Sunday, September 8

Be All You Can Be - Critics are decrying the capitulation of schools like Harvard to pressure from the Federal government, which threatens to pull funding from colleges that don't permit military recruiting because of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." There's been discussion on the Princeton gay alumni listserv about reinvigorating opposition on campus to the Princeton ROTC. Since an outright ban is out of the question, some want to make the ROTC pay by giving them inadequate space or requiring them to carry around disclaimers. One writer suggested

Perhaps we should have ROTC post a sign with a numeric entry: "Over XXX thousand lesbian and gay servicement have been dismissed," where XXX would be updated annually. Perhaps we should require ROTC participants to go through a seminar on the effects and cost of "Don't ask, don't tell" with a test on its impact on the numbers of Americans in the military. They should be required to read the reports on why gay men and lesbians should not be allowed to serve, as per the previous policy, and the reports about the new policy and be required to attend precepts where they discuss the policies. They should definitely be required to learn about lesbian and gay men that have been harassed and/or murdered while serving in the military. Maybe Princeton should bring in servicemen and women who have been dismissed to speak to these students, or perhaps family members of servicemen and women who have been murdered by their colleagues for being gay. If a student graduates from Princeton through their participation in ROTC and cannot tell you how many gay men and lesbians have been thrown out of the military in the past five years and is not painfully aware of the brutal treatment some gay men and women have received at the hands of their colleagues, then we have failed indeed.

This sort of talk, to me, smacks of real "reverse discrimination" against the military - an attitude I dare say is common to too many left-leaning gay activists. A more measured response was suggested by the university's gay and lesbian coordinator, who talked about her plans to invite the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network for a consciousness-raising public panel discussion. (Maybe including current or former members of the military - gay and straight?) Another listserv member also helpfully contributed this summary of where the university has been on this issue (activists have such short memories sometimes):

Princeton has an Army ROTC program on campus. However, as part of an understanding between Princeton and DOD, this program is not considered a university program, but rather a campus association. As such, it does not fall formally within the jurisdiction of university policies. The status of ROTC as an association and the inconsistency between DOD and Princeton policies are noted in university handbooks and related materials. The 2002 parent handbook states "Requirements for Armed Services ROTC programs are not consistent, regarding sexual orientation, with the related non-discrimination policies of the University that govern admission to the University's academic and other programs. The University has repeatedly urged that the Armed Services policy be changed."

A 1989 Presidential Committee on the Princeton/ROTC relationship determined that because of the lack of direct control, the university's equal opportunity policy did not apply to ROTC. It was deemed acceptable to allocate space to ROTC, provided that the university "distances itself from the unit's discriminatory practices to avoid complicity in them." The committee also committed to forthrightly condemning the ROTC practices and pressuring legislators to bring about their elimination.

On November 1, 1993, the faculty voted 42-33 to recommend termination of the Army ROTC program at Princeton by June 30, 1994 unless the Army repeals all regulations restricting the speech of gay men, lesbians and bisexuals.

On November 12, 1993, the trustees considered the faculty resolution. Although they recognized the importance of the nondiscrimination policy, they also affirmed the importance of providing ROTC opportunities to Princeton students. They decided that, on balance, ROTC should remain on campus.

On November 14, 1993, President Harold Shapiro issued a statement describing the trustees' affirmation of the importance of ROTC opportunities to Princeton students, the university and the nation. The statement observed that despite recent modifications to the DOD policy, the military continues to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. Princeton's publications will continue to note the inconsistency of the DOD policy with the nondiscrimination policy of the university. Princeton will continue its efforts to change the federal policy so that all who wish to serve in the armed forces may do so regardless of their sexual orientation.

I'm not about to say I condone the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy. I probably have more friends who have served in silence than most, and I tend to be even more partisan on the issue than they are. Nevertheless, I have a great deal of respect for those who make great sacrifices for their country, and I believe in attacking the policy, not the people involved. The suggestion for a panel discussion with the SLDN is a great idea, and I agree it would make a great forum for publicizing the issues and mobilizing student support. I don't think the kids who are in ROTC (which may very well include gay students) should be required to where scarlet disclaimers around their necks as a penalty for something they didn't do and may not even agree with.

Heterosexuality is NOT a requirement for military service under DADT, and questions about it are not permitted in recruiting. My experience knowing gay servicemen and women is that they tend to enjoy a relatively open lifestyle when off-base and out of uniform, without heightened fear of persecution. Being closeted in the workplace isn't fun, but it may be something many of us have some experience with and can understand, even as others without such constraints work to make such policies less socially acceptable.