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ROTC Task Force Proposal Calls for 'Model Program'

By Stacey E. Blau
News Editor

The ROTC task force has released its final report in which it recommends that MIT keep its ROTC program but reshape it into a "model program" that would incorporate gays into all facets of the program.

"We're cautiously excited about what we're proposing," said Professor of Management Stephen C. Graves, who chairs the task force. "It's obviously a very difficult issue. But we're very anxious to see what the faculty will make of it."

"This is a proposal which will engage the faculty," said Chair of the Faculty Lawrence S. Bacow. The proposal is "a very creative solution, and I think the faculty will recognize that."

The task force's proposal will be presented for discussion at tomorrow's faculty meeting, but the measure will not be voted on until the April faculty meeting. The MIT Corporation will have the final say on what will be done with ROTC.

Under the Department of Defense's "don't ask, don't tell, don't pursue" policy, 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 task force was formed in October as part of a 1990 faculty resolution to continue examining the Institute's policy on ROTC.

Program will include gays

The report outlines a plan to make MIT's ROTC program into a model program that will lead the way in including gays in all aspects of the program, Graves said.

In contrast to current DoD restrictions, all students would be able to wear ROTC uniforms, participate in summer programs that take place on military bases or aboard naval vessels, and take any ROTC classes, including ones open only to ROTC cadets presently eligible to be commissioned as officers of the U.S. armed forces. Openly gay persons cannot currently be commissioned as officers.

In the event that gay students are unenrolled from a ROTC program, MIT should reinsure the DoD scholarships of those students, the report said. The report also recommended that future prospective commanding officers be evaluated for their commitment to an inclusive and non-discriminatory ROTC policy and that MIT continue working toward ending the DoD's policy of discrimination.

Since these proposals contradict current DoD policies, they will have to be negotiated with the DoD, Graves said. "Not everything we propose will be easy to do," he said. The proposals "require some of the senior officials at MIT to work with their counterparts at the DoD."

DoD's progress was not adequate

In the report, the task force concluded that the federal government has not made adequate progress toward eliminating its policy of discrimination during the past few years.

"The don't tell' part of the current policy is particularly problematic in a campus environment that relies extensively on honesty and openness," the report said.

"The campus has strived to create an honest, open environment for all students on campus," Graves said. "That is a fundamental principle by which we've tried to operate on campus" and ones which the proposal tries to address, he said.

But MIT has played an equally important role in keeping with the "citizen soldier" principle that asserts that the a country is safer when military officers are selected from a broad group of citizens and not exclusively those trained at military academies, according to Graves.

"Obviously it's not just MIT that can produce such officers," Graves said. But "MIT can play a role in fulfilling the principle and can also serve as an example."

Students favor keeping ROTC

In an Undergraduate Association referendum attached to the voting ballot last week, over 39 percent of students supported maintaining ROTC as it stands now, said UA Vice President Erik S. Balsley '96. About 14 percent of students favored severing ties completely with ROTC. The remaining 47 percent favored one of three varying levels of middle ground policy toward ROTC.

The task force's current proposal was not among those options. The choices in the referendum were based on the task force's interim report, which was issued before the proposal was formulated.

The proposal grew out of the input the task force received during the series meetings and forums it held during February to cull input on its ideas, Bacow said.

The task force is planning to have another forum to gauge community reaction to the proposal within the next month before the faculty votes in April, he said.

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 Biology Lisa A. Steiner, Professor of Ocean Engineering J. Kim Vandiver PhD '75, Professor of History and Baker House Housemaster William B. Watson, Frank P. Tipton G, and Alan E. Pierson '96.

Several ROTC cadets declined to comment on the proposal.