Task Force Hearing of February 7, 2011
The first public hearing of the Task Force on Military Engagement was held on Monday, February 7, 2011 from 8 PM to 10 PM in 417 International Affairs Building. A transcript follows.We have transcribed names on a "best efforts" basis and apologize for any inaccuracies. Please notify the Task Force at firstname.lastname@example.org for any corrections on names.
Audio recordings of the first Task Force hearing may be found at:
PROCEEDINGS OF THE UNIVERSITY SENATE
TRANSCRIPT OF A HEARING OF THE TASK FORCE ON MILITARY ENGAGEMENT
Ron Mazor: Please be seated. We’re about to start. Thank you all for coming out tonight. My name is Ron Mazor. I’m the co-chair of the Task Force on Military Engagement. We appreciate that you’ve all come out to talk about ROTC, military engagement and
Sharyn O’Halloran: Thank you. And I’d like to welcome everyone to the first of a three-part series related to the university’s engagement with the military. And so thank you very much for being here tonight. Now the purpose of this hearing is to begin a dialogue around the issues related to the university’s engagement of various activities with the armed forces, including ROTC. And what is said tonight will provide the basis of recommendations of how the Columbia community can best engage the military while staying true to our missions of an open and free environment for teaching, learning and research. And so your participation is both welcomed and very important.
Now just as a way of background,
Now discussions of the proper relationship of
Now the Task Force will be hosting town hall meetings just like this. They’ll have two more of them. They’ll be polling students to get their opinions about the various activities that we do on campus and what else we’d like to be doing. And then they’ll be drafting recommendations regarding their findings. Now the structure of the debate for tonight will be an open mike forum. And we want everyone to have an opportunity to express their opinion. We believe that free expression of opinion is essential to the university and that all members of the
I’m now going to turn the event back over to the co-chairs. And I want to thank you again for joining us this evening, and I look forward to a productive discussion. [Applause].
Ron Mazor: Thank you very much, Sharyn. Just to recap. Comments are going to be about two minutes and thirty seconds apiece. We want to make sure that everyone in this event has the ability to come up and speak. So please limit and obey and respect the time limit. I would say that one thing that I always loved about
Janine Balekdjian: Hi. I’m Janine Balekdjian. I’m a sophomore in the College. And my question relates to the continued relationship between the LGBT community and ROTC. Even though DADT has been repealed, the transgender individual still can’t serve in the military as per military policy, and the same people [can’t] participate in ROTC. That still, to my understanding, violates the university’s discrimination policy because gender identity is a protected category. See, the university’s reasoning for not allowing ROTC back on campus used to be that it violated the discrimination policy because of DADT. To my understanding, it still violates the university’s discrimination policy because of not allowing transgender individuals, and therefore, I don’t see how
Sean Udell: My name is Sean Udell and I’m a senior in
Daniela Garcia: Hello. I’m Daniela Garcia. I’m a senior in
Paco: My comment’s real short. My name is Paco. I’m a senior in the College. Just to add on to that. When you take into consideration the fact that we’re reading in our headlines right now is that we’re seeing billion dollar budget cuts in school services and health and human services, and we see the cost of the war every day and the fact that it costs billions of dollars to sustain the war every day. As somebody said earlier, are these the ideals we wish to adhere to, that we spend more on war than our own people? War against innocent civilians. Like I said, it’s a short comment. I just wanted to add that to food for thought as we consider this. [Applause]
Avi Edelman: Hello. My name is Avi. I’m the president of Everyone Allied Against Homophobia, which is an activist group for queer and allied students on campus. So speaking on behalf of myself and on behalf of the group, I’d just like to echo what some of my peers have raised, the issue of our university non-discrimination policy and the fact that though a lot of the rhetoric has made it seem like the repeal of DADT has removed all forms of institutional discrimination from the ROTC program, the truth is the transgender students would still be barred from those programs, and our university has a history of being at the forefront of not only gay issues, but transgender issues as well. We are about to launch a pilot program and become one of the leading universities in having open housing and housing that incorporates transgender students and doesn’t discriminate on the basis of gender identity. So I think that given the rhetoric about DADT, given the fact that, you know, President Obama has called on universities to bring back ROTC, I think the hard decision is going to be to say no, until the university stops discriminating against all individuals and adheres to our non-discrimination code, we can’t bring it back. I think that’s a really tough decision, but it’s the right one, and our university has a history of making those tough calls. [Applause]
Right. So my name’s Rudy Rickner. I’m at SIPA and Business,
and I’ll just
be the first to respond. First, I’m a twelve-year veteran of
States Marine Corps. I was not an ROTC student, but I support
of ROTC to the campus primarily because what we’re discussing tonight
the gap between the civil—I should say the civil-military relations
That is that the people who have spoken so far tonight don’t really
what ROTC means, and don’t really understand what the military’s all
about. So, for example, DADT and now the transgender issue is
question for someone like me in the military. It’s for the
Congress. If you don’t like the law, you vote and your
votes. You therefore need to talk to the lawmakers
to change the
law. I support and know gay men and women in the military,
and I would
support transgender people coming into the military. I have
against, and I would serve happily with them. So I have no
about that whatsoever. But it’s not up to me. What I do
support is what
has been brought up here already, I guess, that people have a right to
that which they think is appropriate for themselves, and ROTC is an
for someone to express their beliefs towards service, towards other
they believe to be true. Just as you believe certain things
to be true,
others have other views that are equally valid as we’ve discussed
tonight. So it may not be something that’s aligned with your
view, but it doesn’t make it wrong, and I’m [not]sure this will be my
comment, but I see some people lining up so I’ll let you come
Marlena: My name’s Marlena, and I just have a question. Would bringing ROTC back to campus allow the ROTC the opportunity to do recruitment in the community, especially Harlem? Thinking of the way that the military recruits in low-income communities, in communities of people of color disproportionately. I just want to know what the relationship between that would be. [Applause]
Nick Lomuscio: Hi. How are you doing? My name is Nick. I am a junior at General Studies. In response to the concern that—the concerns being raised here tonight are not relevant to a potential panel willing to engage with a student body as to whether or not ROTC should return to the campus. It absolutely is and it is not for reasons of our limiting ROTC from coming to campus because it’s a group that expresses viewpoints that other people don’t agree with. It’s because it is a group that is related to a branch of the United States government that openly discriminates against transgender people, that openly engages in warfare. These are not questions or differences of opinion. These are actions. And the opposition is not to the differences of opinions, it is to actions. That’s all. [Applause]
Cara Buchanan: Hi. My name is Cara Buchanan. I’m a senior in Columbia College. So in response to the gentleman that just spoke in the orange sweater, it’s a grand assumption to state that us as students that are individuals that are anti-ROTC coming back to campus are not affected in the same way. I’m sure that I can speak for myself and perhaps others in saying that my family is personally involved in the military, and it’s been something that’s been very detrimental to my health [in the way] in which I grew up in that type of environment. But also there is more ways to engage in military-civilian dialogue than simply to allow ROTC back on campus. For example, last year the Roosevelt Institute for Public Policy took some students up to West Point to have a tour of West Point, engage with some of the cadets there, and engage in military-civilian dialogue which was, you know, excellent I think, and another way in which we can step outside of the confines of just the ROTC being the solution to military-civilian dialogue. I would say that we can—you know, we’re Columbia University students. We can be creative in the ways in which we continue this dialogue, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that we need to bring back ROTC to campus. [Applause]
Michael Zapata: Good evening. My name is Mike Zapata. I’m at the Business School. So a little background on myself. I served nine and a half years in the Navy as a SEAL lieutenant, and I did go to an ROTC program at Texas A&M University. What I can say is that, you know, let me see here. Columbia, is, you know, obviously a fantastic university, and I think the best thing about Columbia is that it has produced leaders of this country and will continue to produce leaders of this country, in all aspects of life that we have: military, Department of State, civilian side, social side. It’s an incredible place to be, and bringing ROTC to this university is going to allow—the way to make a change is from the inside, and having ROTC here allows the Columbia University transgender—whatever your views are, it allows you to impact potential future leaders of the military. What does that mean? That means that it’s hard to imagine that they’ll come here and they’ll be isolated because of ROTC. No, they’re students like everybody else. They’re going to live. They’re going to be amongst everybody. They’re going to appreciate the different views and different aspects, and having an impact on them now starts now, in this point of time, where you can actually, you can have opinions put into, you know, potential leaders of the military as they grow and as they progress in their military careers, you might see change. And I’m not guaranteeing that there will be change, but it’s an impact. It’s an opportunity to reach out to somebody at your level, at your age, and potentially have an impact on him as he gets older and through his military career. So I’m for ROTC. I appreciate the time, and I hope that it does work out. Thank you. [Applause]
