E-mail Responses

The Task Force has begun collecting e-mail responses sent to rotc-taskforce@columbia.edu. All submissions are considered for public consumption. If you wish your name or your opinions redacted, please contact the Task Force. The Task Force will accept submissions up to 11:59 PM on Wednesday, March 2, 2011.


From: Fritz Herrick
Sent: Sun 2/20/2011 7:38 PM
Subject: comment for task force

I grant permission for you to publish the following statement, including my name.

Columbia University is world-renowned for its great economic thinkers such as Jeffrey Sachs (who has been a special adviser to two U.N. Secretaries General) and Joseph Stiglitz (who was awarded a Nobel Prize in economics). The works of these two great Columbia professors are largely reflective of global public opinion. The presence of ROTC on campus conflicts with their views and will hurt Columbia?s reputation in the international community.

Stiglitz and Sachs have been very critical of the military expenditures of the United States.  Sachs argued in his 2008 student address that the U.S. could solve the problem of malaria in Africa (one of the Millennium Development Goals) by diverting the amount needed to fund the military for one single day. Yet the U.S. has not chosen to win Africa's hearts and minds; it funds the Pentagon instead.

Stiglitz is critical of the expenditure switching the Iraq war will cause in his book The Three Trillion Dollar War. The cost of the Iraq war will crowd out public investment expenditures, possibly even cutting funding for institutions of higher education.

International public opinion is sharply critical of the war-related economic choices of the United States, as are two of our most outspoken and accomplished economists. The decision of the U.S. to expand its military has impeded progress on the Millennium Development Goals, has damaged the global economy, and has damaged the reputation of the United States as a global leader. Yet Columbia University is still highly regarded internationally due to the voices of its high-profile economists who are critical of America's military missteps. If Columbia brings ROTC onto campus, the university's reputation internationally may suffer because the goals of the military and the goals of the international community are in conflict.

Kofi Annan recently praised our university for its intellectual contributions to the international community. We should not risk damaging this reputation by seeking further ties with the U.S. Military's programs such as ROTC.

Fritz Herrick
Continuing Education


From: Richard Osgood
Sent: Sun 2/20/2011 6:29 PM
Subject: Notes on ROTC


Dear Committee Members:

I am strongly in favor of ROTC being present on campus.  Serving in the US military is a most honorable and important occupation for our country.  It has guaranteed our freedom and security.  Military officers have also been some of the most important leaders in a variety of professions after and during their service including writing, politics, science and engineering, and industry.  The effort to expunge the military from campus is misplaced and dangerous; it prevents students and faculty from seeing first hand an important portion of American society.

Sincerely yours,

Richard Osgood
Higgins Professor
Director, Columbia Center for Integrated Science and Engineering


From: H. F. Hutchinson, Jr.
Sent: Sun 2/20/2011 2:57 PM
Subject: Debate on ROTC

Ladies & Gentlemen
 

I graduated MA, 1967.  I support the establishment of an ROTC unit(s)  at Columbia and expect the Senate and the President of the University to conduct an orderly and civilized debate on the issue.

The e-mail pasted in below indicates you are failing in your duties. I would like to believe this never happened. Any comment?

H. F. Hutchinson, Jr. 

Worthies, This is more than disgusting and will be answered in the fullness of time. Be pure and forza. DC


From: Move America Forward [mailto:info@moveamericaforward.org]

Sent: Sunday, February 20, 2011 10:14 AM

Subject: Disabled Iraq Vet Attacked and Laughed at By University Students!


DISGUSTING: STUDENTS AT COLUMBIA
LAUGH, HECKLE, CALL WAR VETS RACIST!

It’s the most sickening and shocking display of anti-military hate that we’ve seen for a long time.


At a recent debate at Columbia about whether or not to allow ROTC back on campus, several ROTC students, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans and current service members were viciously attacked their own fellow students!

Columbia University students heckled a war hero during a town-hall meeting on whether ROTC should be allowed back on campus.

"Racist!" some students yelled at Anthony Maschek, a Columbia freshman and former Army staff sergeant awarded the Purple Heart after being shot 11 times in a firefight in northern Iraq in February 2008. Others hissed and booed the veteran…

- New York Post 02 / 20 / 2011

We have heard the anti-war activists say it a thousand times. “We support the troops, but not the war.” We’ve also heard every liberal politician claim that they wouldn’t allow our current veterans to be mistreated the way Vietnam vets were. Obama called the treatment of Vietnam vets a “national disgrace…we resolve to never let it happen again,” he proclaimed at a speech in 2009.

