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Model ROTC Program Right for MIT

The ROTC task force's final report released this week represents the culmination of several months' work on the part of the task force, months that have been filled with forums, debate, and concern for community input. This final report was expected to endorse one of the options laid out in last January's interim report. Instead the task force has defied conventional wisdom and recommended a truly inventive program. Its report recommends ROTC remain on campus, but that MIT create a "model ROTCprogram" open to all students without discrimination. We endorse this strategy.

For the past several years, The Tech has consistently editorialized in favor of severing all ties with ROTC. Because the Department of Defense continues to discriminate against homosexuals, it was our belief that MIT could not in good faith maintain its ties with ROTC in the face of our strong commitment to non-discrimination.

None of the solutions offered thus far in the debate had seemed even remotely appealing. While severing ties with ROTC would preserve MIT's commitment to non-discrimination, it would cause a number of problems. Severing ties would jeopardize current and future students' ROTC scholarships as well as deny them the opportunity to participate in a worthwhile educational program. Severing ties would also put MIT in danger of losing federal research dollars. Other options, however, all involved maintaining some ties with ROTC, and thus preserving the conflict between the DoD's "don't ask, don't tell, don't pursue" policy and MIT's policy of non-discrimination.

The task force's plan, however, holds out the possibility of both making ROTC non-discriminatory and working to influence the DoD in a positive direction. Maintaining ties with ROTC has the distinct advantage in that it allows MIT to continue to work with the federal government to create an acceptable policy. Severing ties would be a powerful message, but it could only be done once. With the proposed plan, MITwill be able to create advocacy groups (as the report recommends) and support activities that continuously influence the federal government. The task force also notes that the military has become increasingly conservative as other universities have pulled out of ROTC programs. MIT's advocacy may reverse this trend, possibly even overturning of the current offensive DoD regulations.

The most important point in favor of the task force's model program is of course that it opens the door for an inclusive ROTC program at MIT and possibly at other colleges. Current ROTC cadets will not lose their scholarships or be forced to attend classes elsewhere. Future cadets will not be denied the chance to participate in the program. Most importantly, the model program stands a good chance of finally opening MITROTC to all undergraduates, whatever their sexual orientation. While the task force acknowledges that working around the "don't ask, don't tell" policy will be difficult, it believes that MIT and DoD can work together to create fundamentally tolerant and inclusive units on campus.

In writing this report, the task force has taken admirable time in involving the community and seeking the input of all groups. It appears that the report's recommendations are a direct result of this inclusivity - a further demonstration of the merits of inclusive planning processes. The report does not seem to be based on an overly optimistic view of the current DoD regulations. Rather it states firmly that "there has not been adequate progress toward the elimination of the DoD policy on sexual orientation." The task force takes issue with the DoD philosophy, declaring that "the Institute must foster an open, honest environment that respects the rights to explore myriad aspects of human experience."

Not only does the task force's report present a way to make MITROTC more inclusive, but it puts MIT firmly on record on the right side of the national debate. We heartily endorse the strategy of creating a model ROTC program at MIT. Furthermore, we congratulate the ROTC Task Force for a job well done.