Matt: My name is Matt. I’m a student in the History Department. I’m a grad student studying African history. I, a lot of my family, four of my uncles are all or were active in the military, and it’s in many ways hearing their stories of the things that they were asked to do by their officers or that they asked other people to do as officers that have reinforced my opposition to bringing back a relationship, a stronger relationship, with ROTC onto Columbia’s campus. I think one thing that was kind of missing from the discussion is that we’ve talked a lot about the impact of DADT, but it’s important to remember the context in which ROTC left campus in the first place, which is actually the context of a massive student movement against the Vietnam war, and it went through a panel and many formal channels, but the environment was one in which actually students were saying, We don’t think our university should have a relationship with an institution that is killing, in the case of Vietnam, ended up killing in the course of that war 2 million Vietnamese who died in the course of that war. And so, and along with of course 60,000 U.S. soldiers who also died in that war. And I think the same thing holds true. Many of us who are against it are not against this or that person’s individual choice, but actually what it says for the university to increase its relationship with an institution like the military. And one of the questions that was up there is, Have recent events shaped your opinion of this issue? And they have: the war in Iraq that’s killed over a million people in Iraq; the war in Afghanistan that’s now by conservative estimates killed 30,000 civilians in Afghanistan; the drone attacks that have begun over the past year and a half over Pakistan. Those are the events that confirm for me that I don’t want Columbia to be part of training officers to run the military that’s part of that. And I think as a student of history I can look back through American history and recognize that no matter what party, no matter what time, the U.S. military has been used in such a way to actually not spread democracy but many times to hinder it and to murder civilians. And I don’t think that that’s an institution that we want our university to forge closer ties with. [Applause]
Dan Morosani: Good evening everyone. My name is Dan. I previously served, or sorry, I’m a business student. I previously served in the Marine Corps as a captain. First of all I would like to thank everyone for coming out and participating in this discussion. A lot of things have been mentioned as far as bad things the military does: harboring sexual assault, being responsible for civilian deaths, the unspecified bad things that Matt’s (who just spoke) relatives were told to do. I think what they all have in common is that those things are failures of leadership, and, you know, failures of leadership ultimately originate in bad leaders. And the way to, you know, to reduce and ultimately eliminate these leadership failures is to give our young war fighters the best leadership they can have. I think that the average Columbia student is of a higher caliber than the average student across America, the university system. I hope you all agree with me. And I think that the average Columbia student who goes into ROTC is going to be a better officer than the average student from another school who goes into ROTC. I joined the Marine Corps in September 2001. As a New Yorker I wanted to be a part of America’s response to what happened on September 11th. I think we all join for different reasons, but I think that when you face your platoon for the first time it stops being about why you joined, and it starts being about doing the best job you can for the nineteen-year-old kids who are standing in front of you. Another speaker mentioned the fact the military recruits disproportionately from low- income communities. I don’t know what the targeting is. I can tell you that that is somewhat the case in terms of who you end up leading, and it’s because I love the Marines I served with and the Marines that I had the privilege of leading that I want ROTC here at Columbia. I want these young Marines and members of all the other forces to have the best leadership that they can because ultimately that’s the, you know, most important determining factor in whether or not they come home alive. I respect the fact that a lot of people here are against war in general, but America will fight wars a lot in the future. It’s just a fact, and given that fact, I think we should give our young war fighters the best leadership they can have. Thank you. [Applause]
John McClelland: Hi. My name is John McClelland. I’m a ROTC cadet. In fact, I was actually the cadet battalion commander in charge of all New York City Army ROTC last semester. I’m the president emeritus of the Military Veterans at Columbia University. I previously served as a medic with five tours overseas: four in Afghanistan, one in Iraq as an Army Ranger and a medic. Now, we are talking about ROTC here. It’s not about the military at all. The last thing that the military wants is to come onto Columbia’s campus. Okay? The thing is, it’s about you.
Ron Mazor: If you wouldn’t mind, address the panel, please. Sorry. Address us and not the audience.
McClelland: Okay. It’s about all of us engaging the military. We cite ’68 and we cite the student revolts against the Vietnam war, and I’m for that. I want people to be against war. You know, I’ve spent, most of my military career in Afghanistan. I’ve lost 11 friends in Afghanistan in the past two years. I do not like the Afghan war. I will go on record in saying that. But I will serve over there. I will lead troops over there, and I will lead them very well to make sure that they come home [alive]. I will make sure that the communities out there in Afghanistan are serviced properly, and that we in my little piece of Afghanistan when I go over there is going to be the safest that I can physically make it. Now, it’s about everyone here because in ’68 when everyone revolted against the Vietnam war, guess what, in 1972 when the all-volunteer military force came into effect, all those protests went away. Nobody cared anymore because it wasn’t them. It wasn’t anybody that they knew. It was that person that was recruited out of that, you know, city slum or in that rural community out there fighting your wars. I want ROTC to come back to Columbia because I want people to engage with people in the military. I want people to know somebody in the military. I want them to know that they’re fighting overseas so they stay politically engaged with the military. And that is the point right here. It’s not about the military. It’s not about ROTC. It’s not about the cadets here on campus. Because guess what? The military’s going to get their officers no matter what. Whether they get it from the south, the state schools or anywhere else, they’re going to get their officers. But I want them to get their officers from Columbia because you guys are going to be leaders of this country. Okay? You’re going to be leaders of business, and I want you to understand that the military needs to be connected with you and not disconnected. Thank you. [Applause]
Aarti Sethi: Hi. My name is Aarti Sethi, and I’m a graduate student of anthropology at Columbia University. I’m not American, but I also come from a military family. My father served for 30 years in the Indian navy, and both my grandfathers served for all their lives in the Indian army. So I do know something about what it is to grow up as a military child. I do not support the return of ROTC on campus, and I’m finding this debate here a little bit odd, because why should a university be in the business of equipping people in the military to better do their jobs in the first place? This is not something I understand. What is the assumption here? The assumption here is that a job in fact that the military should be doing, and it cannot do because it is obviously limited by the internal logic of being a military in the first place, must instead be done by civilians. So I must, so the university, a civilian institution, should be opening up people’s minds. It is by having friends who are not in the military that people in the military’s horizons should be broadened. I think this debate is very, very skewed. Why should a civilian institution be forced to take on the mantle of exposing military leaders to other ways of thought? This is a conversation that the military should be having with itself. If the military wishes, why doesn’t it institute scholarships so that people who serve in the military go and get a two-year degree with no strings attached and then let them see if people want to come back to the military or not? This is how grant-making institutions work in the world. If you want a scholarship to apply, to go and get a university education, you apply to a grant-making body. A grant making body gives you a scholarship and you go get your education. Currently the military will give you a scholarship, but then you will have to serve for four years in the military. If the military is so concerned about the world view that its cadets and its officers inhabit, then the military should be asking its cadets and its officers to find ways of exposing them to other world views. But it should not be the burden of civilian institutions to be educating people within the military. Thank you. [Applause]
Fededah: Hello. I’m Fededah. I’m a first year in Columbia College, and I have a very sort of short question. What I don’t understand here is, we’re talking about leadership, leaders, failed leadership. I find this really interesting because how many failed leaders do you have to have for the situation to be the way that it is right now in the Middle East, in Iraq and Afghanistan and all of the—in Vietnam in the past. Like how can we think that this is an issue of failed leadership and not an issue of the system? This isn’t about individuals, about leaders, about creating leaders. It’s an issue of, I think, the system. And Columbia’s not being asked to better failed leaders. It’s being asked to become a wheel in a system which is a war machine basically. And I don’t understand how on earth we managed to connect this to leaders and individuals only and not think about the general system. Thanks. [Applause]
