Why ROTC Must Go

by House Editorial | 4/15/94 5:00am

The Board of Trustees will decide at its meeting this weekend to bolster the College's Principle of Equal Opportunity, or undermine it. The current stand on the Reserve Officer Training Corps is mired in hypocrisy and needs resolution. In the winter of 1993 the Trustees delayed the decision about ROTC's future to allow the Clinton administration time to lift the military's ban on homosexuals. The Trustees cannot afford to wait any longer.

A decade ago the Board endorsed the current Principle of Equal Opportunity, which prohibits any College program or organization from discriminating against members of the Dartmouth community. The Board took a progressive stand for that time by including sexual orientation among the classifications by which the College pledges not to judge others. Even the state of New Hampshire has not yet passed legislation to include sexual orientation in its civil rights laws.

The Trustees took an equally progressive stance in September 1991 when they said they would discontinue Dartmouth's ROTC program if the U.S. Defense Department did not lift the military's ban on homosexuals. Last summer the U.S Government adopted a new policy, which allows homosexuals to serve in the military as long as they do not reveal their sexual orientation. But the new policy maintains unequal standards and fails to fulfill the Trustees' demands.

The Trustees should take a progressive stand once again and vote to eliminate ROTC.

Homosexuals can only participate in ROTC if they remain closeted, both within the program and in their personal lives. If a ROTC student engages in any activity deemed homosexual, he or she could be subject to dismissal from the program.

By forcing homosexuals to hide an inherent element of their identities, ROTC remains discriminatory. If the Trustees decide at their meeting to let ROTC continue, they would deny their commitment to homosexual rights and would insult Dartmouth's gay, lesbian and bisexual community.

Defenders of ROTC at the College say the moral issue is merely symbolic and is secondary to the real effects of its elimination - the loss of the program's financial benefits to students burdened with tuition costs among the highest in the nation. But tacit approval of ROTC's discriminatory practice fosters and perpetuates a homophobic climate on this campus. What some view as a symbolic stand against discrimination will have real effects: present and future students will know the administration does not tolerate homophobic policies in College programs. ROTC pays up to 80 percent of a cadet's tuition, but a price tag cannot be placed on the protection of civil rights. When the Trustees meet this weekend to discuss ROTC's future, they must remember the ideals underlying the Principle of Equal Opportunity, and prove their dedication to them.