Columns

Mayo ’13: The ROTC answer

By
Opinions Columnist
Monday, January 31, 2011

This past December, as the “lame duck” session of Congress rolled back the Clinton-era “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy regarding the service of gays and lesbians in the military, elite universities were encouraged to rethink campus bans on Reserve Officers’ Training Corps programs that resulted from reaction to the Vietnam War. Leading the pack, Harvard’s President Drew Faust declared her support for “Harvard’s full and formal recognition of ROTC.” While Harvard and many other schools have seized the moment to correct a problematic and insensible political statement to affirm their support for our armed forces, Brown has failed to follow suit. The delay to recognize ROTC on our campus suggests to the rest of the nation that Brown continues to place its impractical standard of political correctness above patriotic support for our military.

As the University and Undergraduate Council of Students begin to consider revising their ban on ROTC, it is imperative they understand the connotations of continuing the ban after the recent repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Without question, failing to support students who wish to serve our nation in combat after their education will represent an inexcusable aversion to the honorable institution that protects and defends us on a daily basis. Moreover, it effectively bars academically capable students from pursuing a route that would allow them to satisfy the financial requirements of an Ivy League education while serving our nation.

Now that the military lacks any type of official and concrete discriminatory policy, it is difficult to see why opponents of the ROTC program continue to reject its reinstatement. Indeed, when asked why they thought Brown refused to reinstate the ROTC program after the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal, many of my friends were hard-pressed to come up with a compelling reason. This is absolutely unacceptable and will continue to plague Brown’s image throughout the nation if we do not alter our course soon.

Prior to repeal, many opponents of ROTC rejected it on the grounds that acceptance of the program would connote endorsement of what many considered offensive discrimination against select sexual orientations. Others noted alleged “crimes against humanity” that somehow criminalize our armed forces more than those of other nations. Even then, the University was missing the point. Support for our armed forces is not a political statement. It is not the result or product of certain ideologies, or an all-encompassing endorsement of every decision the military makes. Most importantly, it is not an avenue by which a collection of the most respected academic institutions in our nation should seek to impose their standard of political correctness on others and snub those who support the overarching purpose and goals of the U.S. military.

Instead, support for our armed forces should transcend our ideological differences and unite us. While individual citizens and, in this case, students of Brown University might disagree with some of the military’s policies, our academic institutions should not be serving as a mouthpiece for dissidents. Rather, as major institutions within the most prosperous and free nation in the world, elite universities should save their political statements for other arenas and unite in a gesture of full support for our nation’s primary functional muscle abroad.

To those who hold deep-seated concerns over current wars the United States is fighting and supporting abroad, Brown’s acceptance of an ROTC program on campus will not be offensive and should be seen as nothing more than patriotic support for the defense of our nation. Indeed, the contention that opponents use to attack the proposal, which suggests that an ROTC program runs counter to campus culture, seems to contradict the sacred concept of diversity that Brown routinely heralds. Just as any conservative Protestant should respect groups on campus that promote lifestyles that run counter to her faith, so should an anti-war student be expected to respect her peers who wish to serve the military. By this analysis, the only choice that is consistent with Brown’s culture and celebration of diversity is to allow students who wish to serve our country the opportunity to do so.

It should be noted that this will require a certain level of intellectual maturity to realize where and when we should appropriately assert our opinions, and moreover, when, if ever, we should impose them on others. Unfortunately, there will always be those who lack the capability of making such a leap, but I have confidence that, in keeping with their own tradition of providing an impartial acceptance of all appropriate student pursuits, members of the University and the UCS have the fortitude to do what is right.

Brown’s recognition of ROTC and its consequent support for the United States’ military is not an appropriate arena in which to assert a certain political ideology at the expense of someone else’s ability to freely serve. As has only been made more evident after the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the persistence of elite universities like Brown in keeping ROTC programs off campus suggests a close-minded and self-serving approach to an issue that asks only what our school and its students can do for our country. In the spirit of patriotism and diversity, and for lack of any justifiable reason to do otherwise, Brown should reinstate the ROTC program on campus with all haste.

 

Heath Mayo ’13 is a political science and economics concentrator from Whitehouse, Texas. He can be reached at james_mayo@brown.edu.