This newspaper condemns two connected disappointments — one national, the other local. The first is the continued survival of the military’s discriminatory “don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT) policy, which our president has hypocritically declined to overturn. The second is the absence of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) at Yale. Both effectively prevent or hinder the ability of scores of citizens to serve their country, while limiting individual choice and expression: values that both the United States and Yale University rightly treasure.
According to a recent Pentagon report, 70 percent of troops believe that allowing gays to serve openly would have either a positive, mixed or no effect on their jobs. Yet President Obama has blocked a Ninth Circuit Court injunction that ruled the policy unconstitutional. In 1948, President Truman bypassed Congress, passing an executive order to racially desegregate the armed forces; today’s leaders seem to be of a different stock.
While fostering tacit homophobia, DADT incurs financial costs. In the last five years, over 3,000 servicemen and women have been expelled from the military for being gay. In the decade after the policy’s 1994 inception, discharges and subsequent replacements cost taxpayers over $364 million. To serve in the American armed forces is a great honor; it is sad and ironic that a military that sacrifices so much to defend our freedoms is unwilling to protect those same freedoms within its own ranks.
Earlier this week, Harvard President Drew Faust declared that, were DADT overturned, ROTC would be welcome. At Yale, the continued existence of DADT is an unfortunate obstacle to the rich set of choices and benefits that ROTC could bring to our campus.
Since Yale’s faculty banned ROTC in 1969, students who aspire to serve in the military have been forced to travel to the University of Connecticut. They earn no academic credit for their efforts. For talented students who wish to become military officers, including Katie Miller ’12, the openly gay transfer from West Point who announced this week that she hopes to return there, Yale is currently an undesirable option. Re-establishing ROTC as an official presence on campus would follow our finest traditions of liberal arts scholarship, which provides as many academic options as possible to a diverse spectrum of undergraduates. The choice to serve in any capacity should be promoted, not discouraged.
Unfortunately, a festering divide has grown between the military and our nation’s elite universities: DADT widens the gap and prevents broader opportunities for service, such as ROTC. To welcome and foster a group of troops-in-training would contribute to the rich diversity of our community. Yale should use its influence to lobby against DADT. It should also better support today’s distance-learning ROTC students and start laying the groundwork to officially bring the program to Yale in the near future, as public opinion and governmental resolve turns against the discriminatory policy.
This newspaper believes that an emphasis on choice, service and leadership distinguish and characterize the Yale spirit. As we walk through the Woolsey rotunda or past the World War I cenotaph in Beinecke Plaza, we are reminded of the depth of these commitments and their continuing relevance. If and when our leaders remember their own promises and end military homophobia, Yale should be ready and willing to bring back ROTC. We owe it to the students of today — and to the traditions of our past.