Emails Sent to the ROTC Task Force

Click here for second batch of emails

February 9 – 24, 2005



1.      To the ROTC Task Force:
As a full professor at Columbia University, I wish to formally register my objection to returning ROTC to campus.  My reasons are simple: I am opposed to the war in Iraq, and see this as the military's attempt to recruit for that war.  I do not believe in seducing young and vulnerable people on campus with promises of paid education and other perks when, in this current climate, they would likely pay with life and limb.  I do not feel the presence of ROTC would be conducive to open-minded evaluation of our foreign and military policies, which should be able to proceed unfettered on a university and college campus.


2.      Dear ROTC Task Force,
Regardless of what is thought about any particular war or military action, the general need for a military is questioned by few.  Most people, including most of Columbia's students, recognize the need for a military to exist, and furthermore want that military to be comprised of intelligent people with progressive ideas.  This goal cannot be attained without the contribution of Columbia's intelligent, progressive youth to the military.  Further, if joining the military is a career option desired by Columbia students, how can we allow those students to be denied the ability to do what they dream?  While I attended Columbia, I knew many students interested in taking military/ROTC courses.  It is nothing short of prejudice to fail to facilitate these students in pursuing their learning goals, simply because some other students do not share those goals. Finally, I agree that the military on the whole discriminates unjustly against gays and lesbians.  This is something that ought to be amended as swiftly as possible; however, it is a federal law, and with the current administration in office and Congress dominated by Republicans, it is unlikely that it will be amended soon.  Denying students the right to ROTC on campus because of the particular administration in Washington is cruel, particularly when it is an administration few of those same students voted for. I ask you to set aside your partisan beliefs and think for a moment about the purpose of a university: to foster learning in diverse areas and provide young people with skills to succeed in life.  The ROTC fits into such a purpose.  Do not deny students that which a university is obligated to provide.


3.      After submitting my comments to the Task Force last week I discovered that MIT already makes the type of compensation I suggested in case a student loses the ROTC scholarship for reasons of sexual orientation.  This is documented in two articles:

--"ROTC aid policy established: Move guards against loss due to sexual orientation" (19 March 1997, MIT News Office TechTalk):  “MIT will guarantee an equal financial aid package to its ROTC students whose federal scholarships are terminated because of their sexual orientation. The policy, effective immediately, is the first action taken by an ROTC Implementation Team appointed by President Charles M. Vest to develop strategies regarding the modified ROTC program called for in a faculty resolution last April. None of the 102 MIT students enrolled in ROTC has had a scholarship terminated since the Department of Defense's "don't ask, don't tell, don't pursue" policy regarding sexual orientation was enacted in 1993. If this occurs in the future, a support structure has been established in the Office for Undergraduate Education and Student Affairs.”

--"ROTC Reinsurance Policy Gets Approval" (4 April 1997, MIT Tech): “The Committee on Undergraduate Admissions and Financial Aid recently approved a measure that would compensate ROTC students who lose scholarships because of their sexual orientation by providing supplemental Institute loans that would later be forgiven.  This move represents the first and only fully-implemented action taken by the ROTC implementation team, which is responsible for realizing the recommendations of the ROTC task force approved in a faculty resolution last April.

Chan Casey, a first-year Law Student, raised the question [at the town hall meeting] of whether someone discovering they were homosexual during their university years would be saddled with huge debt to repay the tuition paid by the ROTC program.  This is a good point, and although some students in such situations had the expenses forgiven, others were told to pay them back to the military.  It would seem reasonable for Columbia to commit to providing such a student with a reasonable level of financial aid retroactively.  As I learned at the 2003 DADT conference at Hofstra (, at which I spoke, Hofstra has a special scholarship program for homosexual students meant to offset any extra access to tuition assistance available only to non-homosexual students (Susan Yohn, Associate Prof. of History at Hofstra, seemed particularly knowledgeable on this provision).  Some involvement by Columbia in counterbalancing the discriminatory element of ROTC eligibility would be appropriate and would consume far less money than [would be] brought in by new ROTC scholarships. 


4.      I strongly support Columbia's decision to keep ROTC off our campus.


5.      To the Senate Task Force on ROTC: 
I write in comment to the proposal ( being circulated to bring ROTC and the United States Military to the Columbia Campus. As those of you who know me from my tenure on the Senate will not be surprised to learn, I strongly oppose this proposal for a number of reasons. 

--ROTC is not a substitute for a good financial aid system.  Proponents of ROTC would have us believe that the program is largely or even primarily some sort of scholarship program for students from less-wealthy backgrounds. While some students do, in fact, receive money due to their participation in ROTC, viewing the program this way is deliberatively reductive. ROTC is a military officer training program; it is funded by the Department of Defense, not of Education. Vice President Cheney (when he was Secretary of Defense) put it this way: "The reason to have a military is to be prepared to fight and win's not a jobs program.[1]"  Instead, ROTC (like the rest of the military recruiting apparatus) serves to target disadvantaged youth with promises of education which may be difficult for those youth to obtain otherwise. It is of course important to provide access to high-quality education to all. The best way to do so, however, is not to require that students join the military in exchange. In the specific case of Columbia, an institution so wealthy that it could stop charging undergraduate tuition if it wanted[2], the way to make education more accessible is not to encourage more students to join the military, but to increase the availability of financial aid to all students, regardless of their choice of career. 

--The university should not favor ROTC over any other externally-run job or internship program.  Regardless of the argument above, the fact remains that some students currently enrolled in ROTC are so enrolled precisely because of the perceived monetary benefits. To this end, it may make sense to compare ROTC to other off-campus jobs that students may hold in order to help pay tuition.  The University's current policy is that students enrolled in off-campus internships, paid or not, may receive only "R" credit for their work and do not receive any credits which may be used toward graduation [3]. It is, indeed, very difficult for students to take classes at other schools in the city and expect to receive credit for them. There is no reason why ROTC work, not reviewed by any academic department of the University, should be deemed uniquely worthy of credit.  Furthermore, unlike most other programs, leaving ROTC can be financially very dangerous for students. A student who decides, for whatever reason, to leave the ROTC program, owes the military for the cost of any money previously paid towards that student's education. 

--The military violates the university's anti-discrimination policies.  Members of ROTC are subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, including its prohibition of gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members. Any student in ROTC who decides, while enlisted in the program (a not-unforeseeable occurrence among college students), to "come out" could be discharged from the program and, as described above, owe the military any money thus far paid towards that student's education [4].  This is in obvious conflict with the University's nondiscrimination policies, which wisely "protect against discrimination and harassment on the basis of race, color, gender, religion, national and ethnic origin, age, citizenship, disability, sexual orientation, and marital status [5]." The University should not offer any programs which are not available to all its students.  In addition to the well-publicized discrimination based on sexual orientation, the military habitually discriminates based on national origin. Civilians are routinely killed by the US military based on little more than their countries of residence. 

--Bringing ROTC to Columbia will not "reform" the military.  Advocates of an ROTC program at Columbia often argue that interaction between ROTC members and other members of the University community will somehow create a military which is more in touch with academic and civilian life. However, nearly 40% of all current military officers already come from the ROTC program, and yet the military has not yet been "reformed" in the way that the ROTC advocates describe. It is, at best, unclear as to how adding a few more ROTC members from Columbia would suddenly change the whole system.  Indeed, when presented with specific examples of ways that the military ought to change—such as ending the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy or ending the bombing of innocent Iraqi civilians – ROTC members and advocates usually immediately insist that they have no control over these areas and disclaim any responsibility for helping to change them[7]. 

 --The military "chain of command" is inherently antithetical to the university's core value of freedom of thought. A university is, at its best, a place where ideas can be debated, questioned, and discussed freely. A military is a place where questioning an order or policy can result in "dishonorable" discharge from the service. Someone in civilian life who is uninterested in working on a new project for his or her boss can quit and find a new job. Someone in the military who is uninterested in following an order to go to some country and kill people based on the President's whim can be jailed[8].  Some ROTC advocates claim, perversely, that the University's choice not to have a ROTC program on campus is somehow limiting the freedom of inquiry of those who might wish to participate in such a program. This is a flawed argument: ROTC is not an academic study about the military or a pro-military advocacy organization. Both of these ought to be allowed to exist on campus, and indeed do exist on campus[9]. Rather, ROTC is itself the military, and serves to train its members to be more effective killers and leaders of killers.

--The ROTC program is already available to Columbia students.  Despite all the reasons not to participate in ROTC outlined here, a number of Columbia students (14, according to the advocates' proposal to the Senate) already participate in the ROTC program at Manhattan College, Fordham, or elsewhere. Although these students complain of the inconvenience of traveling to these other schools, they clearly show by example that it is already possible to be a Columbia student and a ROTC member. Surely the inconvenience faced is no greater than that faced by other students for must regularly travel about New York City for job, family, or other reasons. In any event, it is unclear that more students would want to join ROTC if only they did not have to get on the subway. 

For the reasons argued above, it is clear that the conclusions reached in 1969 are still valid today: ROTC has no place on Columbia's campus. If I may be of any further assistance to the Task Force in its deliberations, do not hesitate to contact me. 


[1] Quoted at 

[2] According to the University's IRS Form 990 (available from the Controller's office, the IRS, or for the 2000-01 fiscal year (the latest year available when I performed this analysis as a student), Columbia had total revenues of $2.282 billion and total expenses of $1.841 billion, a difference of $441 million. Total income from tuition and fees was $461 million that year. Either tuition for all students could be reduced by 90%, or tuition could be eliminated entirely for almost all students, and the University still would have broke even. 




[6] See the bottom part of Table 4.3 at  The figures are from 2001, but presumably are still approximately accurate. 

[7] As one of many examples, see the advocates' response to the question on the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy in their initial proposal made to the University Senate. 

[8] tells the story of Camilo Mejia, who faced a court martial for his refusal to return to Iraq when he applied for "Conscientious Objector" status after witnessing the torture of Iraqi detainees.



6.      Hi, I won't be able to attend the meeting, but I wanted to put in my two cents: ROTC has no place on the Columbia campus because of the US military's discriminatory policies. Since the Morningside campus is so small, it would be hard for an active ROTC presence to avoid making Columbia look like it  endorses the US military, along with all its actions, policies, and  bigotry. The student body rioted because of an active ROTC presence in 1969, and we would still stand against it with renewed zeal. I chose to attend Columbia partly because of the diverse and protected atmosphere that was advertised. Until the military stops discriminating on the basis of  sexual orientation, citizenship, disability status, and all other statuses  Columbia strives to protect, ROTC should not be allowed on campus.  Also see [Columbia’s Statement of Non-Discriminatory Policies] ( [which says, in part]:

"The New York City Human Rights Law, Title 8, §8-107, makes it an unlawful  discriminatory practice for an employer to discriminate against any person  because of their age, race, creed, color, national origin, gender,  disability, marital status, sexual orientation, or alienage or citizenship  status. It also prohibits educational institutions from discriminating against persons in any of the above categories in the provision of certain accommodations, advantages, facilities, or privileges;” and

“Currently, University policies protect against discrimination and harassment on the basis of race, color, gender, religion, national and ethnic origin, age, citizenship, disability, sexual orientation, and marital status."


7.      To Whom It May Concern:
I am writing to give my opinion about the ROTC program at Columbia. To get to the point, I oppose restoring the ROTC at Columbia for the following reasons: 

1. The U.S. military has been, is, and shall be first and foremost a trained killing machine.  Columbia should not perpetuate such an instrument of death.

2. From my experience at another university, I have seen how ROTC implements activities that divide, alienate, and intimidate other people. These include running across campus in formation shouting "Rape, Murder, Pillage, and Kill," and entering buildings with rifles that were supposedly not real, but I couldn't tell a difference. These activities were supported by the ROTC program at the school. 

3. To hold a position of authority in this country, Columbia should not only foster learning by great minds, but also strive to be at the forefront of positive social change, including fostering an environment of learning and peace. Hosting an ROTC program goes against such an idea. 

4. Finally, though I cannot speak to this point, people should consider what amount of resources (money/time/energy/etc.) would be required to restore and maintain such a program. Are there any existing programs that could use such assistance? Are there any existing student concerns that could use such resources?

         Thank you for considering my opinion.


8.      Hell No!


9.   I was interested in the list of benefits to students outlined [near the beginning of the Proposal to Return ROTC to Columbia’s Campus submitted to the Senate last year (]. It is a shame that the only type of “service to country” that is rewarded as is for “underprivileged students” to place themselves in a position where they may be maimed, killed or be asked to kill other human beings.  Surely, if such a program is offered, it should be offered only in a context in which a student can achieve equal benefits by serving their country through leadership roles in non-violent public service, including education, healthcare in underserved communities, discovery of medicines, etc.  In other words, if some want to bring this program to our campus, a choice of service in the military should be an option, not compelled by financial hardship, while students should have an equal option of leadership training for service to our country through less violent professions.  While we all want the protection of a strong military, it also must be abundantly clear to many that misguided political leadership can misuse the idealism of many who seek to serve their country, ignoring the best advice of the highly-trained military professionals [such as General Shinseki] and instead sending our idealistic, hard-working, “underprivileged students” to their early deaths. 


10.  Dear Columbia ROTC Task Force,
I was at the forum on Feb. 15, 2005 and I wanted to clarify and add to my points, since I couldn't due to time restrictions:  A few points to consider when debating whether or not to return ROTC to Columbia.  

1) What is the goal of the university? Is it to facilitate debate - and promote the "marketplace of ideas"?  Is it to present opportunities to learn, to have educational experiences, to grow as a human being in knowledge?  I would argue in the affirmative, and to do that, one must include all ideas, all ideologies, or else it is a slippery slope of discrimination.  Free speech must trump all.  There is not ever a "safe space," because of free speech.  If this doesn't occur at a university, where would it occur?

2) As for other university goals:  if one wants to encourage the military to eliminate "don't ask don't tell" -  as an advocate - one can only assume that CU grads in the military, over the long run, are the only hope.  One little statement by the CU president against the military policy is not going to do much.  It will be dismissed as another liberal university, and CU ideals will never get a voice at the table. Shouting slogans at a march is not very effective – it is from within that change is made. There is great precedent in this, from the business and academic world, with women and ethnic minorities in particular. It is sad to underestimate the impact of CU grads, and say they wouldn't ever make a difference in the military, for whatever reason, as some insinuated at the forum. Shall we just give up and not even bother to make a change? 

3) Precedent setting:  If one bans one group because they discriminate, where will it end?  Other groups such as religious groups that don't allow gays to act on their identity, such as the Church of the Latter-Day Saints, may be next to be banned from campus.  Contractors that don't offer same-sex partner benefits could be banned. Speakers from the military could be banned. Other companies that don't offer same-sex- partner benefits could be banned from recruiting.  Maybe this is what we want, (but I don't think so), but we should be clear and consistent with our policies.  

4) The argument that one can just enroll after college to become an officer is tempting, but it still restricts students from opportunity, and the ability to make the largest impact.  For the military in particular, to make an impact, one must start out early and have a long career, in most cases.  This means a military academy, or ROTC.  A military academy does not offer the same liberal arts college experience as CU.  I can't believe we would limit a student's choice of career. That is condescending and not the role of the university. 