Richard Pierson: My name is Richard Pierson. I’m quite sure I’m the oldest person in the room. I was born in September of 1929 at a time when the world was going to hell in a basket. At that time I was able to understand from my father who had had to serve in the military that it was an experience that he remembered, and he helped me to remember it by sitting with me in 1941 when Pearl Harbor was bombed, and I could appreciate the military wars were a piece of what we were going to live through. I went to Princeton, where I served in the Naval ROTC. I graduated from Columbia Medical School in 1955. I subsequently served on the [University] Senate. I chaired the Education Committee of the Senate for seven years in the [1970s], and I feel myself well immersed in Columbia University and in academic situations. As a professor of medicine, my very favorite thing is seeing the students who are coming into medical school now and how different they were when my grandfather graduated from this school in 1881, my father in 1918, I in 1955, and my son in 1983, and I’ve got 12 grandchildren, three of whom are potential followers. [Laughter] In any case, what’s that got to do with what we’re talking about here tonight? The powerful piece about the NROTC for me at Princeton, it prepared me for two years serving in the Naval Medical Corps in Taiwan in the 1950s. It prepared me for understanding what the people in the military were up against. It prepared me for understanding the people who were going to be my medical students. I currently direct a third-year preceptorship in medicine for St. Luke’s Hospital, a nearby neighbor of ours, and here I am exposed to people whose diversity is a very powerful argument. Their diversity helps each other, it helps my generation, it helps my children’s generation, and my grandchildren’s generation. And I believe that the presence of the ROTC has helped me a great deal. I believe it has helped many of the students whom I now see to understand better that it’s a complicated world they live in, and the capacity to accept diverse groups and diverse people and learn from them, I find a powerful inducement to continue teaching at the age of 81. [Applause]
Learned Foote: Hello. My name is Learned Foote. I’m a senior in Columbia College, and I believe I’ll be the first non-veteran or person who is serving to be a supporter of the ROTC. I’ve supported the ROTC since 2008 in my sophomore year on campus, and I ask that you do anything you can to insure that students be able to participate in this program. Growing up in Michigan, I had a close relationship with those who serve and those who have given their lives in the Armed Forces. Many in my generation have no such experience. This is especially the case in elite institutions in the Northeast and in urban populations which are underrepresented compared to the South and Midwest. It is essential that our students not think of military policy as something distant and separate from themselves as citizens of a democracy. Support for ROTC is not a support for any given policy, either foreign or domestic. That is a decision for Congress to make. For those of us who are American citizens, that is a decision for us to make. And we cannot pretend that is not our decision. It is our responsibility as citizens of a democracy to be engaged with the health and with the actions of our military. I believe that it is time to look forward as President Obama stated in his State of the Union address. ROTC will train the future leaders of the military, and it will be beneficial for ROTC students to be in our classrooms, both for them to receive a Columbia education with everything that it teaches about civilization and multiculturalism, and it is incumbent for our students to be connected to those who serve. There will always be reasons not to support ROTC, and we would fool ourselves to think that all the reasons being listed now are the same ones that were listed in 1968. Whether it’s transgender discrimination, age discrimination, disability discrimination, if you believe that that policy means that the program should not be on campus and it should be the responsibility of other schools, then you will never support ROTC. The world is not perfect, and we know this. But it’s our job not to sit and pretend that it’s not connected to ourselves, but to make it better. And it is also our job not to decide for the citizens, or for the students in our student body to make their decisions for them for how they serve, but instead allow them to have the options that they desire. Thank you. [Applause]
Lauren Salz: Hi. My name is Lauren Salz. I’m a senior at Barnard College. I just want to point out that Columbia and the military have not always had such a tumultuous relationship. At one point in Columbia’s history, Columbia was producing more naval midshipmen than the Naval Academy. If you take a look outside Butler, there’s a commemorative that thanks Columbia for its generous assistance and unceasing cooperation in the training of 23,000 officers who went from the U.S. Naval Reserve Midshipmen’s School to active duty in World War II to defend the principles which this university has always upheld. I think undeniably everyone in this room benefits from the United States having a strong military, whether or not you agree with the war in Afghanistan or Iraq. I noticed some people brought up, you know, under-representation of certain groups in the military, or overrepresentation. In 2008 I sat on Low steps with thousands of my classmates when President Obama, or then candidate Obama, spoke, and he said it’s also important that a president speaks to military service as an obligation not just of some but of many. If you go to small towns throughout the Midwest or the southwest or the south, every town has tons of young people who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. That’s not always the case in other parts of the country, in more urban centers. And I think it’s important for the president to say this is an important obligation. If we are going to war, then all of us go, not just some. So graduates of elite universities especially in urban centers, such as Columbia, are truly the people who are underrepresented in the military. [Applause]
Carlos Blanco: Hello. My name is Carlos Blanco and I’m a junior in the College. I come to you representing not just myself, but as a member of my communities. I’m a student of color, I’m a queer student, and I’m a low-income student. All three of these communities [have] previously been targeted by the military, whether domestically or in its international affairs. As a student of color, I think it’s very important that we remember the investigations that happened in the Army in World War II, when African-American soldiers had worse living conditions than even prisoners of war then. I think it’s also important that we remember in the ‘60s and ‘70s Mexican-American students at Texas public universities and how they were treated on Mexican-American Independence Day or on Texas Independence Day from Mexico, and the culture of racism that is [more or] less bred there. And as a queer student I echo the sentiments of my peers in that transgender students are not allowed to serve and how this still discriminates against them. As a student of color, I think we have to remember that, that it’s very painful to see what happens here and what happens when we have this culture of ROTC come back. I’ve seen what it does to my community, and I’ve seen how it preys on my community, and it’s not a culture that I want to see happen at my school, at my place of learning. I love Columbia and I don’t want to see this happen. So until the Army continues an investigation into women’s rights and until kids in high schools in the South Bronx have the same matriculation rates as Stuyvesant High School and until the Army really investigates into how it’s treating its people, will I even consider having this culture of war back onto my place of learning. Thank you. [Applause]
Ted Graske: I’m Ted Graske, and I’ll defer that I’m the second-oldest person in the room. But don’t let the gray hair fool you, because I am the chairman or the spokesperson for the Columbia Alliance for ROTC. We communicate and have supporters from all the generations going back to—believe it or not—as far as 1941 and as recent as people from last year. So we’ve had a chance to cover the spectrum. My comments are going to be from outside the gates. They’ll be different than what you’ve been hearing tonight. In fact, I hope to rattle the gates a bit and give you the perspective of themes that come through from a large body of alumni. First, I will tell you most alumni we talk to, and we talk to hundreds, value their Columbia education. You never hear a bad word about the Core. They all love the Core. Don’t change it. However, there is one concern that rides through the alumni years, and that is the perception that Columbia, and this perception may be wrong, and these people may be entitled to their opinion, but the perception is Columbia is anti-military. The net effect of that is that alumni feel embarrassed, disenfranchised, and some are very angry. They don’t sign petitions. They vote with their pocketbook. We think that they should be donating and making Columbia a better place, but they have been so discouraged by apparent attitudes and perceptions, real or imagined, it’s difficult. Second thing. Columbia has a rich tradition. Over the years hundreds of ROTC students have used the service in ROTC to launch careers as doctors, lawyers, professors. They value this experience, this package [if you will], and they would like to see the same opportunity that they had availed to Columbia students, especially in today’s economic times. And last but not least, because I’m running out of time, but I’m going to take a few extra seconds. Many of you in this room, as John and others have pointed out, will be in the halls of power. You will be in positions running the military. You will be the ones that make the decisions to send people to war, and you will need to have a relationship with the military that is communicative so you can understand each person’s point of view and make a proper decision, and not just on political grounds. And the place to start that interaction and conversation is in the dorms on Columbia campus or Barnard or what have you, because the more interaction you have now, the better it will be for the future. Thank you. [Applause]
