This week, Yale students have been asked to respond to a survey regarding our opinions on bringing the Reserve Officer Training Corps back to Yale. The short, two-question survey was straightforward and took up less than a minute of my time. But it wasn’t until after I hit submit that I really thought about the questions.
First, we were asked whether or not we supported bringing back ROTC to campus, with the option of answering contingent upon the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” We were then asked whether or not we had ever thought about serving in the military.
My responses to these questions were automatic. Yes, I support bringing ROTC to campus as soon as DADT is repealed. Like many others here at Yale, I feel that it’s time to allow the nation’s best and brightest the opportunity to serve our country as so many Yalies have done before. One only needs to walk through Woolsey Hall to realize the sacrifices Yale students have made. And no, I had never thought about serving in the military — not necessarily because my interests lie in business, medicine or some other field, but because I am not allowed. As an openly gay man, I am barred from serving my country and thus I’ve never had the chance to consider it.
Yale, Harvard and other universities that don’t have ROTC programs on campus, regardless of why the Corps initially left, should let the status quo continue. According to the Yale admissions website, “Yale does not discriminate in admissions, educational programs, or employment against any individual on account of that individual’s sex, race, color, religion, age, handicap or national or ethnic origin; nor does Yale discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.” Programs sponsored and affiliated with the University should uphold these same values. As an educational program, ROTC would legally discriminate against LGBTQ members of our community. I understand that ROTC is legally allowed on campus (although it may be difficult to set up a program in an unsupportive environment), but Yale and peer institutions that pride themselves on diversity, equality and openness should not encourage discriminating programs to operate on campus.
The status quo of not having ROTC on campus, despite the fact that the original anger with the program stemmed from the Vietnam War, is presently justified. Nearly 1 in 6 male students and just over 8 percent of female students, according to statistics printed in the News in February, would be barred from the program, restricting not only the right to serve our country and represent Yale in leadership, but also access to the financial support tied to ROTC. The program is not only an extension of discrimination in the military, but it limits post-high-school-graduation options for a large number of college applicants, whether their interest is financially or career-motivated. Yale should not presently go out of its way to extend this.
I have no doubt that the Yalies who currently participate in ROTC at the University of New Haven are inconvenienced by the necessity of traveling to fulfill their obligations, and there are perhaps more students who want to participate, but as long as I and many of my peers remain stripped of the opportunity to serve our country, I cannot support bringing ROTC back to campus. We recently saw a glimmer of hope when DADT was ruled unconstitutional, and I cannot blame President Obama from taking his course of action in challenging the decision even though he supports repealing the archaic law himself. But he may have missed an opportunity. It will be many months before the courts can render a final decision. Even with the report on service members’ opinions, which will reveal that a majority of Americans in the armed forces have no problem serving alongside homosexual members, due to be released Dec. 1, Congress still may not repeal it themselves (perhaps especially after Tuesday’s election results). Nearly 75 percent of Americans feel that homosexuals should be able to serve in the military, but until we can, I find it useless to even consider bringing an organization so inconsistent with this University’s ideals to this campus.
Matt Williams is a sophomore in Berkeley College.