5) Other universities, even top-ranked ones, have ROTC.  I can't believe they are "lesser" than CU (boy, are we elitist then!) and perhaps we should carefully look at their policies and rationale for allowing ROTC. 

6)  Who are we as a university think we are to tell students what to do?  Which career they can and can not pursue? What ideas to follow?  Let us not be so stuck in the ivory tower that we don't allow ourselves to associate with those red state people that (I believe) make up the majority of the military, and attempt to understand different points of view, and influence the future of the military.  

7) As for the question of "why make an exception for the anti-discrimination policy?" -- I would say diversity of ideas trumps anti-discrimination.  Ideological diversity is the heart and soul of the university.  Without ROTC you lose some of that important diversity that is not otherwise represented.  Free speech can make people uncomfortable, and is for that exact reason it is so important.  

**If you eliminate ROTC, you eliminate (de facto) the opportunity to have those ideas heard in the most effective way.

** The university is the last place in America to have a real discussion of ideas.  We should have all ideas at the table, or else we are shortchanging students. We should at the very least not purposefully exclude points of view.   We are only shooting ourselves in the foot to not allow ROTC.


11.  I vote no


12.  I am writing to voice my support for the return of ROTC programs to Columbia University.


13.  Dear Task Force--
Unfortunately, I cannot participate in tomorrow's meeting; however, I wanted to take this opportunity share my views on ROTC.  I participated in the NROTC program at Univ. of California, Berkeley from 1991-1995.  After graduating from Stanford University, I spent over four years serving in the Marine Corps as an infantry and intelligence officer.  I am now in my third year at Columbia Law School.  In my class of ~380 students, there are three former Marines.  The NROTC program was a tremendous experience for me.  During college, the most professional, dedicated, and hard-working students I knew were those in the NROTC program.  NROTC provided me with the opportunity to serve my country and to receive an extremely expensive education at a fraction of its cost.  Being a Marine was one of the few foundational experiences upon which I have built a successful life.  To deny others the opportunity to attend Columbia on an NROTC scholarship is difficult for me to justify.  Our country was built upon many sacrifices, some of which were undertaken by men and women in uniform.  To indirectly undercut the value of those sacrifices by refusing to accept scholarships for, and provide training facilities to, our next generation of military leaders reflects poorly on the Columbian community, of which I am a proud member.  It is also poor marketing on the part of the school.  As the military continues to produce America's leaders of tomorrow, Columbia is doing the school's reputation, and its student body's education, a disservice by alienating those few incoming freshman who have the desire to serve their county and the credentials to earn an ROTC scholarship.  Again, I wish I had the opportunity to attend tomorrow's meeting.  I am glad the issue of ROTC on campus is being revisited, and I am looking forward to Columbia's embracing of this aspect of our society.


14.  Unfortunately, I will not be able to attend the meeting tonight.  However, I am writing to express my views on this matter. I feel very strongly that ROTC should be permitted to return to campus—for many reasons. At one level, any campus that prides itself on welcoming diversity and a multitude of groups should not exclude any group. As one can say about any of the others- those not interested, or actually opposed to the agenda of this particular group, simply need not participate.  However, at a different level, it is totally inappropriate to bar this particular group. With the world being where it is today, it is particularly important to support our armed forces. Barring ROTC from campus is a direct affront to members of our armed forces everywhere—and to those of us who feel that they need all the support they can get. Beyond this, I also have  a specific recommendation: I think that it would be appropriate for Columbia to recognize and give ROTC members credits for the courses they take as part of this program.


15.  You asked for my opinion & I think it is a good idea. As someone who grew up with many male friends whose college fees were paid by this excellent program & who subsequently served their time (although not when we were at war) I think it is important to offer this to the University populations—especially at the elite schools whose reputation is more likely an attempt to not serve our country than to serve it. Military service benefited all who chose these programs in many ways—mentally, morally & physically.

16.  Hello, I am an untenured faculty member in Political Science.  I was also a commissioned officer (USAR, Inf.) until being honorably discharged about two years ago.  I am on leave this year, living in Vermont, and will be unable to attend the open meetings. A "university" is universal in its coverage of subjects of knowledge.   A weak second is to offer only those courses, programs, and ideas that  do not lead to controversy, and that deeply offend no one.  Today the Columbia community faces a controversy over MEALAC and some have suggested closing the department.  Most Columbians, however offended by what might or might not have been said by faculty at MEALAC, find the idea of banishing a diversity of views to be incompatible with the fundamental spirit of the University. Over thirty years ago, Columbia cast out another group because many students, faculty, and administrators opposed the Vietnam war, and because they saw the training of reserve officers as supporting the war.  We should encourage the expression of such opinions at this and any university.  Indeed, there has not been enough agitation for or against anything on campus in decades.  We should step back, however, from the notion that having something taught at the university is somehow an official endorsement, or that banning it expresses political correctness or some form of good taste.  An intellectual pallet should be as rich and diverse as possible.  Removing choices from students is not a principled response in a university where the marketplace of ideas is said to flourish, even for those who deeply oppose some activity.  Columbia University prides itself on being a critical nexus of intellectual innovation in a dynamic, evolving world.  Here of all places, ideas matter.  If you don't like something, change minds, not options.  Sound criticism of ROTC should be directed at convincing students not to enroll.  Who knows, as those who advocate diversity on campuses point out, having ROTC students and faculty might even be enriching.  Let us have ROTC, and let us have people who are against ROTC training expressing their heartfelt views.  The idea of banning Reserve Officer Training because it is repugnant to someone should itself be repugnant in a place dedicated to learning of all types.


17.  Dear Professor Applegate and Mr. Walker,
I am writing to express my support for the plan to bring ROTC to Columbia. My undergraduate institution, Yale College, did not have ROTC on campus, and when a girlfriend of mine wanted to join, she found it rather inconvenient to have to travel to a nearby school.  This seems like it would be particularly true in New York City, where transportation is expensive and few people have cars.  I also think that having ROTC on campus would encourage more students to join, which would benefit some Columbia students as well as the U.S. armed forces.  Thanks for reading my letter.


18.  To the task force:
I went through a university-based NROTC program many years ago and served on active duty in the Navy.  In my opinion it is not a defensible position to keep ROTC off campus for “moral” or “ethical” reasons. The university itself is not a pacifist institution, and views itself as fully engaged in modern democratic American society. As we all know, Columbia was an important site for officer training and war research in WWII, and appointed a career military officer – Eisenhower – as its president in 1948.  Both then and now, it was and is important for the country to have intelligent men and women  at the highest levels of both military and  civilian leadership. It saves lives to have intelligent educated military leadership. The service academies do not produce intellectuals or scholars, they produce (mostly) technically educated young men and women who are trained to respond and act under stress. Columbia-trained officers would bring a different perspective.  I personally cannot defend our present university policy when I speak with students or alumni.  I would guess there is now wide agreement on these points among students, faculty and alumni.  If there actually are some undergrads who would participate in ROTC if it were here, then we should allow it to return. It would be yet another sign we have now finally recovered from the disaster of 1968. 


19.  As long as the ROTC continues to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, restoring it to the campus would violate our firm institutional stand against such a policy.  We can not do the one without violating the other.  Let us stick with the existing policy.


20.  ROTC Task Force:
I am writing to express my VERY STRONG opposition to getting Columbia University involved in the ROTC program. The practice of luring young, underprivileged kids by using the bait of financial assistance in order to send them to die in a faraway land for no good reason is despicable to say the least. Any participation by Columbia in programs such as this is a tacit endorsement of Bush's hegemonic and militaristic policies.


21.  To: Senate Task Force on ROTC:
I write not to repeat, but to better formulate my comments at the valuable open meeting last evening.  The military is, or ought to be, the servant of the nation’s political will as expressed by decisions of democratically chosen public officials who are, or ought to be, politically responsible for those decisions. Departing from the long run of American history, military institutions are now permanent and large-scale features of the American polity. With the passing of conscription, the widespread obligation of citizens to share responsibility for military endeavors and participate in them has also passed. Social elites, including students at elite institutions, very largely escape the responsibility to serve, and thus experience directly the consequences of military actions. This poses a serious issue for the legitimacy and civic health of democracy. Of the Congress that authorized the war in Iraq, only three had sons or daughters on active service. Of policy-making elites in the current administration, very few served in the Vietnam period, having successfully avoided military service in a war they supported at the time and in retrospect. My students at institutions like Columbia react with incredulity if they learn, in casual discussion, that I trained as an infantryman in the U.S. Army. This reflects the political and cultural distance between Columbia students and American military institutions.             For both military and political reasons, conscription is a policy of the past. The question now is whether the University, at the institutional level, will take the same attitude toward military institutions as do privileged elites. Generalized expressions of distaste for war, or for the military as dedicated to the application of violence, are in this setting self-indulgent and politically irresponsible. Democratic citizens have the right and opportunity to help shape decisions on war and peace by vigorous civic activity. But students and faculty at Columbia should not pick and choose among military activities they support or do not support by rejecting an ROTC program. Don’t like the action in Iraq authorized by Congress on October 16, 2002? Well, I don’t either. But opposition to American policies as a ground for rejecting an ROTC program, must also consider the consequences of allowing Saddam Hussein to have a choke-hold on the global oil supply (a policy rejected by Congress on January 12, 1991) – and leaving in place in Afghanistan those who attacked on September 11, 2001 (a policy rejected by Congress three days later). We cannot avoid responsibility for the foreseeable consequences of our preferences.    

There have been, and will be “good” wars and “bad wars” in the opinion of citizens, including students and faculty at Columbia. That’s a matter for democratic politics to resolve, whether wisely or – alas – not wisely. But that military institutions form an indispensable part of the American polity for the indefinite future is certain. Will Columbia be a free rider on them, like other elite institutions, classes and individuals? Or will it enter into an educational relationship with the military profession as it does with others? To be sure, this imposes on the military the responsibility to draw on its growing corps of military intellectuals for teaching positions at Columbia, and to accept curricular requirements and standards. Neither condition held in the 1960s, and I was among those supporting the removal of NROTC on those grounds. These conditions can and should be met now.  

At the public meeting, there were many accounts, on both sides, cast in terms of personal stories. Among them, we heard how ROTC programs offer financial support for needy and worthy students and of severe difficulties faced by homosexuals. These are authentically moving and, in human terms, serious. But they do not define the fundamental issue, which is at the level of high democratic politics and institutional responsibility in this phase of American history.  The requirement to take responsibility for the consequences of our preferences applies also to those advocating an ROTC program. The military’s policy on homosexuality means that the decision to have an ROTC program is a tragic choice. Put bluntly, one good must override another. Probably arguments to the effect that a liberal arts education for officers will make for changes of this policy are exaggerated, at least in the short run. Change will come from the civilian leadership to which the military are subordinated. The US military derives its legitimacy from its subordination to civilian authority, both in the opinion of the public and its own eyes. The classic instance of civilian leadership in this arena, of course, is President Truman’s action in racially integrating the armed forces, starting in 1948. This action went against the opposition of the officer corps, and long preceded  the civil rights movement. An expanded military role for women responded to the movement for women’s rights, also against significant opposition in the officer corps. The military have since come to support both initiatives, both out of practical necessity and with enthusiasm because they endow the it with enhanced legitimacy. In these respects the US military is a “model employer,” generally in advance of civil society, and a leader with respect to other militaries.  On the integration of homosexuals, the US military is retrograde by the standards of European militaries that, like the US, have largely abandoned conscription. President Clinton’s abrupt attempt in 1992 to change policies towards homosexuals was politically inept, and worse. However, in the longer term, the counterpart of President Truman will emerge, as US society continues its long-term movement towards extended tolerance. Rejecting an ROTC program because of the military’s policy on homosexuals sustains the cultural and institutional isolation – unfortunately mutual – between civilian elites and the military. Again put bluntly, the dangers posed by this problem for the democratic polity override the damage done by the military’s policy on homosexuals. The latter is amenable to change, of which indications are clearly evident in American life. The costs of an unhealthy relationship between civic and military institutions can be catastrophic.

Lastly, an ROTC program at Columbia does not signify the University’s “militarization.” The very idea of “militarism” stems from a period when military and civil values were radically distinct. The 1960s, in all their complexity, were such a period. That time is past, though it can be sustained in precious enclaves like this University. Indeed, some presentations last evening featured rhetoric deriving from that period as if nothing had changed. Today, civic life must provide for competence in military matters and, correspondingly, military institutions must incorporate key civic perspectives. Columbia University, the site of one of the great upheavals of the 1960s, is uniquely well placed in symbolic terms, and certainly well equipped institutionally, to make an important contribution in these respects to the quality of American democracy.


22.  Dear ROTC Task Force Members:
I am writing to express my very strong opposition to restoring ROTC to Columbia.  As a gay male who is a student and employee of Columbia University, I find the proposal to restore ROTC to Columbia offensive and unacceptable.  Just because ROTC is "bound by Federal Law as is the rest of the military" does not mean it is acceptable or justifiable to restore ROTC.  This clearly would perpetuate the role of the government in deliberately denying the LGBT community the same rights granted to heterosexuals who participate in this program.  Saying that ROTC "does not outright prevent openly gay/lesbian students from participating in ROTC:  it only prevents them from receiving ROTC scholarships and being commissioned" is wrong and insulting.  The LGBT community should not be given second-rate status and denied the same benefits and privileges as heterosexuals participating in the program.  Furthermore, saying ROTC "prevents cadets from being open and public about their sexual preferences in the military" reinforces the discriminatory notion that being anything other than heterosexual is wrong.  At a time when the LGBT community faces severe challenges to its civil rights, I find the proposal to restore ROTC to Columbia abominable.


23.  The Battle of Harlem Heights was fought on the campus of Columbia University during the Revolutionary War.  General Washington himself commanded American troops during the action. General Eisenhower, SHAEF Commander during WWII, served at Columbia after the war. William Donovan, founder of the OSS, graduated from Columbia. Columbia is training the nation's leaders.  Depriving the country of this resource in wartime can cause less than optimal leadership of men in the field. As a veteran, a Columbia student [EMPH], and member of a family whose ancestors fought at the Battle of Harlem Heights, I believe that Columbia is a resource that will be of great benefit to the nation.


24.  Dear Sir: 
I am unable to attend the open discussion of ROTC, and I appreciate the opportunity to "cast my vote" by email.  I was a college student during the Vietnam War and vividly remember the hostility of some students to ROTC on the Harvard campus.  Whatever one's views about war, it is in everyone's best interest that our military have educated and thoughtful officers.  ROTC is a voluntary program; the activities of the students in ROTC do not affect the lives of other students.  I strongly urge Columbia to allow ROTC to return.          


25.  I can't attend the discussion but my view is NO.  The United States military, for reasons that cannot be substantiated by empirical or scientifically sound data, continues to insist on treating a segment of Americans as second-class citizens.  This bigotry against gay and lesbian Americans is against the Constitution and a major disgrace, especially when America claims to be the beacon of democracy and freedom for the world.  This university has a moral and ethical responsibility to say to the bigots in the Pentagon, Congress and White House that bigotry in whatever form will not be tolerated or condoned.  It is especially important now, when the tide in this country seems to be turning against secularism, tolerance and the liberal ideals of freedom and equality for all.  Thank you


26.  I am a Navy veteran and a student at Columbia. I think ROTC should be restored. The whole idea of higher learning is to expose people to a variety of ideologies and encourage open-mindedness. No one will be forced to join; people should have a free choice to do so and right now it's not even an option.