But where is their commitment? Where is that support for our troops? Obviously the students of Columbia didn’t get the memo. We can’t just sit by and let our troops be mistreated like this. Is this the kind of America we want our brave troops overseas to return home to?

But we can help this situation, we can let our troops know that despite what a few sniveling spoiled brats at an Ivy League school have to say, the real America supports them. A great way to show that is to send a care package through Move America Forward!
 
The care packages are full of goodies and treats that our troops will enjoy, like gourmet coffee, name brand Oreo cookies, thick cuts of peppered beef jerky, and some hot cocoa to keep the cold away. They also come with very useful personal are items like deodorant, wet wipes, and bug repellant, which our troops constantly ask for.

Each package also comes with a note written by you – which our troops will read. That’s where these packages become really special, because you don’t have to be here, but you can still add your personal touch, your expression of gratitude and support that will life their spirits and give them that morale boost.

Ever since Obama came into office, the far left has not protested as loudly and viciously as when President Bush was in charge. But that doesn’t mean those on the left don’t’ continue to harbor anti-military, anti-America sentiments. In fact, if what happened at Columbia University is any indication, their hatred of our troops and the country they protect runs as deep and extreme as ever.

We don’t want our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan to think that they have to come home from serving honorably and bravely in a war to protect our freedoms, and have to deal with this:
Maschek, who is studying economics, miraculously survived the insurgent attack in Kirkuk. In the hail of gunfire, he broke both legs and suffered wounds to his abdomen, arm and chest.

…Several students laughed and jeered the Idaho native, a 10th Mountain Division infantryman who spent two years at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington recovering from grievous wounds.

José Robledo, 30, a Columbia student who commutes to Fordham University for ROTC coursework, said he found the treatment of Maschek abhorrent.

"The anti-ROTC side has been disrespectful and loud. They hiss and they jeer," he said. "It's been to the detriment of the argument."

The treatment of military and veteran students at Columbia has been nothing short of disgusting. Don’t let the students of Columbia speak for you! Do something to show that we SUPPORT our troops, and we don’t share the sentiment of bratty and unappreciative college kids!

SEND SOME SUPPORT TO OUR BRAVE TROOPS NOW!

From: Eric Chen

Sent: Sun 2/20/2011 12:18 PM
Subject: Re: Opinion on ROTC and Columbia's non-discrimination policy

Question:
Can ROTC, under current law, co-exist on campus with Columbia's non-discrimination policy, as currently written?

My answer: Yes.

Using the non-discrimination policy as the reason for excluding a critical part of society from the University is a dangerous interpretation of the policy. In principle, the non-discrimination policy is meant to promote organic diversity and constructive engagement on campus, and protect inclusion at Columbia, which rightfully includes ROTC along with other critical relationships that may be cast as discriminatory in some aspect, such as a women's college and religions. Advancing the university's higher pedagogical and public service missions through real diversity, engagement, and inclusion will necessitate, at times, some sensitive trade-offs; the non-discrimination policy addresses the friction that may result. Columbia's non-discrimination policy becomes grossly corrupted when it is misused as a tool of exclusion, as has happened with ROTC at Columbia.

Barnard's admissions policy is the clearest example that, when justified by the greater good, lawful accomodations with the non-discrimination policy are made for existing University associations. I believe other similar examples at Columbia can be found. The question is not whether lawful accomodations can be made with the non-discrimination policy, because they already are. The proper question is whether a lawful accomodation is justified for the greater good.

Just as importantly, it does not appear from a plain reading of Columbia's non-discrimination policy that hosting ROTC on campus, under current law, would in fact violate Columbia's non-discrimination policy.

Read COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY EQUAL EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITY AND STUDENT NONDISCRIMINATION POLICIES AND PROCEDURES ON DISCRIMINATION AND HARASSMENT.

From opening paragraph: Columbia University is committed to providing a learning environment free from unlawful discrimination and harassment . . . Consistent with this commitment and with applicable laws, it is the policy of the University not to tolerate unlawful discrimination . . .

Key phrasing is "unlawful discrimination". Whatever is one's personal opinion of it, military personnel policy is lawful, not unlawful.

From second paragraph: Columbia University does not discriminate against any person in the administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic and other University-administered programs . . .

