A diverse ROTC

Yesterday’s article (“An unjust ROTC,” Oct. 2) argued that ROTC’s exclusion of transgender individuals should be a reason to remove military training from campus.

It could not have been more wrong. Having a military presence on campus adds a commitment to diversity that is distinct from the rest of Yale. President Peter Salovey, in his freshman address, encouraged new Yalies to have “uncomfortable conversations” about their differences in socioeconomic standing. The truth is, Salovey cannot force suitemates to have uncomfortable conversations. ROTC requires them.

It is almost certain that every midshipman and cadet will, during their military careers, encounter superiors and subordinates with different backgrounds. Their job is to figure out how to bridge divides in order to create an effective force. It does not much matter if a superior officer has a vastly different perspective than his or her subordinate — the officer is duty-bound to treat subordinates fairly, and subordinates are required to follow superiors’ orders. Finding some common ground is necessary.

Removing ROTC from Yale — committing the same mistake made during the Vietnam era — would be counter-productive to the stated goal of encouraging diversity. When liberal-minded Yalies say they want to see the military allow transgender servicemembers, what they really mean is that they want to see a military that more accurately reflects their values and the values of the University.

If they want more members of the military to share their opinions, they should look in the mirror. ROTC — and the eventual officer corps — is as diverse as the students who elect to sign up. Join ROTC, become officers and affect policy. Change comes from within, not without.

Diversity is not a buzzword for the military. A full third of active duty personnel identify as racial minorities. Almost all officers have college degrees, while many enlisted personnel do not. And none of these statistics take into account servicemembers’ greatly varying political outlooks and personalities.

If Yale wants to shift a national conversation about diversity or influence the military to change its policies, it should do so by showing the nation how the University is able to engage with a diverse military — and through engagement, perhaps change it.

Sam Cohen

Oct. 3

The author is a junior in Calhoun College. This letter expresses the author’s personal views only and not the views of Yale NROTC, the Department of Defense or any other entity.