27.  To the ROTC task force: 
As a Columbia alum (CC '96) I have followed with interest the recent discussions of both military recruiting and ROTC on the Columbia campus.  While I believe that non-discrimination is an important university policy and that the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy is misguided, I strongly believe that Columbia should have an ROTC program for its students.  This would be an exception to the general policy of non-discrimination but exceptions are sometimes justified and have been made in other cases.  Tolerance and non-discrimination are tricky values to apply universally.  Should one tolerate the intolerant?  Discriminate against the discriminatory?  These are not just abstract philosophical questions but come up concretely, for example, with respect to religious groups that discriminate based on gender or sexual orientation.  My own view is that these conflicts can only be resolved by careful consideration of individual cases within the context of the university's overall mission of education and expanding the frontiers of human understanding.  Achieving this mission requires free and open debate among people with different backgrounds, political views and life experiences.  Including military personnel as part of this exchange furthers the goal of diversity on campus and will improve the education offered to students. The military plays an important and unique role in our society and it would be valuable for both the military and elite universities to have more interaction between their two worlds.  The military culture should not be viewed in isolation from the fact that our officers and soldiers are asked to risk their lives both for concrete goals like defense of the homeland but also for abstract ideals like freedom, honor and fellowship.  For them to effectively fulfill this role (and thereby perform an essential service on behalf of the rest of us) there needs to be an unusually strong set of internal cultural norms within the military as well as uncommon trust among soldiers.  While this strong culture is part of an effective military it also results in relatively slow change in values and norms within the institution.  This slow change can be beneficial when it preserves the importance of ideas like honesty, personal responsibility, duty and honor in a society that often seems to have left these ideas behind.  But it can also be harmful when prejudice against groups such as homosexuals persists to a greater degree than it does in society at large.  This is not a justification for such prejudice but rather a suggestion that we see the faults of the military within the broader context of the difficult mission which they have been given and the service that they provide to all of us.  I believe that it is dangerous to allow a cultural chasm to develop between the military and the civilian elite who take leadership roles in the rest of society, and who often come from universities such as Columbia.  By including the military (through ROTC and recruiting) in the life of the university we will accomplish three things.  First, we will provide an opportunity for students to pursue career interests they may have and to serve their country.  Second, we will open up channels of communications between important institutions that each have much to learn from such communication.  Third, we can be part of an important movement for change that supports the military while pressing it to end its discriminatory practices.  For all of these reasons, I hope that you will promptly bring ROTC back to Columbia.


28.  I am not able to attend [the] meeting.  If there is a vote, I vote to encourage dialogue with all, not recruiting our young people for senseless wars.



In light of the discussion on various commissioning sources in the branches of the military, you all might find the above link helpful. I am surprised this information had not been discussed previously by you as it is highly relevant. Again, I will point out that these numbers are in constant flux. More Lieutenants die in Iraq, the Army needs more infantry officers; less candidates pass the qualifications to become submarine officers, the Navy needs more Physicists and Engineers; less Captains get out of the Marines after their commitment is up, the USMC needs less officers. Above is a good guideline. Basically, anyone who has or is working on a bachelor’s degree and is under a certain age and healthy has quite a few options at any given time for military service as an officer.


30.  Senators:
May CTV please film the event? I will give you a copy of the tape that week and I would also like to air it on CTV for the community to view. If this is possible, I will talk with Tom about getting an audio feed.


31.  The answer is Yes. Please keep me on the list and call me to discuss when you get a chance.


32.  No. Columbia should not be in the business of war.  I cannot make the meeting but I think in the spirit of free speech the ROTC should be allowed on campus.


33.  Perhaps you know this already, but the first term of the University Senate considered the ROTC question and adopted a resolution which, as I recall, left it open to the several schools to decide whether ROTC was consistent with their own programs.


34.  Hi, I have a conflicting obligation on Tuesday, but I do feel strongly about bringing ROTC back to Columbia.  As a fairly liberal individual opposed both to the war and to Columbia's history of, shall we say, intimate involvement with the US military, I find it embarrassing that we do not have ROTC on campus.  The presence of ROTC does not inherently oppress any reasonable person, and continued opposition to bringing ROTC back to CU unfairly penalizes individuals who are interested in the military.  It is also unfair to students who may need military scholarship money in order to afford going to school here. I'm not really all that well-versed in the matter, I just feel that the knee-jerk opposition to ROTC here is disrespectful... yeah. My brother is a Marine, he's getting deployed to Iraq in two or three weeks.  A lot of how I feel about the individuals in our military is based on that.  This university owes them some amount of support.


35.  My opinion is NO. Columbia should stay dedicated exclusively to academic and
research excellence outside of direct political and military direct involvement. Aside from attracting some funds and providing aid for some students, the moral cost could be high, plus there could be other sources to fund students that otherwise would choose the ROTC to pay for their studies.


36.  Thank you very much for this opportunity.


37.  I think it is pretty interesting.  I don't see a big problem with having ROTC on campus.  It's weird timing given our situation—currently at war—but I think it could be good.


38.  No


39.  Yea, CU should most definitely invite an organization that discriminates against gay people to recruit on campus....that'll show them!


40.  Dear Task Force:
This is worth having a meeting over (although I will leave town that day); I would like to add that it would be useful to know more detailed experiences of other high-caliber universities who currently have ROTC on their campus.  MIT and Princeton were mentioned in the "The proposal to restore ROTC", and that was helpful; is there more info you can provide?  I am sure many students/faculty here at Columbia would like to know, for example: (1) Is Columbia the only Ivy League (or elite")  university to discontinue ROTC in the 1960's? If not, did some of them bring it back and if so how is it working out? (2) How is the current situation in Iraq affecting the ROTC on campuses?


41.  Who cares?


42.  Dear University Senate:
Columbia University has a tremendous opportunity to influence generations of America's military officers by bringing Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC)  units back to campus and including ROTC training as an integral part of a Columbia education.  While there may be opponents to the general idea of a military force in America, this sentiment is naïve and unrealistic. Citizens ( I amplify, AMERICAN CITIZENS) who feel the need to emphasize our historical commitment to civilian control over our military and military policy should embrace the opportunity to train a portion of this military leadership by having as many future and current military officers on our University's campuses.  Isolating our military's future and current leaders from a broad range of ideas is not a prudent education environment if America truly wants a learned and educated, citizen-soldier officer cadre for our nation's military.  The University, including its undergraduate AND graduate students, can also economically benefit from having ROTC units on campus. There are Columbia and Barnard students who are ROTC scholarship cadets. These students conserve institutional financial aid resources and give Columbia and Barnard greater flexibility to provide economic aid to a broader base of students.  Having ROTC on campus may mean significantly greater ROTC scholarship opportunities for Columbia and Barnard students; NOT JUST for scholarship cadets and midshipmen, but all students who need financial aid.  In rough numbers, having Army and Navy ROTC units on the Columbia campus could mean as many as 129 more Columbia and Barnard students who would receive financial aid grants of $20,000 per year. Put another way, having Army and ROTC units on campus could translate into more than 250 grants-in-aid of $10,000 per grant.  Those are tremendous opportunities for students who are NOT connected at all to a ROTC program. I particularly encourage the University to invite both Army and Navy ROTC units to campus.  Columbia has a long history of Navy ROTC at the University.  A recent obituary for entertainer Johnny Carson noted he trained on the Columbia campus in preparation to receive his Naval officer's commission.  Columbia and the Navy make a logical fit.  With the exception of SUNY-Maritime College, there is no Navy ROTC unit within 2 hours of Manhattan. The closest Navy ROTC unit to Morningside Heights is located at the University of Pennsylvania.  Other Navy ROTC units in eastern New York State, New Jersey, or Connecticut are located at Cornell University and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Additionally, Columbia-Barnard offers one of the broadest ranges of academic disciplines of New York City universities.  Please note the University's robust Nursing School at the Health Sciences campus, along with Physician & Surgeons students, who are Armed Forces Health Services Scholarship recipients. Some of these students are either candidates or current scholarship cadets or midshipmen. Many Columbia and Barnard students, faculty, and staff encourage the notion of national service.  ROTC training prepares young people to assume positions of leadership in national service. The ability to influence and educate generations of military officers and the opportunities to acquire training for national service and leadership and financial aid for students are compelling reasons to have ROTC on the Columbia campus.


43.  Dear Task Force,
I’d like to provide some personal testimonial about the value of serving (recently) in the military as a Columbia graduate.  I’d also like to mention two issues that were overlooked by pro- and anti-ROTC speakers at last week’s Town Hall, but which were alluded to by the Task Force in its opening remarks.  The first issue revolves around Columbia’s interest, as a fountain of intellectual thought, in playing an active role in the composition, role, and leadership of this nation’s military.  The second point, which was almost broached during discussion of officer commissioning sources, is about granting equal opportunity for Columbia students who want to pursue a military career, rather than sidelining that population to uncover the far more arduous paths to serving in the military as a Columbia graduate.  I won’t expound upon those further here – I just wanted to register those ideas for the Task Force’s consideration.  I graduated SEAS ’92, attending Army ROTC through Fordham University for all four years of my undergraduate education here.  The commute to midtown was time-consuming and probably degraded my academic performance in my Columbia courses.  I went to Berkeley immediately after graduation and earned a Master’s of Engineering (it is possible to earn an advanced degree, despite the lament of one speaker’s biology roommate at the Town Hall) before spending six years on active duty, which I found both physically and intellectually challenging and rewarding. 

Although I know other Ivy League ROTC students who later served in the military, I never actually met any while on Active Duty.  On a philosophical level, this is a shame for it suggests that a certain socio-academic segment of our population is absent from our military institutions.  On a practical level, this is a shame because of the growing gap of understanding and common experience between our military and the society it defends and represents.  Cocktail conversations are easy for me, because my experiences often fuel the only firsthand accounts of the military for many I speak to.  To those who question why it’s desirable for Columbians to enter the military, I can point to a number of situations where I feel that my Columbia education was directly responsible for professional achievements in the military.  As an officer in the Army Corps of Engineers last year, I had a series of incredibly thought-provoking meetings with the USAID Mission Director in Kabul regarding the future of that country and our role in its reconstruction.  Those discussions, which touched upon subjects ranging from macroeconomics to political science to engineering, helped bridge a very adversarial relationship between the military and the State Department.  Within six months, we had finished a critical highway construction project that neither of our organizations could have completed alone.  I have also performed more traditional military duties, such as training for a minefield breach or conducting an assault.  But I have also worked on humanitarian aid projects; helped build self-sustaining government institutions; negotiated and managed multi-million-dollar construction projects; accrued professional engineering qualifications; and made friends in far-flung countries.  I also learned to be an effective manager, to work through ethical dilemmas, to know when to make split-second decisions and when to seek more information first.  These military experiences were invaluable in my civilian career as a management consultant.  In turn, many skills I learned in the private sector – from database programming to process-flow analysis – served me well when I returned to Active Duty in 2003.  These are the skill sets and experiences that today’s military officers can expect to gain.  It would be presumptuous of me to extrapolate my experience to that of future Columbia ROTC graduates.  However, I can at least claim first-hand knowledge of a military experience, and I know my peer officers and to some degree how to effect changes in methods or thought amongst them and my soldiers.  A recent Spectator article (A. Rosenthal, “ROTC, you are (still) not wanted here,” 16 Feb) underscores a significant peril of excluding ROTC from our community.  He admits that he “cannot understand why anyone would want to be in the military at this juncture in American history.”  Such ignorance – the source of fear among many anti-ROTC protesters I’ve heard – is exactly why we need to close the social gap between institutions like Columbia and our military by opening more opportunities for dialogue and participation.


44.  Dear Task Force,
I cannot make the meeting on the 15th but would like to voice a strong objection, for reasons that will be made clear in a statement in the future, to the reintroduction of ROTC to Columbia.

45.  Dear ROTC -taskforce,
I am very opposed to the presence of ROTC on campus.


46.  To whom it may concern:
I think it would send a wonderful message for Columbia to reinstate its ROTC program.  Although the administration of Columbia is unabashedly liberal, anti-military, and anti-Republican, it should not be anti-free speech and free association.  The school's intolerance of conservatism, and even patriotism, is an affront to free thinking.   Moreover, snubbing those who might wish to pay for their education by serving their country seems an anathema to liberal values.  Thank for considering this change in policy and my views on the subject.


47.  Just a quick reply,
In a word, NO! I am an African-American gay man, a journalist, a public health worker and twice a graduate of Columbia (BA in 1986, MPH in 2004). The military, with its homophobic traditions, its current don't ask, don't tell policy (which has led to more dismissals of gay servicemembers than ever) should not be allowed back to recruit at Columbia. I currently reside in California, but will gladly come to New York to express my views on this.  Please let me know of any additional forums in the future to which I might fit my schedule.  Thanks for soliciting university opinion on this potentially divisive issue.  Why Columbia would choose to do this at a time when the military is wasting billions of dollars on wars, kickback deals with corporations tied to the Bush administration, and, with its history of blatant bigotry toward gays and lesbians and bisexuals, is very difficult for me to comprehend. Thanks for reading though.


48.  No space should be allocated to ROTC. The military usurps enough resources from this country and its people. Especially now, we should not give any resources to the Pentagon, when it is obvious it is doing everything it can to get more cannon fodder for
its quagmire in Iraq, ultimately for the benefit of US corporations.   Additionally, the arguments put forward in the proposal and their rebuttals are almost insulting. To
assume that Columbia is merely a bunch of "intellectual elitists" is insulting. That said, no, the military deserves no place on campus not because I would reject "another viewpoint." The military deserves no place because we are a campus of learning, not strategic imperatives. We do not educate ourselves to kill at the university, we don't educate ultimately for destruction of other societies. We learn for the sake of knowledge and the betterment of human society.  Not for death, destruction and corporate cronies.  Keep ROTC the hell off campus!


49.  Dear Task Force Members: 
I am strongly supportive of the readmission of ROTC to the Columbia Community.

* The US military has a long and very distinguished history of being an important positive force in the scientific or intellectual and social aspects of the United States.

* It is also an institution which is composed of all elements of the US community, including all races and religious outlooks.

*While the views of many in today's armed services may not be in accord with many of the community, they are views of many in the US and should be represented on campus to give students a balanced perspective on their world.

*Many recent military officers and men have major contributions to our current world –including Gen Shinseki, Gen Powell, and countless other enlisted men and women. They deserve to be seen on campus and to have their views and ideas expressed.