Neal Rickner: Okay. So I’m back. I appreciate the comments that have been made in response to my opening volley. I guess I can’t address all of them. I think what permeates most of the responses to my comment is an us-and-them sort of argument. That is really at the core of what I would hope that you take away from me tonight. Okay? So the guy in the orange sweater is telling you one thing. If you think about it an hour later, I would just say that us and them is the wrong approach. We are you. You are us. Okay? Americans or citizens of the world, call us, call me, what you will. I have the same misgivings about the wars. I have maybe more so. But why would you want to keep people like me away at arm’s length? Why wouldn’t you want to have a conversation? Because I think most of you feel, just given most of your comments, that you’re open to diversity, open to alternate lifestyles or whatever. Well, I’m challenging you. I’m challenging you to live what you preach. Talk about diversity. I’m diverse. So talk to me. Talk to me about the war, talk to me about what I learned over there. Because it’s probably not what you think. Do I feel like Columbia has a responsibility to train leaders? I don’t know. Maybe, but it’s not that Columbia has a responsibility to do it, but that as American citizens or citizens of the world, we all—it’s going to sound just slightly cliché—we all have something to benefit from each other, and if military leaders have something to benefit from Columbia, why would you withhold that, and why would you be so closed off to just having a conversation? [Applause]
Barry Weinberg: I’m Barry Weinberg. I’m a junior in the College, and I’m also a member of Everyone Allied Against Homophobia. And like Learned Foote who spoke before me, I also grew up in the Midwest. I’m from Indiana, from Indianapolis, and I know a lot of people in the military. I have had family members serve in the military, and I attended a large urban school that was 80 percent black and Latino, and we had a large National Junior ROTC program at my high school. So I know members of the armed services, and I know ROTC members. And I would like to sort of present two, I guess, versions of what’s going on here. One, to the gentleman in orange who spoke before me, that I agree. I think we are all the same, and that in this case we are all members of the greater Columbia community, and that community can include alumni, and professors and students, and this is a conversation within that community. And I feel that this conversation, no matter how you feel about the military, is productive. I think we are exposing each other to new ideas, convincing each other, maybe just giving each other different angles on the way we think, but I would like to take this out of the context of bringing ROTC back to Columbia, in that the gentleman in the orange also spoke that it was not a military policy, but a Congressional policy, and that it’s our job as Americans to vote for the people who enact those policies. It’s our job as community members of Columbia to exercise our political mechanisms within campus to display our priorities and values, and I would like to reference President Bollinger’s letter from 2005 when this issue came up: “Our senate’s vote reflected a consensus of the Columbia community after a year of discussion of the issues by students, faculty, administrators, that the university should stand by its non-discrimination policy. This policy forbids, among other things,” and as an aside this includes gender identity and expression, “any form of discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation. The university has an obligation deeply rooted in the core values of an academic institution and the First Amendment principles to protect its students from improper discrimination and humiliation.” And I think that we’ve expressed that, and just to finish up, personally my roommate is a, was a transgender woman. She left for UCLA for a doctorate. And it’s my understanding that in the military you have a deep commitment to those, your friends, and she is my friend, and I can’t very well throw her under the bus when— [time runs out]
Ron Mazor: I’m sorry. Please finish your thought.
Barry Weinberg: Sure. –when just because I’m now allowed in the military. [Applause]
Greg: Hey, I’m Greg. One thing I want to say is that when I first joined—I’m from Westport, Connecticut, which some of you may know is pretty affluent—and when I enlisted, the point my dad made to me was that all these people who had no relation to the military whatsoever suddenly knew someone who was in, and their concern for the wars and for general policy of what’s going on, you know, heightened then. They cared more. And he made it sound like I had single-handedly made these people care. And I just feel, and I’m sure that everyone in here who has family members in the military can relate to what I’m talking to, in that you care more because the people you love are at risk. Now the Columbia student body is not going to change if ROTC comes to this school. It’s going to maintain to be the opening, accepting community that it is. And all these, these complaints that people have about the military—and the military’s not perfect. I’m sure everyone can agree on that, especially the veterans. And these views of yours are going to be heard by people who are going to be enacting this policy. And obviously it’s not going to happen five years from now. I can’t tell you when it’s going to happen, but the more people that are in the military with their open-mindedness like the Columbia community will make those changes. And that’s a good thing. That’s a good thing for the country, and it’s definitely a good thing for the military. And as far as the whole recruiting in underprivileged areas, I think every enlisted person in here can agree that no one likes recruiters [Laughter], and that I hope and pray that ROTC does not have that type of mission. And as far as everyone has to say about the whole Vietnam and talking about the past and talking about ’64, I don’t know the history of what happened, but the bottom line is that this isn’t the ‘60s. It’s 2011. The views and the issues are very different, and these wars are certainly not the Vietnam wars. Thanks. [Applause]
Sumayya Kassamali: Hi. My name is Sumayya. I’m a graduate student in anthropology. First I wanted to point out something it doesn’t seem like has been clear. We should understand that ROTC already exists through the consortium. Students at Columbia, together with Fordham University and Manhattan College, are already able and as was mentioned already do enlist in the ROTC training program. So that option already exists, and I think that’s important. As well, we should note the Solomon [Amendment], through which universities are threatened with the loss of funding if they prevent recruitment on campus, and those familiar with Bollinger’s statement in 2002 know that he, despite the existence of DADT, at the time had to allow recruitment in the Law School because they were going to threaten to cut 70 percent of the University’s funding.
Second of all, I want to respond to this notion that the military is distant from us. So first of all for those of us that read the news, it’s not distant. Those of us that see and are outraged by the daily violences perpetrated by the military, it’s not something that’s far away. In fact, it’s something that we understand and are unequivocally opposed to. Second of all, for those who are on the receiving end of the military’s violence, whether those Arab and Muslim U.S. citizens who have been subject to extraordinary racial profiling and torture, with the direct complicity of the military; whether those students who have families in occupied Palestine, where Israel troops are both trained by American officers; whether those who grew up in Latin America under a notorious series of dictators and over 50 interventions, dictators trained in the school of the Americas, again with the explicit participation, and in fact, direction of the U.S. military. These are not things that are far away. They’re not things that we don’t understand or we need a broader perspective about or we need more personal interaction with. In fact, we understand them very well.
lastly, I want to say that the critique around DADT, which has now
around transgender individuals, that’s not enough. Our
opposition to the
military and to institutional ties between universities and the
to be unequivocal. We shouldn’t use the word “until”—the idea
that, you know, one policy will change, somehow then the
become better. I think we need to be clear that our
opposition is against
militarization in general. And lastly, it’s 2011 and, yeah,
around and let’s see the types of wars that the military’s engaged in,
directly or indirectly through support, and Vietnam won’t feel so far
away [extended applause].
Ron Mazor: Have some quiet in the audience please.
Nick Lomuscio: I am Nick. Sorry this will be my last time up here. I just wanted to address some very real concerns for the people in support of the ROTC that I think all are making. I can essentially, I think, whittle them down to three: the idea that Columbia students need to be more heavily engaged with veterans, members of the military, or potential future members of the military; the idea that Columbia produces leaders and leadership, and the idea we need to democratize the military and who serves in it. So of these three points, it is no secret that, as I believe one person involved with the ROTC pointed out earlier, the people from Columbia who will be involved in the ROTC will be going to positions of leadership. That does not democratize the military. They will not be the ones on the front lines who are getting shot at. They will not be the ones who have to suffer through the same things that other people from, that are predominantly given to people in positions of low-income backgrounds. Secondly, if the military feels, or I’m sorry, if the veterans feel or potential future military members feel that they are not being actively engaged with students on campus, then I will propose here, tonight, as an alternative to the ROTC, because there is no need for ROTC to be here to have these conversations, to set up a student organization specifically to have those conversations, to have conversations with veterans, with people concerning the military, and with people who might be opposed to the military. There is no need for the military itself to be involved in a conversation with the student body. It is not Columbia University’s responsibility to be involved with the military in having that happen on campus. It is Columbia University’s responsibility, if it would like to see those conversations happen, to establish separate student groups that will not be used as funnels through the military. Thank you. [Applause]
I would like to have a quick break. And also we have two
if you want to split up the lines, we can do that too.