Key phrasing is "its [Columbia's] ... policies". Military personnel policy is set by the federal government and is not Columbia's policy. Military personnel policy is limited to a defined jurisdiction. A distinction can be made between the military's commissioning requirements and the academic program on campus. In order to serve its wider pedagogical function, much of the ROTC program normally is open to the general student body. Other universities that host ROTC with non-discrimination policies similar to Columbia's policy are able to distinguish between university policy and federal policy. President Bollinger, as the former provost of Dartmouth AROTC and former president of UMichigan AROTC, AFROTC, and NROTC, is well-suited to manage the ROTC relationship on campus.

From Definitions: Discrimination is defined as: • treating members of a protected class less favorably because of their membership in that class; or • having a policy or practice that has a disproportionately adverse impact on protected class members.

Lawful accomodations, such as Barnard's admissions policy, do not infringe the protection of a legally "protected class". As a practical matter, ROTC enhances the course offerings for Columbia students, while the addition of ROTC on campus would not subtract nor replace anything that currently exists for students. Nor would ROTC require Columbia to rewrite the non-discrimination policy. "Military status" enumerated as a legally protected class in Columbia's non-discrimination policy also ensures that members of ROTC would be protected and raises the question of the University's responsibility to Columbia's ROTC students.

From Definitions:
Discriminatory Harassment - Discriminatory harassment is defined as substantially interfering with an individual's educational experience by subjecting him or her to severe or threatening conduct or to repeated humiliating or abusive conduct, based on his or her membership in a protected class.

ROTC and its manifestations on campus (office, classes, training, etc.) would not be a separate zone on campus that allows discriminatory harassment. ROTC cadre and participating students would be held to the same standards of behavior as all Columbians. Columbia students should feel as safe in ROTC offices as anywhere else on campus.

Eric Chen
GS 2007


From: Ben Maher
Sent: Sun 2/20/2011 9:57 AM
Subject: i believe we should participate in an rotc program - the freedoms we have are not without sacrifice and some of our greatest alums have made this great sacrifice

Ben Maher
EMBA Global Asia 2012


From: Jessica Rechtschaffer
Sent: Sat 2/19/2011 8:41 PM
Subject: No to ROTC

To Members of the ROTC Taskforce.


I am writing to strongly endorse a No vote to the presence of the ROTC on campus.

Columbia, as an institution of higher learning is supposed to teach critical thinking in order to better ourselves and the world around us.  The military establishment is designed to crush individual and critical thought. The military establishment is geared towards one thing, namely the destruction of lives, which is antithetical to the academy.

The ROTC was removed from campus during one unpopular war:  Vietnam. Currently, there are two unpopular wars and a third unofficial one (in Pakistan) being conducted by the US military. War crimes have and currently being committed by US soldiers in leadership positions (which means they have a college degree or beyong). As history has shown, the educated are just as willing to commit atrocities as the uneducated.

There are those who argue that ROTC gives the poor a chance at a career and an Ivy League education and by allowing ROTC on campus, we will open a door that might otherwise be closed to those who are in financial need.  This is not a valid argument since there are a host of scholarships and financial aid packages available and, Columbia already has need blind admissions.  Since those that do join the military tend to have meager financial means what message does it send when the well-off students vacation abroad during the breaks while their poorer classmates are doing drills and playing wargames?  This reinforces a classist system.

This past week, a civil suit has been filed against the military for their shameful treatment of women servicemembers who have been raped or abused during their military careers.  This is not due to just a few sadistic soldiers but rather to the entire military establishment which has consistently turned a blind eye to the plight of its female troops.  Columbia's embrace of a military institution which refuses to acknowledge abuse but instead, punishes its victims goes against everything that Columbia is supposed to be about. 

A yes vote to ROTC is an endorsement of militarism, it is a yes to misogyny, and it is a yes to the current wars which have destroyed thousands of lives.

Jessica Rechtschaffer


From: Stacey Van Vleet
Sent: Sat 2/19/2011 2:20 AM
Subject: ROTC would be good for Columbia


Dear Task Force,

I am a 5th year PhD student in the East Asian Languages and Cultures department. This is just a brief note to express my support of ROTC on campus. There is no longer any compelling reason to exclude the program, which provides many qualified and extremely motivated young people with a chance to attend a university they would otherwise not be able to afford. ROTC students serve as leaders not only in the armed forces but also in many other economic, political and community arenas after their military service. It can only be beneficial to Columbia, to the U.S., and to the world to encourage these young leaders to attend one of the country's most elite institutions, engaging with them in conversations about intractable problems (military and civilian) and giving them the chance to develop their ideas and strategic thinking among top peers and experts. In turn, I believe that having ROTC as part of our campus community would encourage greater reflection and engagement with the meanings of service and leadership among the student body at large.

