September 26, 2008
Bollinger doesn't get it
Or maybe he does -- and he just doesn't care. Here he is on the subject of Columbia ROTC:
In 2005, the University Senate voted overwhelmingly against formally inviting ROTC onto campus. Senate members may have had a variety of reasons for their votes, but the record and official reports make it reasonably clear that the predominant reason was one of adhering to a core principle of the University: that we will not have programs on the campus that discriminate against students on the basis of such categories as race, gender, military veteran status, or sexual orientation. Under the current "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy of the Defense Department, openly gay and lesbian students could or would be excluded from participating in ROTC activities. That is inconsistent with the fundamental values of the University. A number of our peer institutions have taken a similar position.
That's from an email he sent out to the whole campus yesterday; it's his response to the fact that at a recent campus forum on service, both presidential candidates expressed their opinion that Columbia is wrong to continue banning ROTC from campus. The statements of Senators Obama and McCain drew widespread media attention, and even led to staff editorials at the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal echoing their position that it's really time to stop using students as pawns in campus-based protests against DADT.
The Columbia community was energized by all of this. Today the University Senate meets to discuss ROTC, and students are meeting to decide whether they should seek to restore naval ROTC to campus.
Bollinger's email looks like a pre-emptive strike against any such effort. He argues against ROTC--and he bends the truth to do it when he describes DADT as a "policy of the Defense Department." I've said it before and I will say it again: DADT is the creation of Congress, not the military; students, faculty, and administrators should feel free to protest it, but they ought to aim their protests in the right direction. It is time to end DADT; the majority of Americans want to see it repealed; even major military figures are speaking out about it now. It's wrong--and quite possibly a problem, vis a vis the Solomon Amendment, which, in the fine print, covers ROTC as well as military recruiters--for Bollinger to announce that Columbia is barring ROTC from campus for political reasons.
Is Bollinger ignorant? Is he wilfully obfuscating? Whatever he's doing, he's not being principled. Still, it's instructive to see such an explicit statement of how much more institutional political posturing matters than students' rights to choose their activities, their service, their career paths, and their beliefs for themselves. Leopards, spots.
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Bollinger's not really wrong about DOD policy. In 1981, the DOD passed DOD Directive 1332.14, which banned homosexuals from military service. The policy is discriminatory, flat out.
Where he's wrong is that he's opposing DADT, which was a compromise that actually advanced, however clumsily, the interests of homosexuals interested in military service. DADT is enlightened compared to 1332.13.
Columbia's non-discrimination policy lists "military status" as a protected category, not "military veteran status".
I'm pretty much with Erin on this one. Not so much because ROTC bans are unfair to students (ROTC bans only disadvantage straight students, in the same way an Aryan Nation ban would only disadvantage white students) but because bigotry is best fought in the open. Sunshine is the best disinfectant and all that. My campus doesn't have ROTC, but we do have military recruiters now and then, and when they show up I like to give 'em hell. Sometimes when they set up a table in the student union I set up a table right next door and hand out little fliers making the case that George Bush is a war criminal, or pointing out that gay people serve openly in the Israeli Defense Forces without compromising missions or reducing morale. I ask the recruiters loudly why American soldiers are so much more bigoted and insecure than Israeli soldiers. Is it because they lost Vietnam to a bunch of peasants? Is it because they can't find Osama bin Laden? Is it some other kind of, um, performance anxiety?
As for DADT, I ask why they just don't kick out the homophobic bigots instead of the homosexuals. I remind the recruiters of what the ancient Greeks thought about male lovers as soldiers. The students start to crowd around, some smiling and some glowering, and (perhaps because they're not in a classroom) some of them actually seem to learn something.
At campuses that have an ROTC unit offering fluffy classes, it would be great for someone to call 'em on it, to challenge the instructors to teach appropriately rigorous units not only on orienteering and such but also on the Geneva Conventions, on jus in bello and jus ad bellum as they apply to asymmetrical warfare, on what went wrong at Abu Ghraib, and on the history of U.S. military invasions of Nicaragua.
As they say on Star Trek, engage! It's fun and it livens up the campus. And it probably has more impact than any ban.
FWIW, I chuckled when I looked up DOD Directive 1332.14 and read that a soldier can be kicked out for having “married or attempted to marry a person known to be of the same biological sex...unless there are further findings that the member is not a homosexual or bisexual and that the purpose of the marriage or attempt was the avoidance or termination of military service.” Hey Sis--would you loan me your wedding dress?
Eveningsun: "My campus doesnt have ROTC, but we do have military recruiters now and then, and when they show up I like to give 'em hell."
I agree that's a good reason for the ROTC to come back to Columbia. The spirited discussions you're talking about will be MUCH more fun and interesting when the military people on the other side of them are also Columbia students. Of course all ROTC instructors are college graduates, many by now are war veterans, and many of them have Masters degrees or better. I'm sure both Columbia ROTC cadets and their instructors will also have fun while responding to their classmates in a manner reflecting their Ivy League military pedigrees.
Evening Sun exhibits all the shameless anti-military bigotry of the hard Left that cannot restrain its puerile itch to taunt and harass those who've put themselves in mortal danger while in military service. In the face of such ignorant abuse, "Non ragiam' di lor', ma guarda e passa . . ."
A little name-calling, a touch of erudition, and that's it? At least when I engage recruiters I'm not so rude as to speak to everyone else as if the recruiters weren't there.
And the recruiters themselves never seem to think I'm dissing them. In fact they often seem to enjoy my "ignorant abuse." Sometimes they wind up agreeing with me. And I suspect their sensibilities tend more toward South Park than Dante.