Marita Inglehart: Hi. My name’s Marita. I’m a freshman in Columbia College. And I just wanted to address sort of the idea of the like us-and-them mentality. My dad’s a veteran. We have a picture of him in our living room of him in his uniform, and he likes to talk about it sometimes. But anyways… But last summer, or no, two summers ago, I’m sorry, a childhood friend of mine, you know, we had spent holidays together. We had spent Thanksgiving together, everything. He joined the military, and a month before he left, he told me that he was gay. And all of a sudden I went from just being scared for him to being scared and pretty mad because he was doing what he thought, you know, was the best thing he could do for his country, and his country wouldn’t even respect him for that. And the thing is, I don’t know, if trans people are a more uncomfortable topic or, you know, what the issue is with why this isn’t being talked about, but I mean the message is that trans people are less than everyone else who’s allowed in the military, and I mean, that’s discrimination, and I came here admiring Columbia a lot, and I want to continue to admire Columbia. And it’s nothing that I have against people in the military because I love someone in the military. It’s just that I don’t want to support discrimination, and I don’t want the institution that I’m part of to support discrimination. Thank you. [Applause]
Ron Mazor: Actually, we have the next mike because we have two mikes.
Luc Chandou: Good evening. My name is Luc Chandou. I’m a student at the Graduate School of Business. I want to thank the board and Columbia University in general for giving us the opportunity to speak out. I think it’s very important. I know there’s an issue over Brown University. The president decided not to let certain members of the student population, specifically those who had served in the military, to be a part of the conversation. So I think it’s intelligent. Thank you. Military members, or veterans, who are also students of Columbia University can provide the most unbiased opinions given that they have served in both communities. So with that, I’d like to give you a little bit of background about myself. I’m half French, half American. Grew up in Dallas, Texas. So I’ve been at the crux of two opposing cultures my entire life, and been attacked for being French. Given that, I understand again what’s been repeatedly said here is two opposing viewpoints, and I think we need to dismiss that and focus on the task at hand. In response to some of the comments made tonight, I’d like to say some things that might be repetitive but I think are important to note again. Today’s military is not a conscript military. People are in the military because they want to serve. You can’t hold that against them. If they decided to give up certain freedoms that coincide with military service, that’s their choice. The military follows orders that are handed out by the government. The military is a service and our policymakers are the people who make the decisions that put that military into action. You cannot hold an individual soldier responsible for civilians’ deaths. Civilian deaths and casualties of war are an atrocity, and they should never happen, and it’s every military leader’s—any leader’s—objective to avoid that, keep that from happening. But they are a reality of war. So to label our United States military as a war machine or baby killers, I think, is foolish. Eisenhower was president of Columbia University upon returning from war. I think that not trying to educate future leaders in the military with what is one of the most phenomenal liberal educations in the United States, from one of the oldest universities in the United States, is short sighted. Again, if you want to change an institution, you change it from within. And our officers that will come out of ROTC will serve on the front lines and will be shot at. Thank you. [Applause]
Aris Delacruz: My name is Aris Delacruz and I am a graduate of the School of General Studies and a former member of the Columbia Queer Alliance. Before Columbia I served as a first responder. I’m not anti-war, and I was a member of the Republican Party for much of my adult voting life. I am here to debate and learn from both sides, but I would like to make a few points. To date the ROTC has not presented a concrete and feasible proposal to establish themselves on this campus. Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said that many colleges want the ROTC, but there is simply no forthcoming financial resources to do so. There is no capacity to do so. If you study the budget of the Defense Department, you will see that since 2007 the ROTC budget has actually gone up until 2010 to 2011, when the ROTC budget was cut by 3.3 percent, from $143 million to $138 million. There is every indication that, given this current economic and political climate, the budget trend will continue. If 40 percent of Army officers are recruited from the south, why do they continue to recruit elsewhere? Anyone who can competently operate a spreadsheet and those who think about performance objectives and adaptive leadership in metrics would see that this is foolish and has no basis in evidence. I’m also not a believer in the myth that Columbia must allow the ROTC on campus, and simply hope they’ll be more inclusive. We do not have the institutional and financial wherewithal to solve this-civil military gap. That’s not our job. Thank you. [Applause]
Dan Morosani: Good evening again. My name is Dan. I’d like to thank the gentleman in the gray sweater for making the best point tonight about the vast chasm between some people in the university community and the reality of military service. Sir [to another audience member], you mentioned that the people who will be recruited by ROTC will not be ones in the front lines getting shot at. You could not make a more factually inaccurate statement than that. [Applause] You know, love it or hate it, I am a combat veteran of the Iraq war. As a lieutenant in the Marine Corps I was always in the first vehicle, the first one out of the helicopter, the first, or one of the first people on patrol. The casualties statistics among platoon commanders in combat on a per capita basis are by far worse than any other demographic. So in short, I’m not sure which military you’re referring to, in which enlisted soldiers or Marines take all the casualties and officers take none. It is certainly not ours. And again, I think this is very illustrative of, you know, the misinformation and the stereotypes that persist because of a community that does not have a good amount of exposure to the military. Thank you. [Applause]
Eduardo Martinez: My name’s Eduardo Martinez and I’m a freshman in Columbia College. I actually was not planning on speaking tonight, but sitting there I was horrified by some of the statements that were made and I felt compelled to come and speak. Just a little background: I come from a Cuban immigrant family and they’re fairly supportive of U.S. imperial products abroad, but as a student of history, as Matt stated, I kind of saw there were a lot of historical events that involved the U.S. military that was an organization that I did not want to support. So I was kind of taken aback when someone stated something along the lines that this is not the ‘60s, and this is a totally new situation. But I think it would be a mistake to completely disconnect different parts of American history from the situation at hand now. I’ve seen through various atrocities that the U.S. military has been complicit in that it’s not an organization that I personally want to have on this campus and part of this community. And there’s also another statement mentioned about the importance of choice and the importance of freedom of choice, and have people be free to choose to participate in the military, but the problem with such a statement is that I don’t know how much choice the people who have been killed or have been attacked by the U.S. military in various countries and in unjustified wars had in that action. I do not see how the innocent civilians in Iraq and Pakistan and Yemen and Afghanistan and many other wars throughout history had a choice in that matter. Thank you. [Applause]
Nicolas Barragan: Hi. My name is Nico Barragan. I’m a sophomore in Columbia College, and I’m a cadet in the Air Force ROTC. I just wanted to say that I do support ROTC and I do want it to come back to campus so that I can have an opportunity to serve without spending half of my weekend traveling and my friends who are somewhat interested can join without running into all these barriers that they run into being Columbia students. That’s probably I would say the ultimate goal for me. But there are some other things that I want. For example, I want to be able to serve my country to take a path to public service without being discriminated against myself. If my voice sounds kind of shaky, it’s because it is, and it’s because I’m mad and I’m hurt because I have been discriminated against so many times for being a cadet in ROTC. More so than for being an immigrant to the United States or any of my other identities, for being a well- known straight ally on campus, for being Hispanic, for any of these identities that I have I have faced discrimination more for being an ROTC cadet. I have been, I get dirty looks every time I walk across campus in my uniform. I’ve been called a mercenary who kills for money for my education, and while we’re in the vein of discrimination, I just want to say that ROTC is my ultimate goal, yeah, but I also think that the university should make more concessions to cadets who do wish to participate in ROTC, especially if it does not come back to campus because it really is a path of public service that, you know, I hold to the ideals that the university does, and I feel like the university should help me even a little bit instead of permitting, you know, this widespread opposition and, you know, letting the anti-military sentiment permeate the university and its reputation in this country. Thank you. [Applause]