50.  Dear Members of the Task Force,
I would like to offer you my perspective on the ROTC issue, both as  a longstanding member of the Columbia community and a Marine Corps officer candidate. I have lived in Morningside Heights for over 15 years, my father was GSAS '89, my uncle GSAS '92, my mother has been a Columbia employee for close to 20 years, and I have been taking classes here since my sophomore year of high school. I am currently in the class of 2006 of the College. I chose Columbia over other schools largely for financial reasons, due to the tuition benefit I receive through my mother. Ironically, it's those financial reasons that barred me from entering ROTC in the first place, as Columbia did not have any on-campus ROTC programs, and I could not afford to take the time from my part-time jobs to participate at another campus. I am split between two worlds. I entered Columbia with two aspirations: to become a professor of mathematics, and to serve my country as a military officer.  The two are rather incompatible. I spent five semesters pursuing the former. This winter, I decided that the latter is more important to me, and I am now participating in the Marine Corps PLC program. Were there a Navy ROTC program at Columbia, I would be in it. I spend my Fridays training downtown at the Intrepid. The commute precludes me from working Fridays (a loss of a fifth of my income), from attending recitations, and from the Math department seminars, the bulk of which occur on Friday. And I don't have the additional academic obligations that ROTC cadets have.

My experiences as an aspiring mathematician and as an aspiring officer have been markedly different. As an aspiring mathematician, I have received nothing but support and encouragement from the University and its faculty. There is an undergraduate society for such students, and the Rabi Scholars program has guaranteed me research funding throughout my undergraduate years.  However, as an aspiring Marine Officer, it's as though I don't exist. While there are pre-professional programs and events sponsored by the Class Centers and CCE for all sorts of post-graduation career paths (law, medicine, finance, activism, education, to name a few), ROTC is notably absent. I spend my Fridays off-campus because Columbia makes no effort to accommodate those students wishing to enter military service.  After the 2004 election, the Spectator staff editorial observed that the disbelief many on campus felt was a result of a disconnect between the campus and the "red states." They concluded that by refusing to hear the Right or engaging the Right in dialogue, the undergraduate body saw this half of America merely through their own distorted caricatures. A similar thing is happening with the campus and the military. With ROTC excluded for close to four decades, many students have no exposure to members of the military or the sorts of individuals that would devote themselves to military service. Comments by opponents of ROTC, both last night at the town hall meeting and in their own articles, betray a vast ignorance of the military. They claim we're taught only to follow orders, like automatons. That is only half the truth. Anyone can follow orders—most jobs require you to answer to a superior. But what distinguishes the officer corps is that we're taught to and entrusted by the President to GIVE orders. To lead. Inc. Magazine described Marine Corps officer training as the finest leadership training in the world. Leadership requires intelligent, motivated people, the very sort that Columbia graduates. By discouraging potential ROTC cadets from attending Columbia, this ignorance is perpetuated by the ban on ROTC. Atrocities like My Lai and Abu Ghraib are not products of the military culture; I would not enter an organization that engenders such behavior. They are failures of leadership. I have faith in my fellow Columbia students, based on their having earned a place here, and on their Columbia education, to be better equipped to prevent such atrocities. That Columbia would stand in the way of its students pursuing military service is a disgrace and a disservice to this country. 

As I see it, there are two primary reasons given for opposing the return of ROTC to campus. The first is a based on a general dislike of the military, the same reason given in '68 for its removal in the first place. This rationale is simply bunk. That a vocal minority takes offense to the presence of cadets and recruiters on campus is no more reason to remove them than my distaste for a political group would be a reason to remove them or revoke their funding. If disassociation from the military  were a legitimate argument, then the University should be equally as quick to revoke all Defense Department grants for our physics, CS, engineering, and medical programs. The second reason is the "don't ask, don't tell" policy of the military, introduced in 1993 by the civilian Commander in Chief at the time, President Clinton. I concede this is a legitimate concern. But you must consider how best to change this policy, and if banning ROTC fits into such a strategy. The ban of ROTC, for the military, means it will draw 48 cadets from a university other than Columbia. This is not exactly rattling the doors in the Pentagon. It will not change DADT. Were the University serious about changing DADT, the refusal to conduct research for the DoD would be far more serious leverage and would stand to effect some change. But as it stands, the ban on ROTC is nothing more than a symbolic gesture that hurts cadets and the university and helps no one. For that reason, I urge you to overturn the ban on ROTC.


51.  I am sorry that I won’t be at the open hearing but I wanted to share my opinion. By way of background I am a Vietnam-era graduate of a four-year Army ROTC program. I am a bit suspicious of the April ‘03 student survey as an accurate reflection of current student sentiment given that it was administered at the moment when Americans were most enthusiastic about the Iraqi war. That much said, I want to lend my support to the proposal that we have ROTC on campus. Since the nation shifted to all-volunteer armed forces, the military looks less and less like the general population at large. That is dangerous for a democracy. It is important that we have officers that come from a far wider swath of society, and especially Ivy League-caliber schools. ROTC is an important avenue for that to occur. As a hard-core academic, I too jealously guard the way in which we dispense academic titles. But it seems to me that the Princeton solution is a good way to solve this problem.


52.  I'm a doctoral student in Sociology and Education at TC.  Unfortunately, I just learned of tonight's meeting but will be unable to attend. I'm an enlisted member of the Marine Corps Reserve and served in Iraq for most of 2003.  I would strongly encourage you to restore ROTC to Columbia.  It seems to me that a Columbia University education is exactly the right preparation for military leaders. I would be happy to talk with the task force if there are future public meetings. 


53.  Task Force:
Thank you for holding the community forum. I have 4 things.

1. The CCSC referendum was worded and authored by a man named X. X is gay and does not support ROTC. He is CC '03. The referendum said that CC students support the return of ROTC 2 to 1. Over 60% of students cast ballots.

2. After college one may enter OTS or OCS (Officer Training/candidacy School). However, they are only accepting technical majors as this time - and a small number of them, period. This applies to Navy and Air Force—I am unaware of Army policies.

3. I think the timer is a good idea next time.

4. I must protest allowing a Spectator photographer and a Barnard cameraperson to cover the event while prohibiting CTV. I told Tom M. about the BC camera girl sitting in the second row before the event started. He spoke to her—but she continued to film the whole event unchecked. Tom said he was too busy to stop her during the event. I feel as if I have been discriminated against and I request an explanation for why I was the only media outlet excluded from this event. I was going to publicize this event so that more members of the community would take the time to weigh in on it. Now that cannot happen.


54.  Dear Professor Applegate, Mr Mathewson and ROTC task force members,
Thank you again for opening the ROTC task force's consideration to the wide range of opinions on this deeply felt and important issue of our time. I have attached [nine entries] addressed to the ROTC task force that discuss various aspects of the ROTC issue. The majority are from Columbia's native student-veteran community. Also included are compelling selections from non-Columbians connected to the ROTC debate. I hope you find the reading as informative as I have. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask. I'll do my best to answer.

[One of the entries submitted, #61, was an academic paper first  presented in another forum. The full text is not included here, but a Web link is provided—Ed.]


55.  Ladies and Gentlemen of the ROTC Task Force,
I would like to say a few words about the possibility of returning ROTC to Columbia’s campus.  There are several issues here that have been ignored or poorly addressed, and I think that I can help clarify some of them.  Just to put my background on the table, I graduated from GS last spring, and am in my first semester at Harvard Law School.  I joined the Army right after high school, spending five years as an Army Military Policeman.  I was stationed in Germany for several years and spent nine months patrolling the Bosnian/Croatian border in 1996 enforcing the Dayton Peace Accords while attached to NATO.  Much of what I have to say in this letter will be covered in an opinion piece that I submitted to the Spectator, but I am not sure if they will print it.  I apologize for any redundancy.       

First of all, I think we should question the wisdom of getting rid of ROTC in the first place.  I know that many at Columbia view the school’s history of protest with pride, and I largely agree—my father is a Vietnam veteran, and I appreciate the effort of the thousands of people who worked to help bring people like him home and to end the war.  However, I think some skepticism is in order.  I know that during the last few years of the war there was increasing pressure to end the college deferment, an action which would have put privileged Ivy Leaguers on the front lines with high-school dropouts.  I think it is legitimate to ask to what degree radical Columbia students were protesting out of principle and to what degree they were protesting to save their own skins.  Having seen the fear, confusion, and anger exhibited by Columbia students when faced with the mere possibility of a draft in the wake of 9/11, I can only imagine that a real draft funneling men to an ongoing war would have a similar, compounded effect.  Again, I am not questioning the legitimacy of Vietnam-era protests in general or even on Columbia’s campus, but I think the possibility that the motivation behind ROTC’s banishment was less (perhaps far less) than noble or well-reasoned should factor into considerations of whether to return the program to the campus. 

Besides the motivation, I think it would be relevant to look into the actual and potential benefits of kicking ROTC off campus.  I can’t think of any off the top of my head, but that is really a research project that I haven’t looked into and don’t have the time to read or write about.  As it appears on the surface, an administration caving in to angry students out of fear seems to be one of the least sensible reasons for doing anything at a university.

I’d also like to address some of the common arguments against ROTC.  One that really has no logical basis is the idea that the majority of Columbia students would rather not see ROTC return to campus.  In the first place, there is the familiar idea that simple majority rule is not a fair governing principle.  The same logic that would prevent a return of ROTC because a majority of students are opposed can also be used to argue for the “good old days” of Columbia of not allowing Jews, women, blacks, or any other minority to attend Columbia as long a majority of students don’t want them there.  A more analogous example would be to argue that the Columbia Republicans or the Ayn Rand Club should be kicked off campus because most students disagree with their politics.  The majority is not always right, nor should its will always be enforced.  I find it interesting that activists who routinely protest majority views never seem to mind using majoritarian arguments when those arguments work in their favor. 

Another reason this argument fails is because it is simply unsupported.  I’m sure

everyone is aware of the 2003 student council poll showing that 65% of students supported the return of ROTC.  I don’t remember the exact wording of the question, but I didn’t get the impression that it was misleading, as some people claim.  Regardless, I would suspect that most students understood what was being asked and that if there is any difference in the outcome due to confusion it is statistically insignificant.  As I mentioned, I don’t think majority opinion should be the primary concern, but if it is, the only data we have shows support for ROTC.  If one chooses to look at this from a common sense perspective, it seems most likely that a small group of students highly favors a return of ROTC, another small group highly disfavors such a return, and most students are either in the middle or simply don’t care enough to have an opinion.  If that is the case, the existence of a few hard-line opponents to an activity that other students want to participate in should not preclude that activity.  Although it lacks the political dimension, I suspect that most students have no interest in Ultimate Frisbee either, but that is not a reason to prevent those students who have such an interest from participating.

For the most part, opponents of ROTC seem not to be opponents of the program as such, but usually people who despise the military in general (which many are quite open about) and those who choose to serve (which most are not so open about).  These attitudes spring from a fundamental misunderstanding about what kind of people choose to join the military and about what life in the military is actually like.  I think that it is important to point out that people who serve in the military are not the ignorant, violent homophobes that many of the educated class seem to think they are.  They are young men and women with a wide spectrum of interests, intelligence, and talents, just like young people in our society at-large.  This is an important point, because it speaks to the issue of discrimination in the military, particularly concerning gay men and women.  As homophobia is falling out of favor in society in general, so is it falling out of favor with the men and women of the military.  It is not, as many would think, acceptable in most circles in the military to be a vitriolic homophobe, although I do think that most people I served with were marginally less comfortable with the idea of homosexuality than New York intellectuals.  But then again, so is most of the country.  While people in the military may joke about the topic more than most Columbia students, most people that I served with disagreed with the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, or at least would not have objected to working with gay men and women in a professional setting.  Indeed, I served with several men and women who were openly gay, and almost nobody in my unit seemed to care.  It was rarely mentioned, and by that I mean once or twice.  The few people who made nasty and derogatory comments about our gay co-workers were viewed much as they would be at Columbia—as idiots.  This is not to paint an idealistic picture.  I’ve had friends dishonorably discharged for being gay, and I suspect that there are many units, particularly combat-arms units, that are less tolerant than my own.  The point I’m trying to make is that while there is an objectionable, discriminatory policy in place at the moment, the military as an institution is neither a steamroller of discrimination nor an engine of bigotry, despite the way it is portrayed by many at Columbia who have no military experience.  Allowing students to participate in ROTC on Columbia’s campus would not be tantamount to endorsing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.  They are two separate issues.  Just as you can support the troops in Iraq without supporting the government’s policy in Iraq, Columbia can allow students to participate in ROTC without supporting every policy of the military or every use of the military.  To conflate ROTC cadets with every military policy and action is simple-minded reductionism.  It is neither logical nor fair.  Additionally, in the interest of intellectual freedom, Columbia has stated more than once that it is not the administration’s policy to punish or exclude those who hold controversial opinions.  At least, that’s what the school claimed when it stood by the comments of Prof. DeGenova when he publicly applauded the deaths of American soldiers by fratricide and called for more of the same.  Although I obviously disagree with his comments, I do agree that intellectual freedom means allowing viewpoints that one doesn’t like, and indeed may find abhorrent.  Intellectual freedom does not, or at least should not, mean freedom only for people we like or who agree with us.  Should Columbia kick a conservative student organization off campus if they support the war in Iraq?  If they support the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy?  How about an individual student?  As previously mentioned, I strongly disagree with certain military policies, but again, this is not sufficient reason to exclude ROTC from Columbia’s campus. 

Another common criticism of ROTC and of the military in general is that it takes advantage of poor people and turns minorities in particular into “cannon fodder.” Statistics and experience belie this idea.  Statistically, the number of casualties in Iraq among whites is approximately three times the number among blacks and Hispanics combined.  From experience I can tell you that the combat arms units that are on the front lines are disproportionately white, so much so as to seem nearly exclusively white.  On the other hand, blacks are disproportionately represented in most administrative units that I saw, so much so as to seem almost exclusively black.  I’m pointing this out to put to rest the idea that the military drags poor minorities from their homes to put them on the front lines to protect the business interests of rich white men.  If the military is used to protect business interests, it is more accurate to say that it drags poor minorities from their homes to do the paperwork for the poor white kids who will die on the frontline. 

Which brings us to class issues.  Here people will argue that the military exploits the economic conditions of lower-income men and women in order to fill the ranks.  This is largely true.  However, this is nowhere near as bad as it sounds or as most Ivy League intellectuals would have you believe.  First of all, it is flat-out arrogant and condescending to contend that poor people have no say in their own life-decisions or that they are incapable of making informed choices about what is best for them.  Do we really think that these people would be joining the military if they didn’t think it was a better option for them than staying where they were?  Most people that I have met at Columbia look with pity upon “those poor people” who don’t know what they’re getting into and are swept up into Uncle Sam’s gory killing machine.  Believe me, these people know what they’re doing.  For the most part they’re leaving a town or a region that has few economic prospects for stability or mobility.  Many of them know that they are not intellectuals destined for academia or realize that they have other skills that can propel them though the ranks of leadership in the military.  Still others use their time in the military to set themselves on an intellectual or professional path.  Again, it is nothing more than common elitism to assume that the military is not a legitimate career path and that those who follow that path are ignorant, dull victims. 

