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ROTC, Sloan Team Up

On Leadership Course

By Sanjay Basu

Beginning this fall, non-ROTC students will be allowed to enroll in Leadership and Management I (MS.401), and will receive credit through the Sloan School of Management as a special seminar (15.328).

The course will be jointly taught by officers from the Army, Navy, and Air Force beginning in the fall. It will offer six units of credit and will be open to all students.

The proposal for the new class, announced by Professor of Management Emeritus Robert B. McKersie and Visiting Professor of Military Science Robert R. Rooney at the April faculty meeting, was created by the ROTC oversight committee, which consists of faculty members, ROTC cadets, and military commanders.

“They were interested in getting more of ROTC into the mainstream of campus coursework,” Rooney said. “The three services -- Army, Navy, and Air Force -- really teach a lot of the same things. There’s a commonality here that we could exploit.”

“We had two objectives here: to merge the three services, to consolidate our training of leadership doctrine, and to export it to the MIT community,” Rooney said.

The proposal for the course comes four months after the MIT chapter of ROTC held an Independent Activities Period seminar in leadership, with 18 in attendance.

“We wanted to make sure that we had interest before we started a real course,” Rooney said. “And it was apparent that the attendance during IAP was mainly due to the cap we placed on students. We didn’t overbook like most IAP activities, so we only offered spots to 30 students.”

The new Sloan course was well-received by officers in all three divisions of ROTC, Rooney added. “Merging the three services into one course really provides a better interface for the cadets.

At the faculty meeting, McKersie said that the Sloan School had been particularly receptive to the proposal.

No changes in ROTC policy

The proposal of the new Sloan course has revamped debate on the conflict between MIT’s non-discrimination policy and the military’s stance against homosexuals.

The military currently prohibits the promotion of outwardly homosexual students to positions as commissioned officers in the military through its “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. As a result, homosexual students involved in ROTC are not allowed to participate in field activities at MIT or training operations at Camp Edwards.

MIT policy, however, prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation--creating a conflict between MIT and the national law.

Homosexual students can take ROTC courses, but are excluded from what Rooney described as “anything that could involve issuing them uniforms.” These students do not qualify for the monthly stipend that other ROTC students receive, primarily because they do not participate in field activities.

“Because we can’t commission them, it’s a liability to have them in field exercises,” Rooney said. “They could be hurt out there, and you’d have to ask, ‘Why are you doing this if you can’t even commission them in the end?’”

Rooney said that the introduction of the new course was not a conscious effort to resolve the conflict between MIT policy and U.S. law by providing homosexual students with an avenue to participate in more ROTC activities.

Rather, he said, the introduction of the class was unrelated to that issue and was an attempt to bring ROTC ideas to the mainstream MIT curriculum.

At the faculty meeting, however, McKersie introduced the proposal for the new course by saying, “We have under consideration the conflict between national rules on discriminatory policy with regard to sexual orientation and MIT’s policy of non-discrimination.” McKersie did not further elaborate on his comment.

“I think the gay-lesbian issue with regards to the congressional law has been in conflict and still is in conflict [with MIT policy]...but until Congressional Law changes, MIT can only do what it can without violating the law,” Rooney said.

ROTC has history of strife

In 1990, the faculty voted to condemn the then-ROTC policy, which they found violated MIT’s policy of non-discrimination. A five-year working group was later created to review the problem.

In 1996, the faculty called for a modified ROTC program that would be open to all MIT students, regardless of their sexual orientation, as well as a supplemental financial aid package for those who lose their ROTC funding as a result of their sexual orientation.

Early in 1998, MIT filed a friend of the court brief in a case which sought to turn over the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. However, the policy has not been overturned as of yet.