Another voice: I’m going to say something that I don’t know if everyone will understand, but I’m going to say something about atmosphere. And when I walked into this room, the lady out front looked at me and said, You’re not going to blow us up, are you? Now don’t get scared. I’m not gonna. This is a chord organ. It’s an instrument, a musical instrument. So I said to her, well, I mean that would be quite an accomplishment if I could, and people do do that with music, but that’s about it. Okay. [Applause]
Mike Zapata: All right, gentlemen. My name is Mike Zapata again at the Business School. So I’d like to talk about two different aspects, and I don’t, I don’t really enjoy talking about this at all, but talk about diversity, low income, I can tell you that I grew up on government cheese so I understand low income. As you can tell, I come from some sort of Latin descent or Mexican- American as well. So I understand that aspect of diversity. My brother-in-law said this, quoted as a, when I got married, he said, you know, a Navy SEAL officer is like a unicorn: you hear about him, but you never see him. He was actually also a Mexican Navy Seal officer. The point is that with the ROTC does, what the military does is it gives you an opportunity. So anybody that comes from low income, anybody that comes from a different diversity, whatever that is, it’s an opportunity to do great things. And I can also tell you that it’s a choice to do great things. So they’re making a choice when they join, however they get there. As far as the front lines, I can tell you that I made a choice, I went to the university, the university, I became an officer, I graduated from the university, I went to the Navy. But what I can also tell you is that the Navy doesn’t pay for my education. I actually paid for it myself. I put myself through school, and it was again a choice to go in and serve. So everybody that goes in, it is a voluntary military. The second aspect is ROTC. These guys are not the military. They’re your peers. They’re going to be, they’re the same age as you, they came from the same backgrounds as you, they’re going to be your friends. I have friends that did not join the military and I met in ROTC, and they’re some of my best friends. One of them is gay. I have gay friends. I mean, our culture now is that we, everybody we grow up with is, you know, we know everybody. So it’s not a big deal anymore like it used to be, you know, when we were kids. So again, these are going to be your peers, these are going to be your friends. You’re going to have an impact on them as you, as they progress and they go into the military. Again, change from the inside. I’ve changed the military from the inside from my perspective, my diversity, and if you bring ROTC here, it’s your opportunity to change them. When they become leaders, again, they can change from the inside. Thank you. [Applause]
June : June, Columbia College sophomore. Several of my peers and I have brought up the issue of discrimination against transgender individuals in the military, which is a huge problem as I said before. But I saw someone has a sign back there that says one in three female soldiers experience sexual assault, and no one’s come up to talk about the issue of women in the military yet, and I feel the need to bring that up. The military is not a safe place for its women soldiers. A woman is more likely, an American woman is more likely to be raped by her fellow soldier in the military than she is to be killed by enemy fire in the war. And that is unacceptable in an American institution. Additionally, the American military is not an equal place for women. Women are barred from the front lines and combat roles, and that includes many positions that are higher paying and higher in status. So the military is neither safe for women nor is it equal. And, but discriminating against women and against transgender students, the military and ROTC should not be allowed on Columbia’s campus. [Applause]
Ben Preston: Hi. My name is Ben Preston. I’m a student at the Journalism School, and I’m not supposed to have an opinion so I’ll keep my comments brief. I think that Columbia University is a petri dish for the way we’d like society to be, and society includes everything, including the military. The United States is a country that is based on institutions and groups and teamwork, and that’s something that we can’t wish away, and I don’t think that we should do it here at Columbia University. Thank you. [Applause]
Another voice: I just wanted to respond to the – I don’t know where he went – to the idea that ROTC in any way enables low-income students to make it Columbia University or to any other university. I think that if we were really interested in low-income communities and people of color in this country, we would step back from the military, maybe we would cut some of that budget and redirect some of those funds. So if Columbia University and all of the people here who support the military are really interested in those types of things, I think there are significantly more effective ways of doing that. Considering again documented and undocumented students, so to say that ROTC recruits, or excuse me, ROTC recruits undocumented students with the promise of citizenship. Is that a way that we want our students, low-income students, people of [color], that are undocumented to make it to Columbia University? Is that the way we want to go about that? I think, I mean, I think that’s a completely ridiculous idea. And to say that the ROTC is not the military I think also is confusing for a lot of us because we see a very connected. [Applause]
Ron Mazor: At this point actually...not to interrupt, we’re taking about a ten-minute break and we’ll come back after that. It was nine o’clock, and it’s nine fifteen. [To person at microphone] I’m sorry. Next comment, I promise.
our endowments of this university and what weight that will
have on this
decision because that’s not impartial. Money is not impartial
that must be examined and scrutinized by the University Senate in order
the most, the most fair way to proceed in this whole process.
Lauren: Good evening. My name is Lauren. I’m a first year student here at SIPA. I know we’ve had a little bit of a break, but I just wanted to address the comment that the young lady here made that the military’s not safe for women and it’s not equal for women. I’m a Marine officer. I’ve been in the Marine Corps for eight years, almost nine years. The safest I’ve ever felt in my life was amongst my Marines, and every opportunity I ever had in the Marine Corps was an equal opportunity to rise through the ranks, to succeed, to have leadership opportunities. And I wouldn’t even be here at Columbia if it wasn’t for the values that I gained and the knowledge that I gained from being in the Marines and the opportunities I had to serve overseas, not just in combat, but many humanitarian missions. So having this conversation is so important, and I think what I’ve learned just in the last hour and a half is that there are a lot of misconceptions, and by not allowing even the idea of an ROTC program here at Columbia may feed into those misconceptions for the future. So I hope that, I think we’re all very smart here and that we’re listening to each other. I have misconceptions, you all have misconceptions, but I’m a Marine officer, and I just. Maybe I don’t look like one. I don’t look like Rudy or these gentlemen, and that’s what made me want to come to Columbia because of that diversity. So I hope we can continue that and not discriminate against those who want to serve their country or even just be part of an ROTC program. Thank you. [Applause]
Learned Foote: Sorry, back again. But a couple of other people spoke twice so I figured that I would too. I just want to draw a distinction between two arguments that are being made here. The first one being the argument about discrimination of transgendered students. I understand these arguments and I see where they’re coming from. I disagree with them. Even before DADT was repealed, as a gay student, I thought it should return back to campus. The other argument that I want to address is people’s interpretations of foreign policy, and respectfully, I don’t believe that that has a role in this conversation, the reason being that Columbia, whether it’s a faculty member, whether it’s a graduate student of any, what’s it called, department, or any member of any undergraduate college, should not be deciding what other people do with their lives. We have diverse political views, we have diverse interpretations of foreign policy, of America and its role in the world. It is not for Columbia to make our decisions for us in terms of what leadership we embark on. And furthermore it is unimaginable to me that Columbia would discourage its students from joining Congress, from becoming the president of the United States, from any of these other forces that make the United States what it is. There is a unique stigma attached to military service which is inappropriate in my view. And that’s all. Thanks. [Applause]
Jessie Stillman: Hello. My name is Jessie Stillman and I’m a freshman at Barnard, and I’d first like to address what this woman before me said about sexual violence in the military. I’m pretty sure that, I’m so glad that she never had to experience anything of what the numbers, the statistics about sexual violence in the military have to say today. But whether or not she saw that the women felt secure or not in her Marine Corps base, or whatever you want to call it, the Pentagon released this past month statistics saying that they believe that only nine percent of cases of sexual assault in the military are reported and investigated correctly. And I just, numbers don’t lie.
secondly I’d like to address this issue of “we need smart people in the
military, and we want to hear what Columbia students want.”
