At Columbia, how is it that the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” could inspire such heated debate among students? The average student opposing the return of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps to Columbia University might be fairly described as a left-wing “radical,” while the university’s tiny conservative contingent is surely among the program’s supporters. Still, Columbia’s ROTC advocates are not much like Glenn Beck; one of their main organizers has admitted his hatred for Fox News and his love for National Public Radio.
For ROTC’s opponents, the military represents a threat to academic freedom, and its flaws are reasons to keep it at arm’s length. For its supporters, ROTC represents service to one’s nation, while the military’s flaws are in fact reasons to engage it.
With DADT’s repeal, Columbia’s University Senate promptly commissioned a task force to examine whether ROTC should be invited back to campus. They took a survey of students recently in the program (currently, Columbians in ROTC must commute to Fordham) and organized three public hearings. At the second hearing, Anthony Maschek, an Army veteran who took nine bullets in Iraq, was jeered and called “racist” in the middle of his remarks. His offense? He told anti-ROTC students that the U.S. military protects them from men in “other parts of the world [who] are plotting to kill you right now. . . . These people seriously are trying to kill you. They hate America, they hate you.” At the next hearing, one ROTC opponent derided Maschek’s statement as “one-dimensional.” Another opponent explained to the Columbia Spectator why they jeered: “Maschek’s remarks implied that Iraq has attacked the United States, and that Iraqis are thus among the people who want to kill Americans. But since Iraq did not attack the U.S. on September 11 or since then . . . Maschek’s statement seemed to imply that all Muslims want to kill Americans.”
Continue reading Columbia’s Ongoing Battle against ROTC
With “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repealed, Columbia University has quickly moved to re-examine whether it should once again formally participate in the Reserve Officers Training Corps program. At the second of three public hearings designed to gather input from the Columbia community, freshman Anthony Maschek calmly made his case for returning ROTC to campus, only to be jeered and called “racist” by other students. The incident might not have affected the larger debate, but for the fact that Maschek is also a nine-year Army veteran who received a Purple Heart after taking nine bullets in Iraq. After national media picked up the story, Columbia just as quickly moved to issue a press release condemning heckling, while also asserting that “the hearings as a whole have been considerate and thoughtful.” (It has posted an audio clip of Maschek’s testimony, including the jeers, but has not acknowledged him by name or apologized.) Perhaps more surprisingly, several pro-ROTC student campaigners have since attested to the school’s commitment to civil dialogue; for example, one veteran student told the Columbia Spectator that “the students who heckled Anthony . . . are not representative, not only of the anti-ROTC movement, but of the University.” Maschek himself agreed: “the atmosphere here has been supportive despite the actions of a very small minority of the town hall participants.” Maschek was heckled immediately after informing anti-ROTC students that the U.S. military protects them from men in “other parts of the world [who] are plotting to kill you right now . . . These people seriously are trying to kill you. They hate America, they hate you.” One of those students later explained to the Spectator why they jeered: “Maschek’s remarks implied that Iraq has attacked the United States, and that Iraqis are thus among the people who want to kill Americans. But since Iraq did not attack the U.S. on September 11 or since then . . . Maschek’s statement seemed to imply that all Muslims want to kill Americans.” It is difficult to decide which is more troubling: the apparent denial that some men really are working to kill Americans, or the bizarre inference that Maschek meant “all Muslims want to kill Americans.” Insofar as they hold such beliefs, Columbia’s anti-ROTC students betray a weak grasp on both reality and logic. Columbia is holding its final public hearing tonight. One hopes that everyone participating will conduct himself with civility—and reason.