Another point that needs to be stressed is that most people who serve in the military never come near combat.  The military consists largely of support and intelligence personnel, and even most people in combat arms units never face combat, although obviously that risk is substantially higher during a war or an occupation.  But most careerists I knew in the military were not combat veterans, which demonstrates that joining the military to escape your upbringing does not necessarily, or even in most cases, mean that you have to kill or be killed in order to benefit from military service.  I am discussing these issues to illustrate both my personal experience and how ROTC scholarships can be of great service to lower-income students.  I think that most people, even opponents of ROTC, accept the proposition that these scholarships would allow access to a Columbia education for some students who could not otherwise afford it.  Yes, I too wish we lived in a world where people didn’t have to make such hard choices to make their lives better.  Unfortunately, reality is not abiding.  I am personally highly irritated by people who would deny lower-income students this opportunity because “it shouldn’t have to be that way.”  Well, yes.  It shouldn’t.  But it is that way.  And I find it infuriatingly simple-minded and unjust not to allow students this sort of opportunity simply because one is frustrated that life is so unfair that some people’s only opportunity to get an education lies through the military.  I always find that an interesting, ironic argument, to protest inequality by perpetuating inequality.  Simply put, ROTC scholarships will bring people to the Ivy Leagues who could not otherwise afford it, affecting their lives and perhaps the lives of their families for generations.  This is an enormous social benefit that in itself justifies returning ROTC to Columbia’s campus.

The ideas from the last three paragraphs, besides strongly refuting some of the common criticisms of the military and ROTC, are very important to me on a personal level. I was born in a trailer park to a black mother who never went to college and a white father who broke his back in Vietnam and who now lives off of his disability checks.  This being the case, I think I know a bit more about the costs and repercussions of military service than most Columbia students.  The Army literally was my ticket out of a life with limited options and few prospects.  I didn’t go to a prep school that prepared me for an Ivy League education, so I had to learn discipline in the Army and apply it to my education at a state school when I was discharged.  The fact that I received straight A’s at a state school and had an interesting experience allowed me to transfer to GS at Columbia (whatever some may think about that) on a probational status, an opportunity that would not have existed for me had I not joined the military.  Additionally, I would never have been able to afford my time here without the help of the G.I. Bill.  I can frankly say that without the military, I would never have set foot on the campus of either Harvard or Columbia.  I feel a tremendous sense of gratitude for the opportunities that I’ve been given.  Yes, I grew up poor.  No, I didn’t have any better options.  College was not on the horizon, and there are just not many jobs in the mining town that I’m from.  So I did what I had to do in order to get out and make my life better.  I made an informed decision about what to do with my life.  Every person I’ve met who criticizes the military for recruiting poor people does so from the perspective of a privileged outsider who’s never had to make hard choices in order to make their life better and escape poverty.  To deny the opportunity that the military and ROTC can provide is to tell me that my life isn’t possible, or shouldn’t be possible, and to deny the social mobility that both liberals and conservatives pay so much lip-service to.  Many people use the military as a springboard for improving their lives, and no one who hasn’t been there is in a position to criticize that decision.  I am grateful for the opportunities the military has provided me, and I would gladly take the same risks again in order to have a chance to make something of myself.  It is a disservice of the highest order that Columbia had not been more amenable to helping provide these sorts of opportunities, and it is high time to correct that error by bringing back ROTC. 

I hope that I have presented both well-articulated reasons for returning ROTC to campus and well-reasoned rebuttals of the most common criticisms of the military and the arguments that Columbia should not allow ROTC.  For me, it simply comes down to an issue of live and let live.  Everyone at Columbia is free to either love, hate, or not care about ROTC, but this program and the military serve many useful functions in our society, and a student who wishes to pursue ROTC at Columbia should be free to do so if he or she chooses.  If you have any questions about my letter or would like to discuss this issue in further detail, I would welcome the opportunity to meet with the Task Force in the future.  Please feel free to contact me anytime.


56.  Ladies and Gentlemen of the ROTC Task Force,
If you really want to change the military, you're going about it the wrong way. By closing Columbia's doors to ROTC, you're not at all hurting military recruitment—the officers just go elsewhere to train. In fact, not only are you not accomplishing your goal, you're making things worse. Less liberal schools create officers with less liberal tendencies—thereby perpetuating the status quo. A future officer who actually wants to attend Columbia is someone you'd want in the military. I certainly would feel better knowing that Columbia graduates are making military policy. We, as a university, can affect nothing if our doors are closed and our ears are shut.  Do you think our little protest is in any way adversely affecting military recruitment? Do you think the people in the Pentagon are crying over not being able to send future officers to Columbia? You should be advocating dialogue, asking the military in so that you can engage them and affect their thinking. Here's all the protest does—it shows that, as a campus, we don't like what's going on. That's it. Now, that may make you feel nice, but it does exactly squat to change the situation.  The central argument against allowing ROTC on campus is the military's policy on homosexuals. Once again, if Columbia actually wants to affect the policy, it is going about things wrongly. Our weak protest will not change anything. I know this is an imperfect analogy, but here goes: Imagine if Columbia had a policy to not admit any students from Saudi Arabia, because of that country's repressive policies against women. What would that policy accomplish? Would that be effective in any way? It may make us feel morally superior to other Universities, but what's the point of that? The women in Saudi Arabia don't care about our moral quietude. Ah, but if we allowed the students in, and they went back and in some small way effected change . . . well, you get the picture. 

Here's another reason you may be against ROTC—one that you may be ashamed to admit. You might not like the idea of a bunch of jingoistic meatheads running around campus. You might be afraid that it would adversely affect the current campus atmosphere. Look around—there are dozens and dozens of military veterans already here (I'm one of them), and I'd bet you wouldn't be able to distinguish us from the rest of the Columbia population. If you think the military brainwashes people as they come in and creates right-wing automatons, you're absolutely wrong. I challenge you to find a more ideologically eclectic group on campus than Columbia’s student-veterans. Seriously, the diversity of the group surprised even me.  Is the military perfect? Of course not, and my argument does not at all suppose this. As a veteran, I could rattle off a list of wrongheaded military policies (on top of the list, above the policy on homosexuals, would be its recruitment practices–absolutely inexcusable). The question is, what do we do about it? Certainly, you will agree that the current university policy on ROTC serves absolutely no purpose. It does not harm the military (at least not in the way a rational reformer would want), nor does it help change the military’s policy on homosexuals by equipping the military with clear-thinking and progressive officers.  Should Columbia continue to keep her ears and gates closed to the military? More importantly, should she continue to keep her mouth shut? I challenge Columbia to be brave enough to speak—not just to others who cannot affect the situation, but also to those who can. I challenge her to speak to the very people who will be in the institution she has closed her doors to. I challenge her to be brave and have faith in herself—have faith that her voice will be heard. She should have no fear that her graduates, having journeyed her halls to the voices of great men and women, will do less in the service of their country than embody the lessons they learn here.


57.  Ladies and Gentlemen of the ROTC Task Force,
I served for 4 years in the United States Army as an enlisted soldier in the Military Intelligence Corps, for the most part in the United States Forces - Korea (USFK) helping to defend the Republic of Korea. If you wish, I can discuss my experiences as an enlisted soldier with ROTC-trained officers, working in a gender-mixed field, serving in a foreign country and as a Taiwanese American in the Army. In this letter, I wish to discuss ROTC in relation to Columbia’s non-discrimination policy.

Premise.  Any fair discussion about ROTC’s place at Columbia must begin with two general agreements: First, we must agree that the American military has an indispensable role in our nation’s affairs. Even in relatively peaceful periods, the military is busy with missions such as peacekeeping, humanitarian aid, disaster relief (for example, the US armed forces have a leading role in the SE Asian tsunami relief), national obligations in areas such as Korea and Europe, and the eternal mission of defending the nation and the American people. When freed from the necessities of war, the military may even be characterized as the busiest and most effective community service organization in the world. Selfless service is not a concept taken lightly in the military. I can attest to the military’s community focus as an active participant in the United States and Korea. From the youngest Army Private to the highest-ranking General, our military men and women and the uniform they wear are recognized throughout the world as ambassadors of the American people. Second, we must agree that Columbia carries a special responsibility in our society. The university is entrusted with setting the standard for our society’s moral, ethical and social development. Columbia’s graduates are expected to build a better nation, fight inequality, and uphold the good of the people. As a premier leadership institution, Columbia has a duty to produce the leaders of our generation for all areas of society, including the military.

The Non-Discrimination Policy. In nurturing the unique social and political experiment we call America, we understand that Diversity is our nation’s great strength. In that light, Columbia’s non-discrimination policy serves as the vessel for an essential ideal – that of Inclusion. By maintaining an affiliation with a women’s college and, to a lesser degree, other institutions that contradict the university’s non-discrimination policy, we further recognize that the ideals of Diversity and Inclusion must be upheld even when they conflict with the restricted, imperfect form of the non-discrimination policy. We understand that we surrender Diversity and Inclusion when the policy is upheld over the ideal. Sadly, that has happened with ROTC. By excluding the military since 1969, Columbia has traded the ideal of Inclusion for its nemesis, Exclusion. Discrimination has thereby become a sanctioned value in Columbia’s education. Institutional discrimination of the military cannot fight discrimination of any group, including the gay community. Columbia’s current misuse of the non-discrimination policy can only project social division and discrimination as values to be emulated in society.

“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Federal Law.  Although it can be justified as a compromise to protect gays serving in the military, I refuse to defend the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” federal law (hereafter referred to as DADT). I disagree with the law because I believe military service is the cultural embodiment of the core citizenship values of Service and Duty. Those values should embrace all Americans—man or woman, rich or poor, majority or minority, gay or straight. Our government has implied with this law that sexual preference is more important than the values that bind us as citizens. I cannot accept that, as an American and as a proud veteran. For the same reason, it is wrong for Columbia to exclude ROTC over DADT. By doing so, the university fails to uphold the core citizenship values of Service and Duty, and exacerbates the damage caused by a poorly rendered law. 

The Failure of Columbia’s Protest.  In practice, Columbia’s protest of DADT has helped no one and harmed many. Politically, the protest has no leverage; Columbia removed its ROTC program under shameful circumstances decades before the DADT controversy. Many of the military’s proponents were convinced years ago that it was Columbia that had broken the Social Contract, long before DADT became an issue. In short, Columbia’s rejection of ROTC removed any realistic platform to criticize the military’s policies. The gay community has suffered from Columbia’s stance against ROTC. By using gay students as the self-serving reason to explain the reactionary exclusion of ROTC, Columbia has compounded an unjust act by also painting the gay community as anti-military, an unfair stereotype that further divides the gay community from the mainstream. Furthermore, the protest is misdirected. ROTC and cadets can’t change the law. Only elected officials have that power. Thus, Columbia’s ban on ROTC has made no impact on DADT while simultaneously keeping Columbians away from military service. The military community has lost Columbia-educated leaders while the Columbia student body has been deprived of an on-campus military resource, a full palette of academic options and career choices, and military values and perspectives. The rare cadets who persevere in pursuing a military career at Columbia find that they must overcome an unsupportive environment and the separate and unequal status for ROTC practiced by the university. Rather than lessen discrimination with its ROTC policy, Columbia has actually given institutional sanction to ignorance, negative stereotyping and outright prejudice. Students’ opinions, as well as wider attitudes about the military in society, have thus been shaped. As a result of Columbia’s position, members of the privileged classes have felt justified in rejecting military service and passing the societal responsibility of national defense almost exclusively onto the working classes. Underprivileged students planning to use ROTC scholarships to fund their education choose to go elsewhere for their education, thus denying Columbia an important source of student diversity and the opportunity to educate the military’s leadership. Gays serving in the military suffer the most from Columbia’s stance. They are hurt by Columbia’s refusal to realistically address their plight and maligned as soldiers by the negative stereotypes of the military fostered by Columbia, all while persevering to honorably serve their country in spite of DADT. Current events and modern necessities have only made more poignant Columbia’s poor relation to the military. While we debate this issue, national and international institutions are transforming under the stresses of global transition. Our children’s history is being shaped, with our military at the heart of change, yet Columbia finds itself marginalized in that process. Without an ROTC, the university has failed to contribute to the military’s leadership at a time when the American people, as well as many people around the world, are relying on our military to succeed. Meanwhile, Columbia graduates who are called upon to relate to and work with the military are forced to overcome an inadequate educational preparation. Thirty-five years ago, Columbia made a grievous mistake by rejecting ROTC. Columbia’s continued exclusion of ROTC has hurt students and the military, removed the benefits of ROTC from our campus, instilled harmful values in the Columbia education, retarded social progress and misled the gay community. Fortunately, there is a better way that helps the people, improves the quality of the university and revitalizes Columbia’s mandate to advance the public good.

The Better Solution.  The restoration of ROTC at Columbia will open many positive benefits. The return of ROTC will infuse military perspectives and help the student body learn a balanced view of the military and soldiers, and their role in society. New academic options and career choices will be made available to students. Military perspectives and values will enhance Columbia’s marketplace of ideas. ROTC scholarships will be a viable option to finance students’ educations. A native cadet population will diversify and enrich the Columbia community. Class disparities will diminish both in the military, as more privileged citizens embrace military service, and at Columbia, as more underprivileged students will have the means to attend the university. The American people will rebuild their faith in Columbia as a leadership institution that embodies the civic values of nation building, service, duty and the greater good.  For critics of DADT, the return of ROTC and the closure of Columbia’s anti-military reputation will restore a realistic platform for Columbia to address the law. Columbia will be able to lobby for change in the political arena while working directly with the military to teach its future leaders. Best of all, the overdue end of Columbia’s divisive and useless policy against ROTC will help the gay community dispel the unfair stereotype that gays are anti-military. 

Conclusion.  At this crossroads in our history, we must choose: are we an “Ivory Tower" disconnected from the needs of society, divorced from nation and people, and only good for insular thinking and selfish pursuits? Or, are we truly America’s producer of vanguard leaders who pursue integration, diversity, the greater good and the improvement of all parts of our society, including the military?  The challenge of our time demands the best leaders from our generation. As Dr. Martin Luther King said in another time of pressing need in American history:  “Let us stand with a greater determination. And let us move on in these powerful days, these days of challenge, to make America what it ought to be. We have an opportunity to make America a better nation.” At Columbia, it is again time to stand with a greater determination, for the sake of our people, our country and our world. If our government has been wrong by discouraging gays from serving in the military—and I believe it has been—the let us show America the right way. Allow Columbia to teach our government and the American people a higher standard of Diversity and Inclusion by embracing ROTC and our civic duties. Set us free so we can lead the way.  The decision we make for the restoration of ROTC is about more than just ROTC. We are shaping our generation’s vision of Columbia University and, thus, our value to society.


58.  By way of personal background, I am a second-year student in the MBA program at Columbia University. Prior to enrolling in the Graduate School of Business I served in the United States Navy. I received my commission from the Naval Officer Candidate School in Newport, Rhode Island. I have followed with interest your efforts to return the Reserve Officer Training Corps program to the campus of Columbia University and would like to extend my wholehearted support to this endeavor.  The United States has from its inception cherished a role for a civilian-educated military. In order to lead a force that is in many ways more diverse than the country itself, the officers must bring perspectives and educations from varied backgrounds. While the defense of the country could be managed by officers recruited solely from service academies, we as a nation have always recognized the value of officers educated outside the gates of those institutions. By shuttering the doors of the ROTC, Columbia has abdicated both its ability to influence and its responsibility to educate the future leaders of our government.  While many who are commissioned as officers choose to make a career in the military, others like myself choose to return to civilian life and to apply the lessons learned in the service. Those lessons are many, but chief among them is a profound respect for the judgment and abilities of subordinates and the challenge of leading an organization filled with bright and talented workers. The enlisted ranks are populated with soldiers, sailors and airmen who are as well educated and intelligent as their civilian counterparts. The skills that officers acquire in the military translate readily to the civilian world.  Finally, to those who maintain that the presence of ROTC on campus is unaligned with the goals of our academic community I would answer that contained within Columbia’s University’s mission statement is a declaration that “students with the will and ability to pursue their majors to the highest levels of scholarly sophistication are free to do so.” For the University to deny a role for ROTC within its broad community makes those noble words ring hollow.  As Alexander Hamilton correctly predicted in the Federalist Papers, “The support of a military force will always be a favorable topic for declamation.” I earnestly hope that Columbia University allows the ROTC program a full and fair voice to continue this debate with from within its community rather than from without.


