In April of 2003 the Columbia College Student Council presented a “referendum” alongside the CCSC elections to gauge student opinion on the potential return of ROTC to Columbia. The results: 973 students (65 percent) favored restoring ROTC while 530 students (35 percent) opposed the idea. Polling questions were reviewed and approved by an impartial Columbia administrator, David Cheng, Assistant Dean for Research and Planning in the Student Affairs office. As this survey was not conducted by the University Senate and was not concurrent with any University Senate discussion of the issue, no action was taken.
2005 Task Force
During the 2004-2005 academic year, the University Senate revisited the issue of on-campus ROTC. Established on March 26, 2004, the Task Force on ROTC was ultimately comprised of five students, four faculty, and one alumnus. The Task Force submitted its report on May 6, 2005. The following is an excerpt from their report:
- The ROTC Task force was split (5-5-0) on whether or not ROTC should return to Columbia University in the 2006/7 academic year.
- The Task Force unanimously agrees that the military’s discrimination against homosexuals, as seen in the federal law DADT, is inconsistent with the values of the community as expressed in the University’s non-discrimination policy. However, the Task Force is evenly split on whether or not DADT should prevent the immediate return of ROTC to campus.
- The Task Force was split on whether or not the return of ROTC would have a negative or positive impact on the campus climate.
- Almost unanimously (9-0-1) the Task Force favored returning ROTC if there is no longer discrimination against LGBT service-members in the military.
- A majority of the Task Force agrees that there are significant benefits in returning ROTC, such as financing students’ education and Columbia’s participation in training military leaders.
- No one agreed (0-6-4) with the following statement: Under no circumstance should ROTC return to Columbia University.
- A majority (7-1-2) voted in favor of strengthening the relationship with the current ROTC programs at Fordham and Manhattan College by securing more positions to accommodate more CU students.
- Almost unanimously (9-0-1) the Task Force recommended that the University Trustees establish a financial contingency plan to protect LGBT students who may be victims of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
- It was unanimous (10-0-0) that if ROTC returns then Columbia University should maintain full and independent control over questions such as academic credit for ROTC courses, titles for ROTC instructors, and the use of Columbia’s classroom, office, and training space for ROTC functions.
- A majority of the committee believed that the use of University resources such as classroom, office, and training space could be a reason why ROTC should not return.
- Five members voted in favor of the return of ROTC in the 2006/7 academic year, or as soon as is practicable. They all oppose DADT, but believe the best way to reform it is through engagement with the military. They believe the main benefits of an on-campus ROTC program—above all Columbia’s ability and responsibility to educate military leaders—outweigh the harmful effects of DADT. Additionally, an on-campus ROTC presence would enrich the diversity of ideas, viewpoints, and values within the Columbia community.
- The five members who oppose returning ROTC in 2006/7 believe that such a decision would not only violate Columbia’s nondiscrimination policy but also amount to an explicit institutional endorsement of DADT, legitimizing a culture of homophobia on campus. They believe such an outcome would directly violate the human rights of LGBT Columbians, threaten other protected groups, and challenge the right of every member of our community to live and learn in an environment free of institutionalized discrimination, a principle that an institution of Columbia’s stature must support.
The four undergraduate student governments together offered a “referendum” to the undergraduate student body regarding a potential return of NROTC to campus. As with the 2003 student survey, the referendum was not connected to the University Senate or any policy initiative. The results of the survey were contested due to potential multiple votes cast by the same person and the results were not originally divided by school. Overall 49% of students surveyed (after eliminating multiple votes) were in support of NROTC returning to campus. Columbia College voted 46.8% in favor with 53% opposed and 0.2% abstained. SEAS voted 53.6% in favor with 46.4% opposed and 0% abstaining. General Studies voted 55.1% in favor with 44.4% opposed and 0.5% abstaining. Overall, including Barnard, results were 49.24% in favor, 50.56% opposed and 0.2% abstaining.
2008 Professor Statements/Petitions
In 2008 faculty members released two statement regarding NROTC on campus. These statements were concurrent with a campus-wide debate on the return of NROTC and an undergraduate student government referendum on the potential return of the program. Text from both movements is below.
We, the undersigned, stand strongly opposed to the introduction of ROTC on Columbia’s campus. In contrast to those who have expressed support for ROTC based on hypothetical conditions, we recognize that any position on ROTC must be grounded in the present. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is official policy and exceptions cannot be negotiated. While the extent of our opposition varies, we all agree that at this time ROTC has no place on our campus.
For more information: http://bwog.com/2008/11/23/professors-sign-petition-against-nrotc-on-campus/
We broadly support the return of ROTC to Columbia University — some of us unconditionally, others if legislation prohibiting military service by open homosexuals is reformed, and/or provision made for faculty control of appointments, curriculum and credit. We all believe, in principle, that an ROTC program at Columbia is an appropriate educational responsibility of this university.For more information: http://bwog.com/2008/11/20/prof-club-backs-nrotc/