ROTC Marching Back onto Harvard’s Campus

rotc harvard

Photo Rose Lincoln /Harvard News Office

For decades, the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps was an unwelcome sight on Ivy League college campuses like Harvard University, in part because of its ban on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) servicemembers.

But in February, when the nation’s top two Defense officials — Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — advocated for a repeal of the 1993 “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT)” policy, universities like Brown, Columbia, and Harvard, to name a few, allowed ROTC to march its way back on campus.

For example, while Harvard’s ROTCs participate in the program at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), they are commissioned as officers in Harvard Yard upon graduation.

But many Harvard LGBTQ students are not pleased by the sight of ROTC on campus, and feel that the school should wait in having the program until DADT is actually repealed.

There is good reason for their distrust. Obama has come up empty- handed on too many campaign promises to us –  especially this one.

For example, soon after Obama’s inauguration in 2009. the LGBTQ community waited anxiously to hear that steps were being made to repeal DADT. But on June 8 of that year when the Supreme Court refused to review the Pentagon policy that prohibits LGBTQ servicemembers to serve openly in the military, Obama’s people added salt to the wounds of our LGBTQ servicemembers by stating in court papers that the ruling on DADT was correct because of the military’s legitimate concern of LGBTQ servicemembers endangering “unit cohesion”— a concept totally debunked by a 2002 study.

In March of this year, Gen. David Petraeus testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee stating that DADT should be repealed but expressed, nonetheless, his concern about the policy’s effects on recruitment and “unit cohesion.”

The argument about “unit cohesion” is deliberately designed to ban LGBTQ servicemembers from combat. The privacy rationale states that all service members have the right to maintain at least partial control over the exposure of their bodies and intimate bodily functions. In other words, heterosexual men deserve the right to control who sees their naked bodies. According to the privacy rationale argument, the “homosexual gaze” in same-sex nudity does more than disrupt “unit cohesion.” Its supposedly predatory nature expresses sexual yearning and desires for unwilling subjects that not only violates the civil rights of heterosexuals, but it also causes untoward psychological and emotional trauma to them.

However, the 2002 study titled “A Modest Proposal: Privacy as a Flawed Rationale for the Exclusion of Gays and Lesbians from the U.S. Military,” states that banning LGBTQ servicemembers would not preserve the privacy of its heterosexual servicemembers, but instead it would actually undermine heterosexual privacy because of its systematic invasion to maintain it. And, in order to maintain heterosexual privacy military inspectors would not only inquire about the sexual behaviors of its servicemembers, but it would also inquire into the sexual behaviors of their spouses, partners, friends and relatives.

But according to this study, heterosexuals already shower with known LGBTQ servicemembers, and very few heterosexuals are extremely uncomfortable with these men.

Although Obama promised the LGBTQ community during his administration that DADT will eventually be repealed, he has set no definite timeline to do so. Instead he has suggested the Pentagon complete its study first as the best course of action to overturn DADT, which is due in early December. However, many of us LGBTQ Americans feel Obama’s administration is once again stalling on taking a deliberate action against the policy.

For more than a decade now U.S. military recruiters have demanded their presence back on college campuses. The 1996 Solomon Amendment requires college campuses to offer full recruiting access to the military or else risk losing federal grants.

With Harvard receiving a sizable chunk of its annual budget from the federal government- approximately 15% of its yearly budget in federal grants go primarily to the medical school and the school of public health for medical and scientific research- the university has found itself between a rock and a hard place.

While it is not surprising that military recruiters and ROTC are finding their way back onto campuses, it is surprising that, in the midst of a war that needs every able body who wants to fight, the enlisting of our American patriots continues to include a debate about sexual orientation. Military readiness is not a heterosexual calling. And even Charles Moskos, the chief architect of “DADT,” has said that the policy should be suspended.

irene-headshot.jpgIf the Pentagon believes after it completes its study this December that servicemembers who are LBGTQ endanger “unit cohesion” it will only be maintaining a policy of segregation, an argument eerily reminiscent of the one the military used before it was forced to racially integrate its ranks.

However, the greatest disappointment to our LGBTQ servicemembers will not be that ROTCs are marching their way back onto college campuses with DADT upheld. But rather our government took no action on our behalf.

Rev. Irene Monroe

Published by the LA Progressive on April 29, 2010
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
About Rev. Irene Monroe

Rev. Irene Monroe is a Ford Fellow and doctoral candidate at Harvard Divinity School. One of Monroe’s outreach ministries is the several religion columns she writes - “The Religion Thang,” for In Newsweekly, the largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender newspaper that circulates widely throughout New England, “Faith Matters” for The Advocate Magazine, a national gay & lesbian magazine, and “Queer Take,” for The Witness, a progressive Episcopalian journal. Her writings have also appeared in Boston Herald and in the Boston Globe. Her award-winning essay, “Louis Farrakhan’s Ministry of Misogyny and Homophobia”, was greeted with critical acclaim.

Monroe states that her “columns are an interdisciplinary approach drawing on critical race theory, African American , queer and religious studies. As an religion columnist I try to inform the public of the role religion plays in discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. Because homophobia is both a hatred of the “other ” and it’s usually acted upon ‘in the name of religion,” by reporting religion in the news I aim to highlight how religious intolerance and fundamentalism not only shatters the goal of American democracy, but also aids in perpetuating other forms of oppression such as racism, sexism, classism and anti-Semitism.”