There is an additional reason why welcoming ROTC to Columbia University could create beneficial impact beyond campus. Today, Ivy League institutions including Columbia, once widely respected and aspired to, find themselves at the center of the U.S. culture wars. Our university is stereotyped as a closed environment of closed minds, increasingly diverse by race and national origin but less diverse by class, in short a bastion of "blue state" elitism, while the opposite characterization lumps ROTC together into a homogenous bloc of "red state" war enthusiasts, uneducated in cultural nuance and uninterested in serving anything but a narrow conception of U.S. interests. While neither characterization is fair or true, they resonate in media portrayals and point to mutual distrust bred from a real and widening class division both in U.S. society and at our university. Opening our doors - and our minds - to ROTC would be a step towards bridging this division, this refusal to speak across opposite sides of a polarized debate, in order to work strategically towards planning for our mutual future.

Thank you for your work on this issue and for opening this conversation at Columbia.

best,

_______________

Stacey Van Vleet
PhD candidate, Modern Tibetan Studies
Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures Columbia University



From: Ramona Bajema
Sent: Fri 2/18/2011 9:21 PM
Subject: ROTC

I deplore the idea that the ROTC might return to the Columbia University campus.

I am shocked that after 6 years as a GSAS student, I have been excluded from the voting process.

Targeting the undergraduates while excluding graduate students was clearly a strategic decision to push the decision through with limited debate.

I hope you will reconsider bringing the ROTC here - and, at the very least, include GSAS voices in the referendum.

If I am unable to vote, I want it on record that I think that an ROTC presence at Columbia is unjustifiable and loathsome.

Thank you.

Ramona Bajema
PhD Candidate - EALAC
Class of 2011


From: Sheryar Bawany
Sent: Fri 2/18/2011 4:06 PM
Subject: ROTC

ROTC should not be allowed back on campus. A repeat of 1968 can happen once their presense in back on campus. Columbia is an institution where high standards of education and intellectual capacity should be the basis for admissions. In breeding the leaders of tomorrow in an increasingly competitive world. any crowding out of the best minds is detrimental. Wars are won by brain, not brawn.
From: Benjamin Ilany
Sent: Fri 2/18/2011 2:31 AM
Subject: bring back ROTC

I believe that those who oppose ROTC’s return on the grounds that the military is not in line with Columbia’s non-discrimination policies have a solid argument on their side. You simply cannot argue with the veracity of their position. You may choose to say that Columbia’s non-discrimination policies should not be given precedence over school affiliations like ROTC, but so long as you understand that you are making a conscious choice to eschew one for the other. You can’t rationalize your position on the grounds that no transgender people want to join Army (in the words of Buster) – because you don’t and can’t know how this would effect each and every individual (be they transgender or a slew of others who may not fit into a “traditional” category).

For my part, I’ve decided to prioritize the well-being of the military over the well-being of the Columbia community. I think we, transgender students and gay students and straight students alike (or what have you), can afford to make some small sacrifices in the interests of making our armed forces more plural, more educated, and more liberal (with a small L).

I know what it’s like to be a part of an unwelcome minority in the military. I had to clench my teeth and keep quiet while people around me voiced some pretty awful and ignorant opinions about homosexuals. I made a sacrifice (a short-lived one, albeit), I chose to prioritize service over my own personal life. We, as citizens and as Americans, can take small measures to throw our own hats in with the men and women who put themselves in dangerous positions for us. This is a small measure – would it be violating some of our principles? Yes. I think there is little doubt that the military does not adhere to Columbia’s policies. Is it worth it? Is it important to do it anyway? Yes.

I love it here at Columbia, and I’ve met some incredibly intelligent people. I would be thrilled to serve under some of you as officers, I think many of you would make excellent ones. Yes, even better than many who attend other schools. This is Manhattan, and Columbia University, a bastion of liberalism and non-conformity. You can’t understand how important it is in this modern age for military units to have open and acceptable diversity. I had superior officers and non-commissioned officers who attempted to foster safe and comfortable work environments for me, even though they had no idea I was gay. Then I had those who were utterly clueless – they had never met anyone different than themselves, and they couldn’t imagine what kind of needs those people might have. Let’s get involved in that. Let’s be a part of giving our officers that imagination and life experience. The military is a very closed environment, we don’t get a lot of interaction with the broader civilian population. We spend most of our time on bases, in military-oriented towns, or deployed. Somebody made the point at the meeting that there is no data available to prove whether or not changing the military from the inside has been or can be an effective strategy. I can tell you without pause that it does make a difference. I’ve seen it first hand, I’ve felt what difference it can make, and I hope that the positive trend I witnessed is broadened and made more robust by introducing the population of our school to the future population of the officer corps.

