The Columbia Spectator offers a surprising argument for the return of ROTC to Columbia today. Here’s a sample of their case:
Opponents of ROTC argue that the program’s treatment of gays and lesbians violates the University’s anti-discrimination protocols. Those protocols should be enforced against businesses and other institutions, but the U.S. military is in a different category altogether. For all its faults, the military has too integral a role in American culture and society to be summarily banned from campus. Concerns about discrimination are surely legitimate, and any future ROTC program should be designed with the rights of LGBT students in mind. Columbia should look to the example set by MIT, which reimburses the Department of Defense on behalf of students removed from ROTC due to their sexual orientation. But to deny the military access to campus outright disengages Columbia from military issues and renders the University largely irrelevant in discussions of how issues like DADT should be addressed.
Columbia’s opposition to ROTC has failed to end DADT. In the meantime, without an ROTC program on campus, there has been little discussion of DADT and little effort to effect change. DADT is an unjust and impractical policy, but it must be fought in a way that does not sideline would-be military officers – or would-be Columbia students who may be dissuaded from applying.
The Spectator’s not alone in this position – The Harvard Crimson and several other university papers have advocated much the same thing. Student polls typically indicate an oppenness to the return of ROTC programs. And why is any of this surprising? The Spectator’s position is, after all, a very moderate one – it doesn’t concede objections to Don’t Ask Don’t Tell in any measure. It’s a sad comment that this very reasonable position constitutes a far-right argument in the eyes of countless university administrations. ROTC’s most prominent university advocate is gone, and elite universities show little sign of ending their unremitting hostility to the program. Those Columbia students with an interest in ROTC will continue to have only one option: the bus to Fordham.