After the Dec. 22 repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” — a policy that prohibited gay or lesbian from serving openly in the armed forces — schools across the Ivy League are reconsidering their four-decade-old bans on the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps participation on their campuses.
As the only Ivy that hosts all three main ROTC chapters — Army, Naval and Air Force — Cornell never banned the ROTC program despite prevailing anti-Vietnam sentiment among higher education institutions from the late 1960s to early 1970s. As a land-grant institution, the University would lose all public funding from such a move.
With the repeal of DADT, ROTC no longer contradicts Cornell’s Prohibited Discrimination Policy.
Representatives of the University Counsel’s office were not available to comment on the changing legal environment.
Instead, the new dynamic will be the emergence of a possible relationship between the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community and the ROTC program, according to Lt. Colonel Stephen Alexander, professor of military science and head of the Cornell Army ROTC program. Alexander acknowledged that he would be receptive to LGBT cadets serving in Cornell ROTC.
“Support for LGBT kids [in ROTC] needs to be developed over time. It’s breaking out over time and we need to develop new policies,” Alexander said. “We’re down here waiting for the [DADT] implementation plan that’s supposed to come out in February.”
Matt Carcella, director of the LGBT resource center explained the gay community’s new opportunity to reach out to Cornell ROTC.
“I would like to see ROTC reach out to me and the LGBT resource center,” Carcella said. “Most likely in the near-future, I will contact them.”
Due to the discriminatory nature of DADT, it was previously impossible to have a dialogue, Carcella said.
The policy remains on the books until military leaders certify that repeal will not affect combat readiness.
“Ever since the repeal of DADT, LGBT service members, whether they’re cadets on campus or not … have been very wary of coming out. I think people are moving cautiously and don’t want to put themselves in a situation where the policy could be reenacted,” Carcella added.
Matt Danzer ’12, the LGBTQ S.A. Rep. anticipated an outreach on both sides of the fence.
“With the repeal of the DADT policy I hope that a new relationship will emerge before the LGBT and ROTC communities,” Danzer said. “But a lot of the relationship that will form between the ROTC and LGBT communities will take place behind the scenes.”
Program Status at Other Ivies
Brown, Columbia, Harvard and Yale currently bar ROTC from operating on-campus and students at these schools receive no academic credit for coursework completed elsewhere. Of the remaining four Ivy League institutions, only Cornell and University of Pennsylvania offer credit for certain military classes; Dartmouth and Princeton host training programs, but classes are not accredited towards graduation.
Columbia withdrew recognition of ROTC in 1969, so cadets have to travel to Fordham University or Manhattan College to participate in the nearest program, according to the university’s student organization website. A University Senate vote in 2005 and a student referendum in 2008 to bring back ROTC have both failed.
Since the DADT repeal was signed into law, the Student Affairs Committee at Columbia announced a Task Force on Military Engagement to explore the possibility of bringing ROTC back. University Senator Ron Mazor ’09, J.D. ’12, chair of the new Task Force, said the organization will gather information through surveys and hearings, and report back to the University Senate, Columbia’s policy legislative body, in March.
“From what I understand, [the past failed efforts] were mainly caused by ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’” Mazor said. “Since the main focus of discussions were based off DADT, [my] understanding is that if the … policy was to change, that would be a reason to reexamine the issue.”
One Columbia student government representative, Jose Robledo ’12, an ROTC candidate and veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2003 to 2006, thinks the program’s revival goes beyond the principle of equal treatment.
“Ever since the the 70s … there has been a decline of military involvement at university across the country,” Robledo said. “There needs to be a re-engagement of communities [with the military] … so reexamining ROTC at Columbia goes beyond just the university … it will serve the entire city.”
At Brown–which phased out the military training program in 1971-72–the original decision to drop ROTC was “centered on academic issues,” according to an e-mail statement from Sarah Kidwell, director of news and communications.
The university intends to conduct a review to visit the question of inviting ROTC back to campus.
“President Ruth Simmons is forming a committee to consider how to respond to the repeal of [‘don’t ask, don’t tell’] … [and the committee] will submit recommendations to the faculty and the administration,” Kidwell said.
At Harvard, President Drew Faust has been an active advocate of repealing DADT and formally endorsed the return of ROTC after the repeal was signed into law, according to The Harvard Crimson.
However, the Crimson also reported on Nov. 19 that the military program’s return is, “highly uncertain due to low levels of enrollment, limited Pentagon funding, and logistical hurdles.”
Concurrently, discussions at Yale exude signs that ROTC reestablishment is more likely.
According to Yale Daily News, Yale College Council found that almost 100 students are interested in joining the candidate training program if it was on campus. The Daily News also reported that President Richard Levin had positive talks with U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates to establish an ROTC unit.