Want the military to start thinking outside of its own gates? Let’s lead the way.

v/r
-Ben Ilany


From: Paco Martin del Campo
Sent: Thu 2/17/2011 10:42 PM
Subject: ROTC at Columbia

I am opposed to ROTC at Columbia.
Paco Martin del Campo, CC'11


From: John Morgan
Sent: Thu 2/17/2011 3:38 PM
Subject: I Support the Return of ROTC

To the Columbia University Senate Task Force on Military Engagement,

As a member of the Columbia University student body, I support and encourage action by the University Senate  to restore relations with the U.S. Armed Forces that would facilitate the return of the ROTC to Columbia's campus. 

Columbia itself being an institution that prides itself on its openness toward different - and often controversial - beliefs, opinions, and attitudes, I find it necessary that the University reverse its policies that would allow the ROTC to return. In light of the U.S. Armed Forces recent efforts to embody these same attributes, I would find it particularly hypocritical should the University Senate decided otherwise.

Sincerely, 

John Morgan
Columbia University
SEAS '12


From: David Broyles
Sent: Thu 2/17/2011 3:18 PM
Subject: Re: Submissions to the Task Force on Military Engagement

Dear Students and Staff,

While I deeply respect and honor the beliefs and opinions of my classmates and faculty concerning the upcoming ROTC deliberations, as a student and a veteran, I feel it is important to offer an alternate viewpoint to the idea that military service and higher education is somehow incompatible.

I think it's important to remember that the US military is made up of volunteers. That it's made up of citizens. Of immigrants. Students. Teachers. Factory Workers. Businesspeople. Presidents. Artists. *Us*. We don't have a military class that is excluded from the general population.

Nor should it be. To ignore it is to ignore a part of ourselves. And forcibly barring ROTC from the university -- a university that encourages free speech, dialogue, and debate -- because it offends our sensibilities is akin to squashing dissent, and is, in my opinion, a dangerous, discriminatory, and even hypocritical idea; an idea that is in direct opposition to those noble principles to which the university aspires.

Choosing military service, like choosing education, is the right of every American. And speaking from personal experience, my time serving was an invaluable learning experience. I learned about duty, honor, and selflessness. Contrary to what some may believe, I learned to not only think critically and questioningly, but to do so under extremely difficult and ambiguous circumstances -- in a real-world classroom. And whereas in school I often focused on myself, in the military I learned to focus on others, meeting and working with incredible people I wouldn't necessarily have met on campus: a vast cross-section of individuals who represented America at its diverse best -- from all its backgrounds, with all its unique and varied viewpoints, viewpoints that informed, shaped, and challenged my own.

My time in the military was, in fact, a truly essential component of my higher education, making me not only a better student, but a better person.

With that in mind, it is my sincere belief that reinstating ROTC to give others the opportunity to explore and pursue the same path -- if they so desire -- is the right thing to do, and very much in line with the principals of Columbia University.

Is ROTC and the military perfect? Absolutely not. Is it for everyone?

Without a doubt, no. Is war terrible? Yes, and I wouldn't wish it upon anyone. But is ROTC incompatible with higher education university learning and a democratic society that allows freedom of choice and an opportunity to come to our own conclusions about ideas and organizations with which we may not agree?

Well. That's the point. I can express my opinion, but I shouldn't make that decision for you. And neither should someone else.

Respectfully,

David Broyles
USAF PJ, 2001-2005
Columbia SOA, 2007-2011 


From: Amanda Tien
Sent: Thu 2/17/2011 2:54 PM
Subject: Personal opinion

To whom it may concern,

I know that you are taking student submissions and opinions to put online.  I am fine with my name being released with this statement, if you are interested:

I know that many students are conflicted about allowing ROTC back on campus because they do not agree with some of the military's current policies, particularly those concerning non-discrimination.  However, I would like to remind these students that ROTC trains students to be military leaders and officers.  ROTC students that would be attending Columbia are much more likely to have their views aligned with those of the rest of the Columbia student body - therefore, when the ROTC students join the military and become leaders in the military, they could and would change the very policies that current Columbia students disagree with.  As Columbia alumni, ROTC graduates would have a real and significant impact in the military.  ROTC students from Columbia would actually be a plus in changing the future of the military's non-discrimination policies. 

-Amanda Tien
CC'2014


From: Kenneth T. Jackson
Sent: Wed 2/16/2011 3:07 PM
Subject: support for ROTC

It would be wonderful if we could live in a world without police forces and soldiers. Think of how much better it would be if we could use such funding for public libraries and schools.