59.  Ladies and Gentlemen of the ROTC Task Force,
My name is XXX XXX, and I am a second-year student at Columbia Business School. I am writing this letter to advocate for the introduction of an ROTC program here at Columbia University. I am a former Army officer, graduating from West Point in 1998. After graduation, I served for three years in a tank unit in Germany. After that I went to Fort Knox, Kentucky to work on R&D for future Army systems for two years. After leaving the Army in the summer of 2003, at the rank of Captain, I enrolled at the Business School.  During my 5 years in the regular Army I only met one officer who was a graduate of an Ivy League undergraduate institution. Though it is just from my perspective, I think this is representative of the experiences of many others. Most officers were from ROTC programs in state schools in the Midwest and South. Less than 10% were West Pointers. I believe this should change for two main reasons: the influence that the US military has in the world today and to promote diversity here at Columbia and in the military. 

Influence. Today more than ever, recently graduated lieutenants will arguably have more impact on United States foreign policy and the perception of the US in the world than diplomats in Washington or businessman abroad. During my service on operations in the German countryside, I was responsible for interacting with the German populace and appeasing them while we were on maneuvers through the countryside. The face of America not only in parts of Europe, but also in many areas of Asia, Africa and the Middle East is the American soldier. This country should put its best foot forward, by recruiting more from Ivy League schools like Columbia.

Diversity. As I mentioned above, military officers are predominantly from Midwest and Southern institutions. Most soldiers come from “Red States.” Coming to Columbia, I was amazed at the utter lack of understanding of the military and the incorrect preconceptions that people had about it. A more active ROTC presence on campus will do more to build an understanding of the military here at Columbia. A greater number of Columbia ROTC graduates in the military will also help the military change many of its policies, particularly towards building greater tolerance towards homosexuals. Policies that discourage ROTC on campus only have the effect of reducing the number of officers who can help build tolerance in the military. 


60.  Why is the RESERVE OFFICER TRAINING CORPS (ROTC) right for Columbia?

1. Columbia’s Responsibility to America. Our country has endeavored since the founding fathers to temper its military with the democratic safeguard of the scholarly citizen-soldier. To that purpose, Columbia faithfully discharged the essential duty of educating future officers from the birth of a new nation until duty failed in 1969. That the military is fundamental to American society and that Columbia bears the moral responsibility to produce our nation's leaders are givens; as a result, the schism between Columbia and the military has eroded the university’s mandate to advance the public good. As we confront increasingly complex global challenges, it is more important than ever that our military engages the world with cosmopolitan, liberally educated, ethical leaders. Columbia University is uniquely qualified to prepare modern American military leaders to guide and shape the military of the 21st century. Moreover, the American military is subordinate to civilians; the lack of representation in Columbia's education harms the greater military community that relies on Columbia-educated officials. End the exclusion of ROTC on campus. America’s military community has not only been silenced at Columbia and removed from an essential input, it has been stained with ignorance and harmful stereotypes. Columbia students cannot learn from a silenced voice that cannot teach. 

2. Military as Option. College students explore and experiment, yet at Columbia, the ROTC option has been denied. The military would be a rewarding, challenging career for ambitious Columbia students who seek a profession that embodies selfless service, duty, respect, responsibility, community and leadership as core values. In itself, military study is a fascinating, evolving field. Moreover, the military is continually seeking to diversify its leaders. ROTC, as an active practicer of affirmative action, would help improve diversity on campus. In fact, ROTC scholarships would give qualified, but underprivileged students the opportunity to pursue a Columbia education. Columbia's current paucity of ROTC cadets is directly attributable to Columbia’s exclusion of ROTC and the perception of anti-military prejudice by the university. Denying the ROTC option at Columbia deprives the country, indeed the world, of Columbia-caliber military leaders and deprives students of opportunity and ROTC's financial aid. 

3. The Non-Discrimination Policy. Columbia cites its non-discrimination policy as the justification for denying ROTC a position on campus; however, Columbia affiliates itself with a women's college as an exception to the non-discrimination policy because of the instrinsic benefits from inclusion. ROTC deserves the same consideration. Schools with similar non-discrimination policies have realized the many benefits from including ROTC, so the precedents have already been set. In terms of the "don't ask, don't tell" federal law, the absence of ROTC at Columbia has only worsened the problem. Only elected officials, not the military, can change federal laws, whereas Columbia-educated officers with superior social conscience can influence attitudinal shift from within the military’s leadership. Columbia’s heritage of inclusion and engagement, mutual interaction, civil discourse and Columbia-educated military leaders are the realistic ways for the university to address the federal law. None of those actions can be accomplished while the military is segregated from the Columbia community. By rejecting the military, Columbia has removed itself from a position to advocate change in the military. 

Conclusion: We have the opportunity to again produce graduates who will lead and thereby transform our nation’s military. The exclusion of ROTC has produced only social divisions, ignorance and harmful stereotypes. Columbia’s relationship with ROTC should be one of constructive participation, mutual benefit and social responsibility. The return of ROTC would enhance the Columbia community, revitalize our university’s nation-building principles and set a standard for genuine social change. 

Students United for America statement of positions on the restoration of ROTC at Columbia University.
References: and


61.  “George Washington's Legacy of Civilian Control of the Military at the Intersection of America's Third Century and the Millennium,” by DR. Davida Kellogg and MAJ Randy Clements, University of Maine


Abstract: Civilian control of the military for the nascent United States of America was one of the most critical issues decided by George Washington, even before he became its first head of state. No other choice would have been consistent with American political ideals, but the very existence of the country depended on this less-than-militarily-optimal arrangement working. In these unsettled times following the break-up of the Soviet Union, it still does. This paper discusses the ramifications of Washington’s legacy of civilian control of the military in this era of intense, highly emotional, and often critical civilian scrutiny of the military ushered in with the “television war” of the 60s. It warns that control of the military by the civilian sector without taking reciprocal responsibility to educate itself to this task well enough to make reasoned, rather than emotional, decisions affecting the military sabotages the instrument that guarantees all other American rights.


62.  Ladies and Gentlemen of the ROTC Task Force,
While my husband is serving in Iraq, I have been teaching ENGL 101 in the European division of the University of Maryland.  My students are all either soldiers or military dependents, which gives our classroom a unique viewpoint and an opportunity to discuss current events and policies that directly relate to our community.  One of the topic choices for a short writing assignment was the ban on ROTC at elite universities, and I am haunted by the response one of my soldier students wrote. He said that, “If you’re smart enough to attend a university like Harvard, you don’t need to be wasting your time with the military.”  This particular student was at the top of our class, one of the brighter students I’ve ever had, so I couldn’t understand why he would denigrate himself so.  His comment revealed a fundamental problem of banning ROTC at universities such as Columbia.  Many Americans believe that the military is a sort of “last resort” for people.  This is the stereotype that negative folks like Michael Moore play on: the poor minority kid who got duped into joining the Army.  Though I’ve only spent a mere three years in the military community, I have only met one soldier who felt he was misled when he joined.  In fact, I have found many more soldiers who don’t fit this stereotype, such as the Specialist (an enlisted rank) who has a BS in engineering and an MBA, the First Sergeant who refused to become an officer even after he got his Master’s, and the Sergeant who scored a perfect math SAT.  These soldiers would strongly disagree if I suggested they had joined the Army because they couldn’t do anything better with their lives, so why does this stereotype persist?  Part of the reason is because elite universities don’t allow ROTC programs on their campuses.  In doing so, they build a wall between elite academics and the military, strengthening the prejudice that the military is the last resort for people who are too stupid to do anything with their lives.  Soldiers respect education and educators.  My classes are full of warriors who want to be scholars, soldiers who give up their nights and weekends to get a degree.  And one thing soldiers understand is hierarchy: a Staff Sergeant is higher up the food chain than a Specialist because he worked hard to get where he is and he deserves the respect his rank commands.  Similarly, Columbia is higher up the food chain than Generic State University because it has worked hard to build its reputation as one of the best.  When Columbia says that it’s too good for an ROTC program, soldiers believe it, because Columbia is Columbia.  Sadly, the lack of ROTC programs at elite universities feeds a stereotype back to soldiers that they themselves don’t embody, so that even the Sergeant with the phenomenal SAT will believe he can’t compete with Columbia students.  The US Military needs warriors who want to be scholars, but she also needs scholars who want to be warriors; both are crucial for the military to grow and prosper.  Breaking down the stereotype that the military is only for the downtrodden and ignorant is not only important for my students’ self-worth and morale, it also would benefit Columbia students.  The military offers leadership opportunities that recent graduates likely couldn’t get in the corporate world; my own husband leads twenty men and handles millions of dollars in military equipment - not bad for a 24 year old.  Few other professions require the entry-level responsibility that the military bestows on its young officers, an asset they can take with them if they choose to leave the military for the civilian world.  Columbia grads would thrive in such a situation, and they won’t be leading the impoverished and stupid; they will be leading warriors who possess degrees and determination.  They will be leading soldiers such as my students, soldiers who, when motivated, can perform far better than one would expect from the “last resort” crowd.  Reinstating the ROTC program at Columbia would be a big step towards breaking this stereotype.


63.  Ladies and Gentlemen of the ROTC Task Force,
I am an infantry Captain in the Florida National Guard who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom. I was asked to speak from my personal experiences to inform the discussion of ROTC at Columbia University. In the urban counterinsurgency environment faced by our soldiers in Iraq, leadership is devolved to a very low level. Critical decisions are being made by junior Captains and Second Lieutenants. Speaking from my own experience, most decisions I had to make day-to-day were not illuminated so much by military training. The infantry is not that complicated, and most tactical decisions could be arrived at by common sense. I also did not need to draw on any technical scientific or mathematical training, though others did.  What I drew upon most frequently were concepts I had gleaned from a sound foundation in the liberal arts. The decisions I made day-to-day bore directly on questions such as these: 

1. What is the role of the press in a democratic society? How open to the press do I need to be in combat? Soldiers in another company confiscated a reporter's camera once. Well, what are the ramifications of that? 

2. What is the role of a citizen soldier in a democratic society? What is the role of the Army? It's one thing to grasp it in the United States. But when you are called upon to train Iraqi security personnel who have no experience of living in a society that respects individual rights, you have to be able to articulate it. 

3. How do I strike an ethical balance between keeping my soldiers alive and preserving the safety of innocent Iraqis? Well, what ideas illuminate the argument? Is the argument limited to the laws of war and the rules of engagement? As if they actually covered everything. Junior officers need to make decisions on how to apply them, and do so on the spot. And then they need to explain these values to their non-commissioned officers (Sergeants) and Specialists (an enlisted rank) who think they know everything. 

4. What is the role of the sheikh in a tribal society? Units with officers who do not understand the cultural dynamics of the Arab world will quickly alienate the sheikhs, and quickly fail. 

5. Language skills and cultural sensitivity is a combat multiplier. A leavening of Ivy League-educated officers who have grown up in cosmopolitan, multicultural areas, and who have had the opportunity to travel abroad and develop cultural skills are in huge demand in the field. Their skills are needed not just to build ties with Middle Easterners, but also in building long-lasting relationships with our European coalition partners. 

What can ROTC offer back to the University?  Well, ROTC scholarship money for starters. More importantly, ROTC will bring a steady stream of individuals who are prior-service combat veterans. They will bring a first-hand experience of war which will help illuminate discussion in the classroom. They will bring a point of view, based on practical experience, which is sorely underrepresented on college campuses today. They will be able to engage professors and students alike in conversation.  They will also bring leadership aptitude and potential to the university campus beyond that of the typical college freshman. They will have seen good leadership and poor leadership in action in the field.  I am a graduate of Texas A and M University. While my university produces great officers, few of them have much experience traveling abroad. We need a leavening from a different demographic.  To exclude ROTC from Columbia University, or from any Ivy League university—to deny those who have benefited from such a quality education, if indeed you offer a quality education—is  to do a disservice to the country. Our military is diminished for the lack of your participation and support. And our troops in the field are the ones who have to pay the price. And the price of having an officer corps with a shaky liberal arts education is one that is paid, literally, in blood.  To exclude ROTC is also to do a disservice to your students. For the lack of a leavening of combat veterans, and dedicated public servants, your school of journalism is exposed to only a sliver of the spectrum of ideas surrounding the ethical and political issues of war. Your students, then, graduate ill-equipped to properly evaluate some of the most pressing issues of our time. By excluding the ROTC demographic from your student body, you have created a distortion—a vacuum—in the marketplace of ideas.  The result is an Ivy League class that is hopelessly out of touch with the population that currently leads our military, and a school of journalism that produces graduates who lack the background to accurately assess the most important issues of today.


64.  Committee,
It may be useful for you to know that while the law school student government has not taken up the issue of the ROTC returning to campus, we did express our sentiments with respect to JAG recruiting at the law school.  Attached, please find the resolution passed by the CLS Senate.  Several weeks ago, the Student Senate passed the following resolution. 


The STUDENT SENATE OF COLUMBIA LAW SCHOOL, duly assembled and sitting in its full authority on February 25, 2004, hereby proclaims:

WHEREAS, we are concerned that Columbia Law School has waived its non-discrimination policy in order to allow the United States Military, which practices discriminatory hiring, to interview on campus,

WHEREAS, we recognize Columbia Law School's unique role as a leader on issues that affect the quality and nature of legal education and reaffirm our duty to respond when threats to our Community arise,

WHEREAS, we lag behind our peer law schools in protecting the whole of our student body in defending our non-discriminatory policies,

WHEREAS, discrimination against Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered persons is morally wrong,

WE RESOLVE, to strongly encourage any effort by the Administration, or the Faculty, to join or to initiate a lawsuit that challenges the Solomon Amendment or any waiver of our Non-Discrimination Policy.


65.  Dear Taskforce,
As an active duty Army Officer studying at TC, I am interested in the discussion about ROTC at Columbia.  Is there a point of contact (website or forum) for this discussion?


66.  Greetings,
I wish to briefly convey my views on the prospect of reintroducing an ROTC program to Columbia.  I am a Teachers College graduate student, and I am against the reintroduction of ROTC to Columbia for several reasons.

1. I feel the US military's "Don't ask, don't tell" practice is discriminatory against homosexuals.  I don't feel an academic program that practices this policy should be asked into our school.

