ROTC at UA Meeting

By Stacey E. Blau
News Editor

ROTC task force members met with students at the Undergraduate Associate Council meeting Monday night for a presentation and discussion in preparation for their spring report to the faculty.

Professor of Management Stephen C. Graves, who chairs the task force, spoke about the role of the ROTC task force and led a discussion with council members and students about the implications of MIT's ROTC program and ways to gather student input about the issue. About 30 people attended the meeting.

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. The ROTC task force, formed in mid-October, is working to understand the implementation of the government's 1993 "don't ask, don't tell" policy and to evaluate the ROTC program's place at the Institute.

The faculty will likely vote on the issue at their April meeting, but the final decision lies with the MIT Corporation, said Professor Lawrence S. Bacow, chair of the faculty.

Other task force members who were present at the meeting were Professor of Ocean Engineering J. Kim Vandiver PhD '75 and Professor of History and Baker House Housemaster William B. Watson.

Faculty, task force want progress

Graves read part of a 1990 faculty resolution on ROTC, including a statement that said that the faculty will vote to eliminate ROTC if the federal government does not make adequate progress in reversing its discrimination policy.

UA Finance Board Secretary Douglas K. Wyatt questioned whether the faculty would abide by that statement.

Vandiver said that the faculty's 1990 opinion is "in no way binding. The faculty will amend it to do whatever it wants to do."

When the resolution was passed, the faculty was "poorly informed" about the "very, very divisive" issue of ROTC, Vandiver said. At the time, there was no clear-cut opinion shared by the faculty on what should be done with ROTC.

Several people at the meeting questioned the potential financial impact on the current 102 ROTC students.

Vandiver said that the elimination of ROTC would not adversely affect the financial status of present ROTC students. "MIT would have to take up the financial slack" for ROTC students.

Task force looks to educate

Part of the task force's goal involves gathering input about the issue from various constituencies, including students, to educate both the task force members and the community more about ROTC, Graves said.

This education process will help the task force determine "the possible options we should be considering and what the arguments are for and against each option," he said.

"I was very pleased with the constructive suggestions on how we might interact with the student body - both for sharing our findings with them, and for collecting their inputs and views on the possible actions that MIT might consider."

Students suggested various possibilities for collecting and sharing information, including a student referendum sponsored by the UA and open forum debates.

Referendum misleading

Most students agreed that open forums would be a good way to gather and share information, but some questioned the effectiveness of a referendum.

A referendum "could be a problem" because it may give the students the impression that the faculty will abide by the students' vote, said Adrian Banard '96, publicity coordinator for Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals, Transgenders, and Friends at MIT.

The vote should be more a survey than a referendum, and it should be made clear that "what students say is not going to do anything," he said.

Currently, the task force is working on a number of other projects aimed at gathering community input, Graves said. The committee is looking to set up an electronic mailbox to solicit additional input from students, faculty, and staff.

At the national level, the task force is examining the policies other universities have adopted on ROTC and monitoring the progress made in court cases dealing with the military's discrimination policy on homosexuals, Graves said.