Alas, such a place does not now exist and likely never will. Given that circumstance, I support the re-establishment of an ROTC program at Columbia for the following reasons:

  1. Columbia students have a a broad liberal education and their presence in the armed services might present more diverse perspectives in the armed forces.
  2. Columbia presumes to seek a diverse student body. At the moment, however, it is not receptive to that broad spectrum of opinion which suggests that military service is an honorable occupation.
  3. The ROTC provides financial assistance to college students, and the financial aid program at this institution is under extraordinary pressure. Pushing some of these costs to the federal government would free up more money for other needy students, including those are against the military forces.

Kenneth T. Jackson
Jacques Barzun Professor of History and Social Science


From: Richard K. Betts
Sent: Wed 2/16/2011 10:25 AM
Subject: Statement for Circulation

From Prof. Richard K. Betts, Political Science department and School of International and Public Affairs (this statement may be circulated without restriction): 

Whether Columbia should have ROTC depends on answers to three questions:

  1. Should the United States have any armed forces?
  2. If the answer to the first question is yes, should those armed forces be managed and led by graduates of Columbia University among others, or only by officers from sources other than Columbia?
  3. If military officers should include Columbia graduates, should they be supplied through ROTC or only by other means, outside the university?

A pacifist may answer no to the first question, as long as she or he has no exceptions in mind (such as humanitarian intervention to suppress atrocities, defense against terrorists, and so on) and is honestly willing to argue that the United States can and should be unlike any other country of consequence in history.  (Even Costa Rica, often cited as the one country that has gotten along without a military, has a quasi-military Civil Guard.)  If one is not a pacifist but objects to actions of the American military the quarrel is with the policies of the U.S. government, not with the existence of the military institution.

For the second question, the only reasonable answer is that Columbia graduates should not be excluded from management of the military services of the American government.

The third question suggests the only reasons – practical ones, rather than matters of principle -- that ROTC might not make sense for Columbia.  First, it would not be economical for the government to fund units that would probably enlist a few dozen cadets at most, so taxpayers probably have less of an interest in reestablishing ROTC here than we do.  Second, if ROTC were to return, it would be necessary to arrange a dispensation from normal requirements to give faculty status to instructors or academic credit for training courses – that is, to make ROTC essentially an extra-curricular activity.  If these two considerations do not prove disabling, however, there is no truly legitimate reason to prevent Columbia from participating in the supply of leaders of the U.S. government’s military forces.

--
Prof. Richard K. Betts, Director
Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies
Columbia University, MC3347
420 West 118th St., New York, NY 10027, USA


From: James Cabot
Sent: Tue 2/15/2011 11:06 PM
Subject: Letter

February 15, 2011

To the Members of the University Senate Task Force on Military Engagement:

I am writing to express my support for the reinstitution of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) at Columbia University. I am a second year student in the business school, pursuing my MBA in combination with a public administration degree at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. I do not have a military background. Given that fact, I thought that it might be useful to share why a nonmilitary student would support reinstituting ROTC on the Columbia university campus. Since I am at the Kennedy School this semester I cannot attend the Senate hearings in person. Therefore, I would like to share my thoughts in the form of a letter.

I believe that reinstituting ROTC at Columbia will be good for the military, good for Columbia and – most importantly – good for the university’s students. The military is an important institution in American life. It should have access to the most intelligent, mature, courageous and selfless young men and women in America - young men and women of integrity and capable of leadership and high achievement. The Columbia community is filled with students who match this description. It is because they match this description that they have been selected to attend Columbia. The military will undoubtedly benefit from a reinstatement of ROTC at Columbia and on other Ivy League campuses through access to a new pool of high quality officer candidates.

Reinstating ROTC will also be good for Columbia University. ROTC teaches essential and timeless values such as loyalty, duty, respect, service, honor, integrity and personal courage. These same values are vital to the Columbia community. The community will benefit from the presence of more students who are exposed to these values through ROTC training. ROTC cadets will bring their experiences and their learning to the classroom, to Columbia’s athletic teams, to student clubs, to residences, to the campus as a whole and to their communities at home.