Columbia students, we smart people, are telling you right now that we
want to serve in the military. We don’t want to support
military does, and we don’t believe in American imperialist
whether or not you want smart people in your military, it’s a volunteer
organization, and don’t force us smart people to serve in an
doesn’t represent our views, that doesn’t support what we want America
do. Thank you very much. [Applause]
Michael Arson: Good evening. I’m Michael Arson. I’m a first-year student here at SIPA. I just want to make one specific point, and that’s namely the idea that there maybe is not the market so to speak here at Columbia for ROTC, and I think that’s a fallacy. I missed the first fifteen minutes so I’m not quite sure if this was addressed. But I remember back a decade ago when I was applying to schools, I had to cross almost all the Ivies off my list because of the fact that they didn’t have a ROTC program, and I was going to be doing ROTC at whatever college I was going to be going to. While there might be not a huge demand for ROTC among the current student body, the people who are out there who are, who potentially can apply to Columbia, there are people interested in ROTC. And if you bring a program back to Columbia, even though there are cross-town affiliates that they can do, having an indigenous ROTC program will service a certain segment of the society. I know it doesn’t have really the moral debates or anything like that, but it has to do with fact that there is a market out there for people who want to come to Columbia and participate in an ROTC program, and while, you know, the fact that there doesn’t exist one currently I think has a part to play with that. So it’s just my piece. Thank you. [Applause]
Nathan Ashe: Hi. My name is Nathan Ashe. I’m a sophomore in the College. I just wanted to address all the misconceptions going around. I think the gentleman in the orange sweater—I’m sorry, I forgot your name—but you talked about the importance of dialogue. I just wanted to posit that we can have many dialogues that don’t necessitate the return of ROTC to campus. I think it’s great that we have so many veterans and so many cadets, well, not so many cadets here, but we do have cadets here. And I think we can have so many dialogues and learn so much from each other. We split up during the break into groups who agreed with each other, which I think goes against what everyone was saying. So if we can just have more dialogue before we jump to any conclusions, and really get to know each other and know everyone’s personal experience, I think we should take it slow before we jump back into returning or not returning ROTC to campus. Thank you. [Applause]
Daniela Garcia: Hi. Daniela. I’m a CC senior. I also just wanted to bring up the point that this idea that personal ideology should not affect whether or not we bring ROTC back on campus. Whether or not you personally believe what I believe about the U.S. military, the rate that it’s going and the fact that ROTC candidates and veterans here brought up that the military does need to be changed, and the statistics that were cited, and the fact that another gentleman mentioned that he does not want ROTC recruiters on campus, I think this shows that there are flaws in the military. And also if we talk about the possibility of influencing those who will go on to the military, we’re talking about, you know, the people who are successful, who have good stories from the military, who come back and who can, you know, then join business, go on with their lives. That’s great. Like I’m really glad that you guys had successful experiences and were able to contribute to your own, you know, lives in a successful way, but if we’re going to talk about what happens to soldiers who go to the front line, I think one thing we haven’t mentioned is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder—how there’s such a high rate of unemployment for vets who come back from the military because of the horrible atrocities that they have witnessed and have committed. So, you know, my heart goes out to you guys. Like I hope that you haven’t had those experiences. But if we’re going to talk about what we want for Columbia students, how do we envision their future, one of my best friends, Vernon Seringo, is now—I forgot his rank; he would kill me—but he’s in the Army. He joined because he believed in the ideology of the military. He wanted to make his country better, and the first e-mail that I got back from him when he was stationed in Afghanistan—he's in a mountain division—it was the same line repeated over and over, and I had to scroll down several pages. It just said, “Two hits to the body, one to the head. Two hits to the body, one to the head.” That’s the kind of psychological effect that is happening to people who go to the front lines. Is that what we really want for our students? Thank you. [Applause]
Barry Weinberg: So again I’m Barry Weinberg. I’m a junior in the College. And I’d specifically like to address the ideas that Learned Foote just brought up. The orange hoody. And that’s that our personal opinions on the military and on society as students shouldn’t matter because we should let students make their choices. To some extent I agree. I think that students should absolutely be able to be in ROTC and do cadet programs if they choose, and I think that’s fine. It’s, we do have certain values at Columbia that are liberal, humanistic values that are exemplified in our Core, and that’s one of them is tolerance of what other people do. But that doesn’t mean that our university has to compromise on its values, which we’ve already stated and voted on in our non-discrimination policy, to have that program here. People can do what they want. No one’s suggesting otherwise. And I think that fundamentally the idea that this, that this dialogue, you know, for or against should decide the military’s presence on campus, you know, is interesting and is worthwhile to be having. But I don’t, I really am somewhat irritated that it’s being talked about as if the outcome of this discussion should be the return or could be the return of ROTC to the campus, simply because we have principles that we’ve already written down and affirmed and reaffirmed several times against discrimination, and to have this discussion as if that were something that we could simply forget about because there are all of these good things for or bad things against the military is very, very frustrating. Because I don’t think that it’s a legitimate possibility to return an ROTC program to this campus whether you’re for or against it, because we have a policy against it. And that’s unfortunate, but it’s our values and it’s our community. And so if there’s a larger community-wide value shift that I don’t know about, then please someone correct me and we might as well change our wording in our policy too. [Applause]
Sean Udell: Hi. My name is Sean Udell again. I’m a senior in Columbia College. There are just a couple of things that have come up that I’ve a question and want to just bring up. One is that people who want to engage in ROTC are not discriminated against on campus. If they choose to do ROTC, they can very well go to across the town, uptown, downtown and do ROTC. People who are trans and people who don’t fall into the category of what the military thinks is appropriate for their members don’t have a choice whether or not they can be in the military, and it’s up to our university to stand up for those students who don’t have a choice. Beyond that, I’ve been a little disturbed by the rhetoric that suggests that the only smart people are ones that go to Ivy League institutions. My sister is probably the smartest person I know. She’s at the military academy for the Air Force, the Air Force Military Academy. And that was a choice she made. She wanted to fight in the Air Force, and I think that’s great. And I support her 100 percent. She didn’t come to Columbia cause she wanted to go to the Air Force. And that was her choice. My choice was to come to Columbia because I wanted to be in a place that was inclusive for all. And so I think we need to stand by our principles and make sure that people can continue to have the choice to join institutions that support all people. Thank you. [Applause]
Aris Delacruz: Hi. Aris Delacruz again, and I’m a graduate of the School of General Studies. I just wanted to thank you again for the opportunity to contribute to this debate, and so I just wanted to make a few points in response to some of the things that were said, and I wanted to agree with Sean that to somehow think that Ivy League or elite institutions are better than other institutions actually denigrates the members of the military who attend those other institutions. So we’ve just completed the largest and most successful both capital and financial campaign that any institution has ever undertaken in the history of the universe. So I don’t think that alumni donations are actually relevant to this debate. They are in fact on the periphery. And even if it were, why would we link the capacity of alumni like myself to donate with the autonomy of the university to make its decisions for itself. And then I also wanted to point out just one more time. I’m not sure cause I made the point clearly enough last time. That no official representative of the ROTC has expressed any support whatsoever of bringing it here to Columbia University. And also when writing your report, I hope when you do talk about the alumni donations or that capacity that you have the actual scientific evidence to back it up. You simply can’t just say that, you know, alumni donations could be harmed or alumni donations could benefit from an action for or against this. Thank you. [Applause]
Dan Morosani: I hope you’re not getting tired of me. A few things. I’ve noticed, it’s kind of striking, and I hope I don’t end up eating up my words here in a second, but every single veteran who has come up here and spoken has been in support of ROTC. Beg your pardon.
Ron Mazor: Please address the panel.
Dan Morosani: Oh, I’m sorry. And, you know, we had the lady who, or several people who’ve spoken of sexual assault and the military being such a dangerous place for women. Yet, Lauren, who actually served in the Marine Corps and knows the Marine Corps, you know, spoke in support of the Marine Corps. Similarly we’ve had people talk about how traumatized and traumatizing and terrible experience serving in the military is. Yet I and many of the other veterans here, I think most or all of whom are combat veterans, you know, it certainly wasn’t a cake walk, but we came back better people. And I’m just struck by the extent to which the sort of cognitive dissonance between the people who’ve actually lived through it and know about it and the people who are basing their opinions on at least secondhand sources. And finally I was struck by the argument by the gentleman who I think just left who said that people who are forced to go across town to serve in the military aren’t actually discriminated against. With all due respect and being cognizant of making historical parallels, that seems very similar in logic to me to the idea that someone who is forced to sit in a particular section of a restaurant or bus is not being discriminated against. [Murmurs from the audience]
Ron Mazor: Audience, please.
Another voice: I mean, if you are for, if you’re saying that someone cannot do something on campus and that the campus is, they’re not good enough for it, it’s discriminatory, pure and simple. Thank you.
Another voice: Way to go. Way to go. [Applause]
Ron Mazor: No catcalls please.