2. As a person committed to non-violence, I do not want the military recruiting at my college.

3.  I feel ROTC has the unintended effect of funneling people with less money into the military.  I do not think this is fair or desirable.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


67.  Dear members of the University Senate ROTC Task Force,
Thank you very much for taking the time to hear the opinions of the study body. I know how difficult this issue is, and appreciate your work. The School of General Studies Student Council (GSSC) will send a reminder about the Town Hall meeting, and I am sure many GS students will attend.  Two years ago, the GSSC was approached by a group of students asking us to endorse the return of ROTC to Columbia. As a school that has a relatively substantial population of past and current members of the armed services, we took their request very seriously. In fact, this request was the focus of the GSSC weekly meetings for months. Finally, after much discussion, the GSSC passed a resolution that can be found here: < resolutions/ GSSC_ROTC_Resolution_4-12-2003.pdf>  I hope you find this resolution helpful in your discussions. Thank you. 


Proposed: March 4, 2003. 

Adopted: March 12, 2003. 


WHEREAS      the Columbia community is committed to diversity in both demographics and intellectual discourse, and

WHEREAS the ROTC program would provide a new, alternative voice on campus, and

WHEREAS Columbia University’s policies clearly state that any form of discrimination – be it based on religion, race, gender, and, specifically, sexual orientation – will not be tolerated in any form *;

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the General Studies Student Council will not be willing to endorse an ROTC program at Columbia University UNTIL openly gay members of the Columbia University community are allowed to participate in any and all aspects of the ROTC program. 

* Columbia University’s Statement of Nondiscriminatory Policies, Paragraph 8:  “Currently, University policies protect against discrimination and harassment on the basis of race, color, gender, religion, national and ethnic origin, age, citizenship, disability, sexual orientation, and marital status.”

68.  What follows is part of Georgetown University Law School's decision to allow military recruiters onto their campus this past September:

Georgetown University Law Center

DATE: September 27, 2004
TO: Law Center Community

FROM: Dean T. Alexander Aleinikoff
RE: Military Recruitment

The decision to permit military recruiters to interview law students was reached only after broad consultation with the University's General Counsel, the President of the University, members of the faculty, senior administrators, and many students. Senior administrators and faculty met with Outlaw to inform them of the situation and to seek their suggestions for shaping our response.  The fact that military recruiters are permitted to participate in the Government Interview Program does not mean that the Law Center has retreated in any way from our strongly held view that gay, lesbian and bisexual students should be able to seek any and every job for which they are qualified—and that they should be permitted to serve in those jobs with honesty, integrity and pride. It is unfortunate that federal policy does not take the same view.  I want to underscore that the Law Center is opposed to discrimination, not to military service. Generations of Law Center students and alumni have served in the military; many are serving today. We are proud of them and grateful to all the men and women of the Armed Services for the sacrifices they make to defend this nation. Indeed, it is because of the exceptional opportunities offered by the military to serve our country that equal access should be provided to all those who seek to serve.  We at the Law Center cannot, alone, change the hiring policy of the Armed Services.

We can and will, however, make clear our own opposition to discrimination through postings and through educational materials. We will support forums for discussion of the federal policy. And, we will continue to do all that we can to assure gay, lesbian, and bisexual students, staff and faculty that they are welcome and valued members of our community. We know it must be painful for them to be barred from service simply for being candid about their sexual orientation.  In a just world, there would be no discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. We at the Law Center will continue to do all that we can to end this discrimination. 

While a portion of the letter dealt with the Solomon Amendment, that portion has been omitted here given the Solomon Amendment's questionable legal status. Regardless, [this] is how Georgetown University Law Center has chosen to deal with the problem of DADT and their own nondiscrimination policies. I think it is a valuable example of another institution's balance between expressing discontent with and pushing for change of DADT wherever possible, while still not barring those who want a career in military service from pursuing it. Special attention, I think, should be paid to the two lines: "We at the Law Center cannot, alone, change the hiring policy of the Armed Services. We can and will, however, make clear our own opposition to discrimination through postings and through educational materials." This, I believe, is an appropriate response from a university considering a similar problem.


69.  Hello, my name is XXX YYY, and I am a TC student (Math Education, MA program).  I would have liked to attend this evening's discussion regarding ROTC at Columbia, but I am unable to do so.  Since [an] email invited the TC community to contribute to this discussion via email, I am taking the opportunity to comment. The opinions that follow are my own and do not represent the US government, DoD, USAF, or ROTC.  I am a Captain in the US Air Force, commissioned through the Air Force ROTC program at Duke University.  I spent four years in the active duty and am currently on inactive reserve status. The ROTC program enabled me to attend a wonderful university at virtually no cost, and military service enhanced my personal and professional development in more ways than I can describe here.  I would first suggest that the committee research ROTC programs in existence at other elite universities, such as those at Duke and MIT. Cadets at these institutions are almost exclusively on scholarship, and while ROTC programs at these universities tend to be comparatively small, many students do benefit from ROTC scholarships each year.  I believe Columbia could expect similar participation and results if ROTC were reestablished.  While I am not aware of the reasons behind Columbia's existing policy, some universities elect to not ban ROTC detachments due to the current law with respect to homosexuals in the military.  While I vehemently disagree with the law, I hardly think discouraging our brightest minds from choosing military service is the best way to change this policy.  Rather, it only exacerbates the problem.  If Columbia would like to see this policy changed, why not seize this opportunity to influence the intellectual development of the country's military officer corps?   Perhaps most importantly, I believe Columbia is doing a disservice to its students by restricting the diversity of the student body.  Since it is nearly impossible to pay back Columbia-sized loans on a military paycheck, very few students at elite universities tend to enter the military through Officer Training School (the post-graduation way to earn a commission).  Thus, by excluding ROTC, Columbia effectively excludes prospective students who know they want to pursue a military career.  The most common response I receive when I mention that I was in the Air Force is a look of confusion, followed by, "I've never met someone in the military before."  I notice, with pleasure, lively campus debate about our country's military action overseas.  How might that debate be enhanced if the university community contained a group of individuals who will be directly affected by such events?  What other perspectives could be brought to classroom discussions if these students were part of the Columbia community? I think the results would be a more comprehensive campus dialogue and an enriched college experience. Thanks for the opportunity to comment. 

70.  To a Co-chair:
Your exchange with X on ROTC has alerted me to a possible major Public Relations problem for Columbia. As you know New York City and State has a very strong Gay and Lesbian community. They are courted by leaders of both Political Parties.  What has become very clear to me in my discussion with colleagues at the health science campus who are gay and lesbians is that the ROTC issue is not a side issue for them but a central one. They very strongly feel that if Columbia decides to accept an ROTC program it signals Columbia's endorsement of an anti Gay and Lesbian platform.  I was aware that Gays and Lesbians were opposed to the introduction of ROTC with its anti-gay provisions. But I was not aware of the strength and centrality of those feelings in the larger Gay and Lesbian community.  The decision of the Senate must be made on the bases what they feel is fair.  But if the Senate decides to go with the acceptance of ROTC, the administration and faculty should be prepared for a possible long term and continuous "fireStorm" of criticism by an articulate, very active, and well funded Gay and Lesbian community.  This is something I had not really entertained in my thinking. I bring it to your attention as a factor that has to be considered. Some of you may have been wiser than me and already made this assessment. I have nothing to recommend but simply bring it to your attention.


71.  Graduate School of Business Senators,
I am writing to express my strong support for allowing ROTC back on campus. I urge you to vote for the proposal at the upcoming elections. Soren Bech 05 and Kelly Fischbach 06 this week in the ‘Bottom Line’ argue that the US military, in its “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, excludes gays, therefore Columbia University should express its displeasure by not allowing them on campus. If this is their sole argument it ignores the good that the US military does around the world, from recent peacekeeping efforts in the Balkans to humanitarian relief in Tsunami-affected countries.  Cluster Q, for an inclusive group, seems very willing to be closed-minded regarding acceptance of other people. The ROTC system will diversify the Columbia student body and provide a twofold benefit: exposing ROTC candidates to the Columbia ethos and taking this to their units and the countries they deploy to and reinforce the Columbia values of honor, integrity and courage.


72.  I was unable to attend the meeting, but certainly count me as in favor of ROTC being allowed to return to Columbia.  It is incredibly important that Columbia show support for our military, no just at times like these, but always.  Our military need bright, well- educated leaders, and there is no reason that Columbia should be doing everything possible to provide those. I look forward to hearing about the imminent return of ROTC to Columbia.


73.  To Whom It May Concern At The ROTC Taskforce: 
What follows is a concern that I wish to be entered into the record in favor of the reinstatement of ROTC at Columbia. First, while it is clearly of the utmost importance to adhere as much as possible to the University's Nondiscrimination policies as regards both the university practices and employers welcomed to campus, it is evident that the university does not fully comply with the nondiscrimination policy as it is elaborated on the University's own webpage and, in some cases, there are compelling reasons for it to do so. For instance, the Columbia University Statement of Nondiscriminatory Policies page (available at ) clearly states that: "Section 313 of the New York Education Law, as amended, prohibits educational institutions from discriminating against persons seeking admission as students to any institution, program, or course because of race, religion, creed, sex, color, marital status, age, or national origin." As was mentioned at the most recent town hall meeting, Barnard College—an affiliate of Columbia University—does not comply with this Section of the New York Education Law. As a male, I am not, and was never, eligible for Barnard admission. I have taken classes there, as openly homosexual members of the Columbia community would be able to participate in ROTC classes, yet I cannot get a Barnard degree nor can men like me "seeking admission as students" to Barnard itself gain admission. That is discrimination based on gender, which is all the more apparent since 1984 when Columbia College went co-ed. Judging by the standards applied to ROTC on campus at present, to follow through on our nondiscrimination policy the University would have to sever all contact with Barnard College, including restricting members of the Barnard community from teaching in our classrooms or using our other academic facilities and campus resources.  Furthermore, as the son of a Barnard graduate who graduated before 1984, my sisters would be granted legacy status to an affiliate of Columbia University while I would not. This is more telling since there was no way that my mother could have attended any other undergraduate college at Columbia due to the discriminatory admissions policy of Columbia itself at the time. So, in effect, I was not granted legacy status to Columbia University because of (1) my gender and (2) the gender of my mother at the time she attended Columbia University. Such policies distinctly are at odds with the principles of Section 313 of the New York Education Law and our own on-discrimination policy. Certainly, perhaps there are practical considerations for such policies, and a need for a the "unique culture of an all female college." I would disagree, but fair enough. Yet the benefits of such an institution are disproportionally available to one gender of our campus community. I will never be able to get a Barnard degree; or to have access to Barnard's separate advising system. In the same way, ROTC would provide disproportionate benefits. ROTC would offer full benefits to straight individuals of both sexes and homosexuals who chose not to express their sexual orientation, while at the same time only offering marginal benefits to those who were openly homosexual. Yet by keeping ROTC off this campus, the full benefits of a ROTC program would be felt by nobody, and only partial benefits would be confirmed upon the maximum of 12 ROTC cadets allowed by agreement with Fordham. Those who are interested in the Navy and NROTC, like myself, would also be deprived of any NROTC opportunity. There is one clear difference, however. Barnard College is by no State or Federal Law, and by no State or Federal Legislature, required to accept only Females. For Barnard as an institution, accepting only females is a choice. Columbia University, by remaining an affiliate of Barnard College, has implicitly accepted that choice. For the military and ROTC, however, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is not a choice. Instead, the policy is one that derives from 10 USC 654 -- a federal law passed by Congress and endorsed by the Clinton administration. To discriminate against ROTC and not Barnard, than, is even greater a contradiction.     


74.  As an alumnus of the first university to burn its ROTC building, it is clear to me that the ROTC programs where often the "whipping boy" of frustration about Vietnam.  For some students, ROTC is just about the only way to afford college. If we are going to ban scholarships and organizations because we disagree with their politics, we are on a very slippery slope.


75.  To the Task Force,
As someone who has been on the Columbia faculty since the 1970's, I vehemently oppose the return of ROTC.  Columbia, as an independent academic institution, should refrain, as much as possible, from ties to the military establishment or to the appearance of a military presence on campus.  In the 1960's, during another unpopular war, one only has to look at events at Columbia involving anti-ROTC demonstrations to get the picture.  Why should it be any different today?


76.  Dear ROTC task force,
While I understand there will be many students who view ROTC’s possible return to campus as an addition to the many services and opportunities Columbia offers to students.  However, while the military routinely discriminates against gay men and lesbians who not only contribute to its operations through their federal tax payments but also serve the country valiantly in the armed forces, a principled institution of higher learning like Columbia, which seeks to lead by teaching tolerance and respect to its students, simply cannot allow that organization to have a permanent affiliation or other relationship with the university.  Second, President Bush's recent budget makes it abundantly clear where the administration ranks both education and military spending.  rising Pentagon spending threatens educational programs at every instructional and age level.  A little-noticed item proposes both a rise in the amount of loans graduate students are allowed to take out (a poor substitute for the lack of higher education funding generally) and a rise in the interest rates charged with non provision to extend repayment schedules or provide other long-term relief.  As the current government has made its priorities clear, let the military do its dirty work far away from Columbia.


77.  The brave men and women in ROTC have already stepped forward to bear a heavy burden on our behalf, and today on behalf of freedom around the world.  We who are wealthy, well-educated, powerful or otherwise privileged—in short, we in the Columbia community—should feel deep shame that such men and women are denied such a simple dignity.  They ask little in return, but we prefer to flatter and indulge our selfishness and ivory tower pride, so we deny them this.  And then we call ourselves
liberals, a damnable conceit.  Of course ROTC should be allowed on campus.  My face burns red with shame that granting such a simple dignity needs debating.


78.  As a Columbia alumnus who compiles the coverage of the ROTC issue on the Web site, I am writing to the Task Force to address several points raised during the Town Hall on 15 February.  All names of speakers at the event are rendered as well as I could transcribe them.

Scott Cardiff, a GSAS student, spoke of the wastefulness of his undergraduate roommate at Cornell getting a biology degree and then having his knowledge get rusty during 5 years of military service.  This issue is one that comes up in other contexts such as the MD/PhD program.  After completing my PhD at Columbia I had 5 and a half years taken up by medical school clinical rotations, pediatric internship and neurology residency before I could get back to doing significant laboratory research.  As it happened, the perspective of my clinical training gave me insights and motivation to apply my laboratory skills to a new area and I was able to develop a reductionistic epilepsy cell culture model that helped bridge the gap between basic science and study of the mechanisms of disease.  Such cross-fertilization is also possible with military service-- one of my medical school colleagues, Col. Jonathan Newmark MD '78, added his military background at a later time but is one of the nation's leaders in defense against chemical warfare, and one of the Columbia ROTC cadets worked with him during a recent summer.  Incidentally, MD/PhD students also have a research service requirement after graduation and despite the comments of one of the Town Hall attendees, this did not negate the value of the funding we received for our training since it was our intention to provide such service.  [Mr. Frasca of the] School of Public Health [spoke respectfully of a faculty member at another institution who refused to teach an active-duty military officer during the Vietnam War].  I found this surprising, particularly because assistant professor Joseph Massad in the MEALAC department is facing possible disciplinary action for allegedly making a similar comment to a student named Tomy Schoenfeld ( There was a similar case at Oxford, where Prof. Andrew Wilkie was suspended for refusing to accept a military veteran in his lab (,9959,1072549,00.html).