Finally, reinstating ROTC will be of tremendous benefit to Columbia students who have an interest in serving in the military. Many students across the United States choose to join the military after college. They do this to serve our country, to challenge themselves and to gain some of the best leadership training in the world. It is clear that America’s top graduate schools recognize the value of military service – the business, law, government and other schools at Columbia, at Harvard, and at top universities across the country are filled with military veterans. These graduate schools recruit veterans because they recognize and value the leadership development, the discipline, the ethics and the achievement that come with military service. By permitting ROTC to return to the Columbia University campus, the University will enable students interested in joining the military post-graduation to access top leadership training, to receive tuition assistance and to advance within the military training process while still completing their undergraduate education.

There are some who would oppose the military because they associate it with the possibility of armed conflict - with all of the horrors that armed conflict entails. These are understandable sentiments. By way of offering a different perspective, however, I would like to share a story. Prior to enrolling in graduate school, I spent three years working for an international development-focused nonprofit in Eastern Europe. One of my responsibilities in that job was to manage an economic development project in Bosnia and so I spent some time in Sarajevo. During one visit to Sarajevo I stayed with a local family.

Over dinner, members of the family described the horrors that they had witnessed during the siege of Sarajevo in the early 1990s. Their neighbor had been killed. They had shell craters in their front yard. Later, during that same trip, I went to Kosovo. On a main street in Pristina I saw photographs of locals who had been killed during armed conflict there in the late 1990s. The United States and its allies were able to bring bloody conflicts in Bosnia and Kosovo to negotiated and peaceful conclusions partly because they were able to project credible military power.

Across the world today American soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines contribute to the maintenance of peace on the Korean Peninsula, across the South China Sea, in the Middle East and elsewhere. They have delivered humanitarian assistance in response to natural disasters across southeast Asia (after the 2004 tsunami) and in Haiti. These are difficult missions requiring sensitivity, diplomacy and massive leadership capacity. If one hates armed conflict, then one should support a strong American military, led by the highest caliber officer corps – including officer graduates of Columbia University.

In conclusion, I would like to add my support to those within the Columbia University community who are calling for the reinstatement of ROTC at Columbia. This is a worthy goal and one that I believe the university should pursue.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can elaborate on this letter in any way.

Yours sincerely,

James Cabot
Columbia Business School, MBA ‘11
From: Noah Baron
Sent: Tue 2/15/2011 1:39 PM
Subject: On brining discrimination to campus
To the CU Senate Task Force on ROTC:

I would like to amend my previous comments so that I may bring to your attention to 10 USC Chapter 103, ROTC Vitalization Act of 1964 [link]. I have excepted the relevant portions of the legislation, as follows (all emphasis mine):

      (b) No unit may be established or maintained at an institution unless -
        (1) the senior commissioned officer of the armed force
      concerned who is assigned to the program at that institution is
      given the academic rank of professor;
        (2) the institution fulfills the terms of its agreement with
      the Secretary of the military department concerned; and
        (3) the institution adopts, as a part of its curriculum, a four-
      year course of military instruction or a two-year course of
      advanced training of military instruction, or both, which the
      Secretary of the military department concerned prescribes and
      conducts.

The effect of this passage is that: (1) no transgender person or student would be able to teach or participate in these courses; (2) persons without a PhD would be accorded the title of Professor at Columbia University in the City of New York; (3) Columbia University would be creating and funding a department whose operations and content would be dictated entirely by the military, and as such would constitute an entire department in which, as of now, no gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender person could participate. Some have claimed that other institutions have worked out special deals with the military such that no title of professor would be granted to military officers (i.e. individuals who do not have a PhD). However, no such deal has been reached or appears even likely at this point in time; moreover, such a deal would not resolve the other pressing issues that remain.

Moreover, as a result of Article 125 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, sodomy is banned in the military, thereby making all same-sex sexual conduct punishable by court martial. This is an issue entirely separate from the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy, and it remains in place to this day. Contrary to popular belief, this ban applies without regard to whether an individual is serving in a battle situation or not, whether an individual is on duty or not -- and as such, it applies to any individual enrolled in the ROTC program. As such, You may find Article 125 of the UCMJ here [link].

Respectfully,
Noah Baron
Columbia College 2011
From: Noah Baron
Sent: Tue 2/15/2011 1:14 PM
Subject: DADT is repealed, but nothing has changed

To the Columbia University Community and the University Senate ROTC Task Force:

As I am sure you are aware, the Columbia University Senate is once again eager to push for inviting the Reserve Officers Training Corps to Columbia (or what has more colloquially been termed the "return of ROTC") in light of the recent vote to repeal the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. A recent discussion featured in the Columbia Spectator's magazine, The Eye, though it featured many well-spoken and intelligent individuals, failed to provide a voice for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and, especially, transgender community. In fact, given that the major reason for keeping ROTC off-campus has been its discriminatory practices against LGBT individuals (in particular, the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy was cited), I was surprised to find that there was no representative of the Columbia LGBT community invited to speak. In fact, not once did the acronym "LGBT" or the words "gay," "lesbian, "bisexual," or "transgender" appear in the transcript. This, sadly, has been the norm of almost every discussion regarding the possible return of the ROTC program to Columbia's campus.

