Thursday, February 24, 2011

Opposition to ROTC

I don't anticipate that ROTC will return to Ivy League campuses for quite some time. Who opposes ROTC, and on what grounds?

Opponents generally fall into two camps -- one opposing ROTC because of whom it excludes, the other because of what the military does (a third line of criticism arises from faculty concerns over the academic quality of ROTC programs). At Columbia, these opponents look with hope to the last vote, in 2005, of the University Senate, when that body opted overwhelmingly to continue barring ROTC from campus. But some on this side also acknowledge that the climate has, in fact, changed.

"I believe 'don't ask, don't tell' was the main polarizing issue," said Daniela Garcia, a senior who opposed ROTC then and now. "The anti-war argument was pushed to the side." But that argument -- which focuses on a disdain for militarism in general and faults the service branches for what opponents see as aggressive recruiting of the poor -- is one that she and others want to resurrect.

"It's about what the military does as a whole," said Garcia. "The structured violence of the military is not compatible with educational institutions." A coalition of student groups -- primarily Lucha, an immigrants' and workers' rights organization, Students for Justice in Palestine, and the International Socialist Organization -- has emerged.

The other faction argues that bringing ROTC back to campuses would still violate nondiscrimination policies because the military continues to prevent transgender people from serving. "At the end of the day, if one person is discriminated against, we have a problem," said Sean Udell, president of Columbia's senior class and of the university's Queer Alliance...

Still others see the latest critiques of ROTC as proof that elite universities are unalterably hostile to the presence of the military on their campuses, and that "don't ask, don't tell" served as a convenient excuse for keeping the military away.

I've said it many times--I never believed for a moment that opposition to Don't Ask, Don't Tell--which, incidentally, allowed gays to serve, and was an improvement over the prior policy--was the reason behind opposition to ROTC at the Ivies, or anywhere else. Anybody still want to claim it is, and that I'm wrong?

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