There should be no right of the faculty to discriminate against students because of their military service.  I found moving the comment by third-year Law Student Moez Kaba that he'd like the opportunity to serve in the military as a JAG but is excluded because of DADT.  The next day I took the opportunity to suggest to the Congressional leadership involved in the ROTC issue that I have been unable to find any rationale for excluding gay lawyers from the military, and I stated my impression that "DADT was applied to lawyers as part of the haste created by law written during political fiasco" and urged legislation to remedy this.  I got two prompt and courteous replies from senior aides with offers to help publicize the views I expressed.  In the past, influential congressional leaders have made it clear that they were prepared to act in heavy-handed ways on issues relating to the military and universities because of the heavy-handed ways universities were excluding the military.  I like to think that progress towards inviting ROTC back to Columbia could help break this log-jam and restore a climate of mutual respect between the universities and the military.  It would be fitting response to Moez Kaba if there could be a prompt exclusion from DADT of soldiers such as JAGs for whom exclusion of gays appears to have no clear rationale except a history resulting from a hasty legislative compromise. 

I found quite interesting the comment by second year business student Lyman Doyle, who recounted that the Business School actively recruits military veterans as a way to improve the student body.  It would be good to have more details.  There is a clear message of diversity here, one already being implemented by Columbia. 

I found unconvincing the comment by a second-year law student named Pearsall that free speech would be curtailed because a student would feel inhibited making a comment in class that could be considered homoerotic.  As someone deemed unfit for military service for medical reasons I could state a similar argument about making a comment in class indicating interest in my particular life-threatening medical condition, which I could easily have hidden in a military physical.  I think that placing this issue on the mantle of free speech is a stretch. 

Engineering student David Judd said that the soldiers involved in the Abu Ghraib offenses didn't go to Iraq intending to abuse prisoners.  This seems unlikely, as documented by the New York Times on 6 May 2004 (, describing the occurrence of very similar acts in the prison in which some of the Abu Ghraib accused worked, as well as other instances of violence by the Abu Ghraib soldiers.  As the Wall Street Journal ( opined on the subject of the Abu Ghraib soldiers, "to be honest, they sound like a bunch of losers.... No doubt many people enter the military and successfully overcome troubled lives. But it also occurs to us that increasing the quality of military recruits would probably help avoid future Abu Ghraibs. One constructive step toward that end would be for elite universities to drop antimilitary policies, so that the military would have an easier time signing up the best and brightest young Americans.  Many academic institutions have barred ROTC or military recruiters from campus for left-wing political reasons—first as a protest against the Vietnam War, and later over the Clinton-era "don't ask, don't tell" law. Whatever the merits of these positions, it's time the academic left showed some patriotic responsibility and acknowledged that the defense of the country—which includes the defense of their own academic freedom—is more important than the issue du jour." 

Anya Allen CC '02 LAW '06 said that Barnard allows men to take classes but ROTC would not allow gays to take classes.  This categorical statement is wrong—there are examples of ROTC classes opened up to non-ROTC students and one could put in place a similar provision at Columbia, with reasonable exclusions, for example of classes that require large military expenditure, such as flying military aircraft.  I'm told there are also some types of discrimination against men at Barnard, but these are not a matter with which I am familiar and would be best addressed by others. 

One speaker made the argument that the number of gays at Columbia far exceeds the expected number of ROTC students, so the majority should rule.  This is an unbalanced comparison.  One could reasonably compare the number of gays wishing to take ROTC versus the number of non-gays wishing to take ROTC, or compare the total number of gays versus the total number on campus believing that more ROTC cadets would be good for the country and the university, but the comparison suggested by the speaker is unbalanced. 

In conclusion, I would like to congratulate the Task Force on a Town Hall meeting conducted with great civility and inclusiveness.  I draw the attention of the committee to the coverage section of the Web site, beginning on with an article from 1916 and including hundreds of articles since, with links to many of the original documents.  If questions of history come up please feel free to get in touch for assistance tracking down the relevant information or identifying relevant individuals at other universities. 


79.  To Columbia University ROTC Task force: 
At the town hall meeting held this past Tuesday (February 15th, 2005), a number of speakers presented their opinions and comments on the question of ROTC on campus.  Many individuals in attendance spoke eloquently and sometimes passionately about the political and social issues surrounding this point of contention, and I was happy to see that there is a healthy level of diversity of opinion on this campus.  Since that time, I have had the opportunity to reflect on the things said, and would like to share my thoughts with you.  During the course of that evening, many individuals spoke about the positive aspects of the military and military programs, and even the noteworthy and respectable activities of individuals within the military.  We were told as well of the benefits to certain individuals and groups of individuals that an ROTC program at Columbia would bring.  I do not dispute these facts, but do not consider them ultimately germane to the issue at hand.  Similarly, a number of individuals spoke about an officially sanctioned ROTC presence on campus in light of the issue that many feel is at the heart of the debate, the question of the official military stance on sexual orientation as a form of discrimination, as well as the implications of its tacit acceptance and the potential for intimidation that a segment of the university community would feel should an organization maintaining such a stance be sanctioned on campus.  I do not dispute their opinions nor question the sincerity of their feelings.  I also do not wish to imply that I think their concerns are trivial or should be dismissed.  However, I also consider this to be a secondary issue.  Fifty years ago, institutions across our country were told that they had a legal right to discriminate against a segment of the population. Similarly, we are being told that once again, as per Federal law, one institution in particular, the armed forces, has a legal right, indeed a legal mandate, to discriminate against a segment of the American populace, and by extension, a segment of this academic community.  The principle of discrimination along these lines (and others) is disavowed by Columbia University and the City of New York (New York City Human Rights Law, Title 8, §8-107).  Columbia University, however, is being asked to make an exception to the enforcement of this principle based on an appeal to a Federal law which many on both sides purport to disagree with.  To my mind, the identities of the two sides and nature of the issue under dispute is of less significance than both sides maintain; what is of significance is whether or not Columbia University wishes to compromise its avowed values for the sake of a partnership with an institution that holds incommensurate values—for whatever reason. When I think of what I know of American and world history, there have been numerous points in history when individuals and institutions have been asked to compromise their values in support of restrictive or discriminatory laws and practices for various reasons.  Those who refused to accede to the demands of a governmental authority that was at odds with their avowed values, have remained figures of admiration and in many instances instigators of change in their societies, as well as role models for their peers and the generations that followed them.  However, when I think of those individuals and institutions who, in overriding their better judgment, did compromise their values, the legacy they left to subsequent generations has been, without exception, one of shame and embarrassment.  Social and political attitudes change and discriminatory practices codified in law have come and gone over the years and, in all likelihood, will continue to do so.  There is no way to know what the future holds, or what group of individuals may be singled out for discrimination in the years and decades to come. The question before this task force is not whether or not a particular issue is of sufficient importance to the students, faculty, staff and administration of this university to merit making a principled stand, but rather just how strongly does Columbia stand by its principles.  That is the actual question that will be answered by your recommendation.  In conclusion, I would ask you to consider the long-term issue of whether or not the precedent should be set for Columbia University to compromise one or more of its avowed values, and in deliberating this issue, and I would ask you to consider exactly what example you wish to set, and what legacy you wish to leave to the generations to come at Columbia University.


80.  Dear Tom / ROTC Task Force,
My name is XXX YYY.  I will be entering the Graduate School of Business at Columbia this fall.  I have very little experience in the Columbia community but look forward to becoming a contributing member when I begin school. I read your email and would like to share some of my personal insight into this issue.  I have served in the Navy as a Navy SEAL Officer for the past six and a half years.  While I did not participate in an ROTC program myself, I have had the privilege of serving with and for several ROTC graduates.  I believe that ROTC programs are an outstanding means for a man or a woman to finance a college education and to serve their country.  ROTC programs teach leadership, integrity, teamwork and discipline.  Such traits enhance a person's ability as a leader, manager and thinker.  Columbia is one of the nation's finest academic institutions, producing many of the future leaders of the nation and the world. I believe that a Columbia Naval ROTC unit would enhance Columbia's reputation.  It would provide an outstanding opportunity for many well-rounded, intelligent men and women to attend a school of higher learning and become military leaders.  These men and women would then proudly represent Columbia after graduation as leaders in the military and government.  It is absolutely imperative that bright multi-faceted thinkers and leaders lead our military and our government.  The recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are testament to this. In closing, I am currently deployed overseas and will return to the states in April.  I will be more than happy to assist with this study / forum when I return and hope my above comments contributed to your decisionmaking process.  Thank you for your time.


81.  Dear Committee Members,
Below are my comments resent for your record. I noticed that when I printed out my Cubmail version I had e-mailed to you, the text format was converted so that the line were shorter and the endings were paragraphed, thus making a printout unnecessarily long. This text should occupy much less space on paper, along with that wonderful illustration. Thank you for your service and consideration.  I understand that the University Senate would like student opinion in connection with the ROTC petition. I appreciate the enthusiasm of the Columbia College proposers, but having taken a look at their proposal, I do have concerns. I take issue with the tone of the petition, because I question the emotional pressure being invoked through the use of underlying negative assumptions. Are Columbia students all living in an ivory tower, as the authors state, blind to the mainstream of their fellow citizens? Is joining one of the armed services the only criteria a student has to serve their country? Would it benefit the armed forces to think they have graduates who are more highly educated than (superior to) anyone else? So, are other colleges incapable of training American officers well? To all these, I think not. Please let me know if you cannot think why not, but I hope it will be obvious to all that Columbia students are very diverse and active in different walks of life, and help people, their communities and thus, their country.  This pitch subtly imposes a mindset that I think students in 1969, in part, were seeking to reject in asserting that the university was not the place for military education. Idealistic rhetoric couches accusations that, regardless of the fact that military students are already studying here, unless you comply with this way of doing things and Columbia adopt the ROTC program and Columbia administrators agree to admit students for that program, then you are living in an ivory tower, not serving your country, etc. It represents an exclusive view that I think should be questioned, because will it be imported along with the program? Students should not be put under pressure on campus to conform to a set of political and emotional viewpoints, but to feel free to form their own.  I have a high respect for the American Navy and armed forces in general, and ignoring their problems today for a moment, if I refer to their outstanding examples of leadership and integrity, I would not expect them to couch such an important invitation with these derogatory generalizations. Rather, I would anticipate goodwill, a desire for cooperation and to contribute to the Academy. What about the military already studying at Columbia, not just at Columbia College? I am told by administrators at the College of General Studies that some of our fellow students are currently on leave serving in Iraq. They are free to pursue their studies and their lifestyle.

         Further, the authors state that Columbia educated Naval reservists since 1916. I doubt very much whether the distinguished and beloved Admiral Eberle, then Superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy, would be gratified to know that 90 years later his country's armed services were recalling 55-year-old grandmothers for two years' service in Iraq, or that reservist troops were being put into the line of fire without sufficient protection. (In a recent 60 Minutes episode, the head of the Oregon Army Reserve went public in frustration at how his men and women were at risk. They had to improvise and use wooden boards and sandbags to protect themselves in their "vehicles." The grandmother was also interviewed.) It seems that the armed services, unfortunately, are strained to produce desired results from their current set of orders. I also question whether the armed forces should spend the resources to set up a program to train more officers here when already military are students; they should improve the lot of their current officers and troops in danger. Finally, we would be best served by a vigorous academic and political debate on what their goals are and how they are functioning to achieve them.

Thank you for your attention. While we are debating leadership, integrity and respect, I hope you enjoy the attached pertinent illustration.


82.  I was appalled by the specious argument given in response to the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy. One of the roles of an institution such as Columbia University is to uphold intellectual clarity. First, the ROTC is certainly bound by Federal Law. However, it does not imply that one should willingly condone the law by supporting the practice. If Federal Laws were enacted to reinstate discrimination against Blacks, the Japanese or the Chinese, Columbia University would be morally required to disassociate itself from institutions enforcing the discriminatory law. ROTC needs to enforce the law and Columbia University needs to remain committed to equal rights for all Americans. Secondly, moral arguments against discriminatory practices should not rest on polling results or blind political decisions. Moral arguments need to stand to rigorous intellectual examination. As a student at the socially responsive Mailman School of Public Health, I believe in the historical role of Columbia University in the fight for equity and justice for all.


83.  Dear taskforce members:
Thank you for allowing Columbia community feedback at the meeting yesterday (Tuesday, 15 February). Thank you also for setting up this e-mail account for feedback purposes.  Although I provided my essential comments during the meeting yesterday, an interruption by the task force chair kept me from clearly expressing my thoughts on one aspect of the consequences of having an ROTC program on campus.  I therefore address this point on the effect of ROTC on students' personal lives again below, in addition to providing a brief summary of my other points and countering an argument from yesterday.  My friend and roommate in 1996, XXX YYY, was in ROTC at Cornell University, where we were both undergraduates from 1995-1999.  Being in ROTC undoubtedly affected his academic performance because of the early morning ROTC  activities that he was required to engage in.  These led to him consistently falling asleep in class later in the day.  More important, however, is the indirect effect that ROTC has had on his career prospects.  Although he was clearly aware of the responsibilities to serve involved in receiving a ROTC scholarship, he was not aware of the effect that serving would have on his prospects for work in his original field of study, biology.  Having served on a submarine for several years, he is now not in a position to seek employment in his original desired career because his skills and knowledge are outdated.  This represents an indirect effect of joining ROTC that students are generally unaware of upon signing up for the program and that can profoundly change the course of their desired careers.  Some might argue that by funding students to attend college, however, ROTC promotes the educational mission of the University for students without the funding necessary to attend institutions such as Columbia. Indeed, that was Dave's motivation for joining ROTC.  Acceptance into ROTC, however, is not just need-based and the program would not necessarily be attractive to those who most need financial aid.  In addition, the point of that argument is really that more financial aid is needed; this the University ought to lobby for directly from federal funds rather than obtaining it indirectly through the ROTC.  Indeed, lobbying against military programs could perhaps best allow for a greater budget for federal financial aid programs.  It is, therefore, against the educational mission of the University to allow such a career-altering program on campus. This point only adds further evidence to the strong case against allowing ROTC on campus.  Accepting ROTC on campus represents a  university's endorsement not only of the military's 'Don't Ask Don't Tell' discriminatory policy against homosexuals, but also of the murderous policies and illegal, immoral invasions and torture conducted by the military under the current executive administration of our country.  The argument presented during the forum yesterday that having ROTC on campus will allow for a more diverse and tolerant military officer corps that can change military policy relies on the following false or unproven premises:

a)      the Columbia students who would join a ROTC program on campus possess different views on war and discrimination against homosexuals than those joining the ROTC at other schools in the country and those already in ROTC through Hunter College, and

b)      the structure of the military allows for significant input of officers on policy ranging from discrimination against gays to whether or not to invade a country.  The fact that many serving, high-ranking officers opposed the invasion of Iraq and many oppose the military's discriminatory policies to no avail suggests that having more rational or politically progressive officers, which would not necessarily be a consequence of having a ROTC program at Columbia, would change nothing. 

Essentially the University faces a choice: a) promote the educational mission of the University by supporting students' educational goals and career aspirations in an environment free of discrimination, or b) publicly becoming an accomplice in the military's discriminatory policies and murderous assault on peoples all over the world.  Thank you again for your attention, concern, and important work.







Respectfully submitted by Co-chair Nathan C. Walker

On Friday, February 25, 2005