To the Editor:
In response to Wednesday’s letter from Andrew Sia ’12 (“Distance deters ROTC participation,” March 2), despite the goals of Students for ROTC to “remove any and all stigmas” attached to the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, it must be recalled that the facts of the matter are unequivocal — the military is an institution rife with formal and cultural discriminatory practices. One in three women in the military experience some form of sexual assault or rape, versus one in six amongst civilians. Recent charges filed against the Department of Defense argue that military culture promotes this environment and fails to investigate assaults. Furthermore, transgender individuals are prevented from joining the military, a form of discrimination which explicitly violates Brown’s non-discrimination policies.
Racial discrimination is also rampant. ABC in 2009 reported that while the vast majority of white officers perceive there to be less race discrimination in the military than among civilians, only approximately one-third of enlisted minorities agree. This is particularly concerning as whites are disproportionately represented among officers — 80 percent are white — and it is officers who set discrimination policies. These are the facts, not stigmas or prejudices.
Students for ROTC have few truths on their side. For example, while Sia has done an excellent job describing how one gets to Providence College by 6 a.m., the facts end there. There is no evidence of any sort that students would be more likely to join ROTC were there buses provided. Conjecture is not a valid reason to change Brown’s current policy, especially given the aforementioned issue of discrimination and other concerns bringing back ROTC would raise. What we do know is that few students have said that changes of this sort would encourage them to join. Sia is the first we’re familiar with, and as a member of Students for ROTC, his position ought to be taken with a grain of salt.
While Sia claims that Students for ROTC is not advocating for any special privileges, his claim that other extracurricular programs receive “freedom of access” is untrue. Student groups on campus are not provided with regular transportation services. Only Category III student groups — which receive this categorization based on group size and activity — have the opportunity to receive transport funding and must make budget requests from the Undergraduate Finance Board to fund transportation for conferences or other events on an individual basis. “Lack of adequate transportation” does not discourage students involved with Swearer Center for Public Service programs from participating in any of its various public service programs. While the center has a single van, students need to be authorized to use it, which few, even amongst its student coordinators, are.
Finally, the parallel Sia draws is misleading. ROTC is not, strictly speaking, an extracurricular activity. First and foremost it is vocational training. While we must acknowledge that military involvement is a form of national service, it is equally an employment opportunity. Brown does not, and should not, drive any students to their jobs. We already spend enough on unlimited free Rhode Island Public Transit Authority passes — which even Rhode Island’s public college students don’t receive.
Kevin Casto ’13