Another voice: I was just compelled to speak by that one comment. I think it’s absolutely ridiculous and extremely, extremely offensive to equate the lack of civil liberties to people before the 1960s civil rights movement, especially people of color, to people being [discriminated] against for being in the military. I don’t think a strange look is in any way, shape, or form equal to not being able to sit in the same restaurant, to have the same wage for employment, even have the same prospects for employment. I’m just horrified that someone had the audacity to come up and say that. Thank you. [Applause]
Madeleine Elish: Hi. My name is Madeleine Elish. I’m a Ph.D. student in the Anthropology Department. As I, I’ve been sitting in the back, and I’ve been really, really scared to come up here and say what I have to think because there are a lot of my colleagues in the department who are here, and I’m afraid that when I express an opinion which I know is not the dominant one in the environment where I am, I am going to be somehow judged in a certain way. And I’m afraid of those repercussions because I am in support of the return of ROTC to campus. Do I agree with the U.S. military as an institution? I’ve been to protests that are against all of our wars. I do not believe in the military’s, well, the imperial wars that we’re waging right now. But I think that actually what’s at stake in allowing ROTC to return to campus is the students and is the individuals who will be participating in ROTC. And I think, I think that, I think that really protesting ROTC in this way demonizes the individuals who will be serving in our military and who have served in our military. Someone raised the excellent point that Columbia wouldn’t discourage students from joining Congress or becoming president, and it should be noted that those are the bodies that actually authorized the wars that we’re currently engaged in. And so I think that it’s much more worthwhile for Columbia as an institution who is a leader in dialogue, who is understood – sorry, I’m being really inarticulate, I’m really nervous. Columbia is a part of academia, and I think that when there is the widespread resistance of institutions such as at Columbia to not allow ROTC on campus, it says academia has checked out of the picture and we will not engage with views that are not like our own. And so I think, I believe that having ROTC on campus would lead to our principles of inclusion and diversity of values. So that’s what I have to say. Thank you. [Applause]
Aarti Sethi: Hi. I’m Aarti. I’m in fact Madeleine’s colleague in the Anthropology Department, and I’m very glad she spoke. And I, I take very seriously the questions that she raised, and I don’t think she should feel in any way scared or embarrassed because what she’s talking about is in fact precisely the reason why I opposed ROTC. I think we are both concerned with diversity and with the fact that within a university community there should be the space to engage different points of view and to have fundamentally different values and ideas about life and ideas about the good. And I think the underlying [issue]--we're actually not discussing today only whether we should have ROTC on campus or not as policy. I think the question we’re asking ourselves is, What do we as a university community think of the space of the university? What is the university itself for? And that is why we need to make, I think, a distinction between personal conversations and institutional affiliations. I do not think anybody here, least of all me—I've already said this. I come from a military family, my father served in one of the wars that India was engaged in. None of us, I don’t think any of us here, even those who opposed ROTC, are against talking to people within the military or having a conversation with people within the military. I think the question we are raising is whether there is a distinction between a personal conversation and being open to people’s personal views about the good and whatever it is that they wish to do with their lives, including serving in the military, and an institutional affiliation between the university and the military. And I think we need to keep these things very, very clear in our heads. This is why there is something fundamentally coercive about a policy that demands repayment for your education as compulsory military service. I’m only going to restate what I said earlier. If the military is so concerned with giving its members a fantastic education, it should simply, why does it not institute scholarships where people are then, after that, free to choose whatever their paths may be in life, including not joining the military? But this the military cannot do, right, because part, fundamental to a military is... [time runs out].
Ron Mazor: Finish your thought. Thank you. Also at this point we’re going to close. Everyone standing up may still make a comment, but at this point no more new people stand up to the mikes, please, so we can finish on time. Thank you.
Luc Chandou: Just quickly in response. The military has sort of a business arm. It has to function as a business, have money to train people. It’s understandable that it requires people to serve if it’s going to pay for their education. That’s just a side note. But to the point about institutional connection between Columbia and the military, I am that connection. I’m standing right in front of you. We’re having a discussion this evening. Dan represents that institution. Every member here who served in the military Columbia looked at and decided to include it in the university here and on campus. So if any person who’s against bringing ROTC on campus is willing to come and tell me that I’m not a part of Columbia, that I shouldn’t be a part of Columbia, that I somehow represent something that is against Columbia, please do so afterwards or come up to me at any point in time. My name is Luc Chandou. I’m at Columbia Business School. I’m a second year. Again, I extol the virtues of a liberal classical education. I hope to take that—I'm currently out of the military, but at some point I might return to it—I hope to take that education and feed that into the public policy somehow. Educate the decisionmakers, educate the bureaucrats into how to best implement the tool that is the military. Thanks. [Applause]
Stas: Hi guys. My name is Stas. I am a student at GS. I am a Siberian-born, Jewish, former paratrooper. So if you want something for the melting pot, there you go. I just wanted to bring up a point, enlighten a few people here, hopefully on record just so we don’t have as much as this misinformed thing going on. Columbia University participates in the blood drive on campus, the policy of which is, they cannot accept blood donations from homosexual men, as this was instituted by the FDA. Now this sort of makes the other points regarding homosexuals and transgenders serving in the military or not being able to serve in the military more or less moot because people need to understand [that] these are all policies instituted not by the military, but by policymakers that are way above them. So as we continue to participate in the blood drive, believing that the actual fundamental system is somehow necessary and is somehow appropriate and should belong on campus, so should we support ROTC. It’s the same general idea. Thank you. [Applause]
Another voice: I just want to thank everyone who shared an opinion. You know, this is obviously a very emotional topic. But I think, hopefully, I’ve learned a lot by being here. And this is dialogue that should continue, and the gentleman who just spoke offered to buy everyone a drink afterwards if you want to keep talking about it [Laughter]. But I guess to sort of respond to that, I don’t see the blood drives as a comparable example. First of all, because one form of discrimination shouldn’t lead to more and justify more, but also because the relationship between Columbia allowing a blood drive truck to drive on and collect blood and drive off is a little different than the relationship we’re proposing with the military. So I just want to enforce my belief that the reason I think we can’t bring back ROTC is not a punishment to the military because of anything it stands for. It’s not a punishment. It wouldn’t matter for me if ROTC was a community-service organization. If we do not have any organizations that enshrined within the institution of this university and the blood drives are not enshrined within the institution as like a group on campus We don’t allow any institution that doesn’t allow certain segments of our population in. So it doesn’t matter that it’s the military. For me it doesn’t matter what their policies are, it doesn’t matter what their actions are, it matters that it’s an organization that discriminates against certain people and doesn’t let anyone participate. And that doesn’t matter that ROTC didn’t decide that that was the policy, and it doesn’t matter if we could potentially change minds. It matters that we would be allowing an institution that does not allow certain Columbia students to participate. That’s against our university non-discrimination code. And so to me that above all else is why we can’t, we can’t bring it back, no matter how we feel about the military. [Applause]
J. C. Kaplan: My name is J. C. Kaplan. I’m a Latin-American studies student in GSAS. I’m a 21-year member in the United States Army. I’m still an active duty member of the Army, and I’m here studying here at Columbia with the Army funds. So I’m still very much a part of that other part of my life which is the military. This discussion for me is new to me. I went to ROTC at U Mass Amherst where we had a small presence, but not a very contentious one. It certainly wasn’t, you know, people weren’t beating down the doors to join ROTC, but we had a robust enough group that every year I think we commissioned about 15-20 people. There’s been a lot of different comments made this evening and a lot of different topics, and one of the things that puzzles me is, are you all, and you, generally I’m referring to the students here, is this a, are we protesting ROTC because of the discriminatory practice (which, you know, that I can certainly, I respect that point of view)? Although there’s also been points made about the overall general philosophy of what is the military and for what reason is our United States military and what is their application. Because actually those are very different points. And if we are taking that higher ground that we oppose the military per se, then by extension, you should not be accepting United States government dollars to fund my tuition here and I should not be here. I mean, you can’t have it both ways. And obviously this decision that was made back in 2005 and then whatever year, I guess during the Vietnam war that it originally was made, you are all being hypocritical if you’re trying to have it both ways. So either you completely ban the military and its presence here, which again if that’s the decision that’s made, that’s the decision that’s made, or you have everybody here. But you can’t have some institutions in the military not be here like ROTC, but then have other, there’s about two or three dozen active duty officers across [the Department of] Defense being funded here right now at Columbia. So we can’t be here then if they can’t be here. It doesn’t make sense. It’s not coherent as a policy of the university. I’ll conclude by saying that serving in the army two thirds of all officers every year, their commission come through the university campuses. And for those of you who question the importance of universities in that role, I suggest you look at civil-military affairs and see the importance that that is for our democracy. Thanks. [Applause]
Ron Mazor: At this point our event’s concluded. We will be meeting again next Tuesday at seven-thirty in  Havemeyer Hall. If you would like to speak or haven’t had a chance to speak, please feel free to come then. Thank you very much and we look forward to seeing you next Tuesday.
END OF MEETING