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ROTC Aid Policy a First Step to Change

Column by Abigail Mieko Vargus

There are a few issues that have bothered me for a while about MIT. One of them is ROTC. I believe that anyone, regardless of their sexual orientation, should be welcomed into ROTC provided they fill the same requirements as their fellow ROTC students.

MIT has been under extreme pressure to change its policies. Most of this pressure has been from outside forces; many of the Ivy League schools which have abolished ROTC. There are even several concerned MIT students who have voiced their opinions.

Basically, ROTC is a resource to which all students should have access. Denying them such access is wrong.

In September, the ROTC implementation team (appointed by President Charles M. Vest) began meeting in the hopes of providing a solution. The aid policy recommended by the ROTC task force last year has just gone into effect. This aid policy provides for students who lose scholarships if they violate ROTC's "don't ask, don't tell" policy. These students now will be eligible to apply for supplemental loans in order to continue their education. MIT will also forgive these loans to students who perform full-time public service after graduation.

First, I want to say that I am glad that something is finally being done. This is a serious issue that deserves more attention than it has received from the student body and from the entire MIT community. While none of the MIT students enrolled in ROTC have lost a scholarship because of ROTC policy since the "don't ask, don't tell" policy has gone into effect, there is no guarantee that none ever will.

Second, I think that this is a step in the right direction. As we all know, an MIT education is not a cheap thing. All of us find a way to afford it whether it is through our parents, our loans, our summer jobs, or our scholarships. Scholarships that provide as much as ROTC scholarships are not easy to come by. Denying a minority this opportunity because of their sexual orientation is wrong, just the same as denying a minority this opportunity because of race or gender is wrong.

MIT has formulated a policy that eliminates the element of financial discrimination that was previously present in the ROTC policy. While the option provided by the new policy is not the same, it functions in a similar way to ROTC scholarships: tuition in return for future service. The service which MIT asks for goes to the public. It can be through the Peace Corps or even through teaching in a public school.

However, there is something more that needs to be done. Here it becomes a much more difficult question. Should MIT discontinue ROTC? There are several reasons that MIT should not. There are several reasons that MIT should. It becomes a matter of principles versus practicality.

If MIT discontinues ROTC, some argue that it could affect the vast amounts of funding which MIT receives from the Department of Defense. Others argue that the students currently in ROTC will lose the opportunity to attend a well-respected institution because they do not have the financial resources. While these may or may not hold true, they are possibilities to consider.

MIT cannot change the national policy on its own. Even all the students, staff, and faculty at MIT cannot change the national policy. However, we can contribute to the cause. ROTC and the military in general should not be restricted from any minority. This is an issue that should be raised to politicians repeatedly until it is fixed. Once the problem is fixed at a national level, those at the local level will no longer have to worry. One way to bring this problem to the attention of those who can solve it is by action: MIT needs to act. This policy is a small step in the right direction. It's time to look forward to the next.