Repeal of DADT may return ROTC to Ivies
By Clare Coffey
Published on Friday, January 7, 2011
The Senate’s Dec. 18 repeal of the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy will have little effect on the Reserve Officers Training Corps program at Dartmouth, members of the organization interviewed by The Dartmouth said. Several other Ivy League institutions that denounced the ROTC program due to the discriminatory nature of “don’t ask don’t tell” may create units in the wake of the policy’s repeal, The New York Times reported. Although the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy has sparked debate over ROTC’s presence on college campuses, Aaron Cappelli ’12, a cadet in the program, said he sees little controversy surrounding ROTC at Dartmouth.
“When I say I’m in ROTC, people respond positively,” Cappelli said. “Some people say they didn’t know it was there, but nothing too negative. Very few people mention ‘don’t ask don’t tell’. I’m sure it dissuades some people, though.” Cappelli also said that he foresees few immediate changes that would result from the repeal.
“I don’t think Dartmouth ROTC has been seriously affected,” he said. “Our enrollment hasn’t significantly increased, but next year it could. It’ll be interesting to see,” he said.
Sargeant Major Levi Bennett, a Dartmouth ROTC instructor, echoed Cappelli’s sentiments.
“I don’t think the repeal is going to have an effect on ROTC at Dartmouth,” he said. “The college has been supportive of the ROTC program, and I don’t believe the repeal will affect enrollment.” Pam Misener, the Office of Pluralism and Leadership’s advisor to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning and allied students, said the repeal might spark more interest in the ROTC program and provide more career options for LGBTQA students.
“I’m thinking about future classes — young gay people who now have more career paths open to them,” she said.
The repeal could also start a fresh dialogue about ROTC on campus, Misener said.
“Their presence on campus has certainly been influenced by ‘don’t ask don’t tell,” she said. “Even if there aren’t lots of students standing in line to join, there will be a renewed conversation.”
The program has a controversial history on Dartmouth’s campus, as 80 students stormed and occupied Parkhurst in 1969 in an anti-ROTC protest, The Dartmouth previously reported. The program was subsequently forced to leave campus.
ROTC returned to Dartmouth in the 1980s with little controversy, according to the program’s website. The faculty voted unsuccessfully to eliminate the program in 1994 due to discrimination against homosexual service workers.
Several Ivy League campuses that previously banned the program due to conflicts between “don’t ask don’t tell” and the schools’ anti-discriminatory policies might reinstate ROTC as a result of the Senate’s repeal of the policy, according to The Times.
Columbia University and Harvard University’s presidents has both issued statements applauding the repeal, though neither have taken concrete steps towards bringing back ROTC, The Times reported.
“[The repeal] also effectively ends what has been a vexing problem for higher education, including at Columbia — given our desire to be open to our military, but not wanting to violate our own core principle against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation,” Columbia President Lee Bollinger wrote in a public statement in December following the Senate’s vote to end the policy. “We now have the opportunity for a new era in the relationship between universities and our military services.”
Harvard administrators and military officials will also work together to fully recognize ROTC programs on campus, Harvard President Drew Faust said in a December statement.
Yale University has already taken concrete steps to bring back the ROTC, according to a public statement from Yale President Richard Levin. Levin asked administrators to ascertain military officials’ interest in establishing a ROTC unit on campus, he said in the statement.
There are no immediate plans for administrators at Brown University to bring back ROTC, Sarah Kidwell, director of news and communications at Brown’s Office of Media Relations, said in an e-mail to The Dartmouth.
“President Ruth Simmons is forming a committee to consider how to respond to the repeal of the policy,” Kidwell said. “The committee, which will get underway at the beginning of the semester, will submit recommendations to the faculty and the administration regarding military recruitment and ROTC on campus.”
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, ROTC withdrew from Brown, Columbia, Harvard and Yale after the universities denied the program academic credit and faculty appointments. Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Cornell University have retained their ROTC programs, though Princeton and Cornell do not offer academic credit for participation, according to the schools’ ROTC websites.