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ROTC Plan Merits Muted Support

The faculty voted last week to approve the ROTC task force's revised version of its "modified" program for ROTC, formerly known as its "model" program. While The Tech previously endorsed the "model" program, it seems that the revisions to both the language and content of the proposal have taken away much of the spirit behind the idea of a "model" ROTC program.

The final proposal that has been approved does have some good ideas and may still have a promise of change if the task force's suggestions on future actions are carried through. But as it stands, the proposal does not seem worthy of the near-unanimous approval that the faculty gave it in its vote last week. A more muted endorsement (as Professor of Philosophy Ralph N. Wedgwood recommended before the vote) would have been more appropriate.

The task force has made very admirable efforts over the past several months to reach out to the community for input on ROTC, even during the past month, when the original version of the proposal was being discussed. Unfortunately, the task force has been unable to find a real solution. The core problem remains that the discrimination mandated by federal law against gays conflicts with MIT's policy of non-discrimination. That serious flaw seemed to be swept aside with the erstwhile promise of a "model" program, a unique MIT ROTC that would lead the way in eliminating the program's discrimination against gays.

While the program still offers the promise of some important changes, it seems to have lost this broader vision. Much of the forceful and direct language in the original report has been replaced by softer, less confrontational phrasing, most notably the switch from "model" to "modified." The proposal no longer stipulates that all students be able to participate in summer ROTC programs; it now says that students "shall have the opportunity, to the extent possible" to take part in "off-campus" activities. The plan also no longer explicitly suggests that MIT encourage other schools to examine their ROTC programs and non-discrimination policies. The new language of the plan no longer seems to promise that students who can't be commissioned because they are openly gay will even be guaranteed a certificate of completion of ROTC or any letters of recommendation and commendation. It seems that homosexual students will still have to live by a code of silence if they hope to earn a military commission, the goal of most students who join ROTC. That result is at best inadequate.

To its credit, the proposal still promises that MIT will reinsure the scholarships of gay students ousted from ROTC and now provides for a support system for students who are being investigated for their sexual orientation. But these constructive aspects do not compensate for the loss of the spirit of the previous version, nor do they overshadow the glaring fact that discrimination will continue.

The best thing that the task force can do now is lobby the Department of Defense as forcefully as it can to make sure that the DoD agrees to the changes proposed in the task force's plan. The task force must also continue to lobby in favor of eliminating the the government's policy of discrimination against gays, which should be the task force's ultimate goal. This should include making MIT's views known to policy-makers in Congress, and helping support court challenges. Such actions are imperative, as the task force must be able to report back something of substance at the yearly updates promised to the faculty.