Given this deficiency, and the general rush to invite the ROTC program back (which began, in fact, long before the repeal had taken place or was even assured), I would like to take this opportunity to address a couple of misconceptions about the status of LGBT individuals in the military.

First, the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy remains in effect, and its timely end is not assured. Though Congress did pass legislation to repeal it, and even though President Obama signed it, the legislation requires the President, Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs to "certify that changing the law to allow homosexual and bisexual men and women to serve openly in all branches of the military will not harm readiness." This cannot take place immediately: it must follow a sixty-day waiting period. In addition, a Republican Congressman is planning to introduce a bill that would delay the implementation of end of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" to the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. Its fate is uncertain. Until the waiting period ends and the necessary officials certify that allowing lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals to serve openly (which may, in fact, be never), the United States military will be continuing the same exact policy to which our University objected the last time this matter came up.

Second, while the policy of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" has been repealed by Congress and lesbian, gay, and bisexual servicemembers may soon be able to serve openly after years of being forced to hide, we have yet to achieve full equality in the military even for LGB people. Under Article 125 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, "sodomy" is still considered a crime and punishable by court-martial. Though some would argue that the 2003 Supreme Court case Lawrence v. Texas rendered the issue moot, this is untrue. Because the Constitution applies differently to members of the Armed Forces (especially with regard to the right to privacy, which was the driving constitutional right behind the 2003 decision) the ruling in Lawrence does not strike down the sodomy ban in the military. Thus while sexual conduct for heterosexuals remains a possibility, the same cannot be said for gay and lesbian servicemembers -- the discrimination continues.

Gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals will continue to face discrimination in military institutions in other ways. As of now, for example, the Air Force Academy does not permit cadets to take a same-sex date to their dances. I think that it would be safe to assume that the other military academies have similar bigoted policies. LGBT chaplains are, thus far, also a no-go at the Academy. (Though this shouldn't come as much surprise, given the Academy's shameful history when it comes to diversity and tolerance: it has been plagued with sexual harassment, sexual assault, and gender bias scandals; it has also allowed its Christian Evangelical chaplains, paid by the academy, to run loose on its campus as they attempted to convert cadets.)

Third, transgendered individuals are not permitted to serve in the United States military. This is problematic on a number of levels. It bears noting that the reason that Columbia kept ROTC off campus for the last few decades has been the military's explicit and then implicit discrimination against lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals. The reason, then, was not simply the policy of DADT, but rather the institution's failure to adhere to Columbia's antidiscrimination policies. Even more shamefully, transgender veterans are made unable to access the benefits that cisgender individuals have access to -- as a direct result of the military's discriminatory policies. The military also refuses to recognize any legal changes to one's sex. These are people who fought and died on behalf of our nation; do they not also deserve even the pitiful benefits we give to our veterans? I put it to you that denying any veteran, regardless of gender identity or presentation, free access to such basic procedures as mammograms, pap smears, or prostate exams is an embarrassment to this nation as a whole.

Finally, the US Military does not include gender identity, gender expression, or, despite the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," sexual orientation in its Anti-Harassment Action Plan. This is important because, even if our military wishes to discriminate against transgender individuals -- already bad enough -- it ought to at least provide protections against harassment for those who may not present themselves within the bounds of "traditional" gender expression, regardless of whether or not those people are in fact transgender. Additionally, the failure to include sexual orientation in the Anti-Harassment Action Plan will leave lesbian and gay servicemembers vulnerable even after they are technically allowed to serve openly in the military.

Let me be clear: when I first heard of the repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell," I was thrilled -- not only because I saw it as yet another step toward equality for lesbian, gay, and bisexual Americans, and because gay and lesbian servicemembers may now serve openly and with dignity (albeit only once they graduate from the military academies) but because I hoped the end of that policy would allow Columbia, in good conscience, to invite the return of the ROTC program and thereby make the life of one of my friends currently in the ROTC program easier. It was with deep sadness that I discovered that our nation's armed forces continue to discriminate not only against gay and lesbian individuals, but against transgender individuals as well.

With regret and disappointment,
Noah Baron
Columbia University
Class of 2011
[originally published on The Huffington Post]