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Community Split on ROTC Proposal

By Stacey E. Blau
News Editor

In the three weeks since the release of the ROTC task force's final report, which recommended creating a "model" ROTC program, students and faculty continue to express mixed feelings about the plan.

The model program proposal has three main features: It calls for ROTC programs to be open to all students, for MIT to promise to fully compensate cadets who lose their scholarships for reasons of homosexual conduct, and for the faculty to create a committee advocating change in the military's discriminatory "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays.

The proposal, which is meant to address the conflict between the military's policy and MIT's non-discrimination policy, was introduced and discussed at the March faculty meeting.

The task force is now "trying to refine their recommendations" to respond to some of the issues raised at the meeting, said Chair of the Faculty Lawrence S. Bacow. The task force is also holding an open community forum this Thursday from 7 to 9 p.m. in 10-250 to gather more input, Bacow said.

"I don't know how drastic the changes might be," Bacow said. The faculty plans to discuss the revised proposal at next week's meeting.

Some voice concerns on proposal

Several people have expressed misgivings about the proposal.

"It seems to me a little bit weak," said outgoing Graduate Student Council President Bonnie J. Souter G. The proposal has some good ideas and says "we're going to try to work on discrimination," but it does not say what MIT will do if the Department of Defense does not cooperate with MIT, she said.

"I've heard from many gay and lesbian graduate students that this is an unacceptable solution because it lacks teeth," Souter said.

"The task force should reorder its list of priorities," Souter said. The top priority should have been to lobby on a national level to change the discrimination policy, she said.

"I certainly think that as it stands, the proposal is indefensible," said Assistant Professor of Philosophy Ralph N. Wedgwood.

The proposal supports openness among cadets, but commanding officers would still be bound by law to notify superiors of any "propensity they observe toward homosexual conduct" among cadets, Wedgwood said. "The discrimination still survives."

The task force is billing the proposal as a model program, which could mean that MITcould get away with saying that there has been progress. "It amounts to pretending they've done something about it when they haven't," Wedgwood said.

"I don't think that it will improve the lives of gay and lesbian students," Wedgewood said.

"The way they presented [the plan] as this model ROTC' was naive," said Pallavi Nuka '98. The success of the proposal is predicated on the DoD's cooperation. "I really don't see that happening," she said.

The plan would allow gay students to wear uniforms and attend classes, but they still could not be commissioned as officers, Nuka said. "It seems both condescending and totally ignorant of the concerns of students," she said.

Others are optimistic about plan

"I think the task force has been doing a terrific job of listening" to outside input, Bacow said. "They've been trying to engage the community for the benefit of all our students."

They have tried to think hard about MIT's dual objective of an open, tolerant campus and having a program that MIT can keep for its students to participate in, he said.

Professor of Management Stephen C. Graves, who is chairing the task force, said that the task force is now working to revise its proposal to address concerns and misperceptions about the plan.

"I think we've gotten some very good feedback that will help us refine the proposal and make it into a better proposal," Graves said.

One point the task force hopes to clarify is MIT's involvement in any investigation of a student's homosexual conduct, Graves said. The original proposal said that MIT could be directly involved in the investigation process, but the task force now plans to suggest that the faculty take on a monitoring role in the process and help advise the student, Graves said.

Another important point Graves wants to clarify is the fact that "the changes we recommend to the ROTC program don't do anything to affect or eliminate the core discrimination," he said.

If the DoD does not cooperate with MIT's proposals, the issue of what to do with ROTC will likely be brought back before the faculty. The task force is in the process of deciding on its expectations of the DoD's willingness to work with the proposed changes, Graves said.

ROTC cadets declined to comment on the proposal.