Students and Faculty Oppose ROTC at Brown

Saturday, April 23, 2011


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A coalition of students, faculty, and community members rallied on Brown University's Main Green yesterday to protest the possible reinstitution of a Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) chapter at the school. The protest — organized by The Brown Coalition Against Special Privileges for ROTC (CASPR) — featured several speakers discussing their reasons for opposing the possible return of ROTC. Also present were speakers and representatives from Students for a Democratic Society, Anti-War Action, Gender Action, and emPower.

Its About Values

"This isn't about anti-war or pro-war, anti-military or pro-military politics," said Chris Gang '11, a political science concentrator at Brown and member of CASPR. "It's a question of what Brown, as a community, values."
Members of CASPR argue that reinstatement of ROTC violates the University's formal nondiscrimination policy. Despite the passing of the Don't Ask Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010 — a federal statute repealing a policy preventing openly gay, lesbian, and bisexual people from serving in the United States Armed Forces — the military still excludes transgender, genderqueer, and others with non-standard gender presentation from participation.

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According to Brown's Code of Conduct, the University "does not discriminate on the basis of... sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression in the administration of its educational policies, admission policies, scholarship or loan programs, or other school administered programs." The CASPR website claims that this military policy "makes ROTC ineligible to return to Brown" and that "reinstatement [of ROTC] would thus mean either that the Code of Conduct is meaningless or that Brown cares less about transgender discrimination than it does about discrimination against lesbians and gays."

"We have a nondiscrimination policy for a reason," continued Gang, "it's not something that we get to choose when we apply. If the administration ignores its policies prohibiting discrimination in order to bring ROTC to our campus, that's akin to saying that transgender people are less important than other minority groups. This action would completely devalue the nondiscrimination policy, telling the world that discrimination is OK at Brown."

Gay & Lesbian Community Adds Its Voice 

Myra Shays, President of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbian and Gays of Greater Providence, however, disagrees that reinstating ROTC would undercut Brown's support for the LGBT community.

"No one at Brown, LGBT or straight is required to join the ROTC. So no one is forced to subject him/herself to discrimination," she said in an email to GoLocalProv. "Some people will be philosophically offended. In the grand scheme of things, this rates far down on my list of worries."
CASPR also stands against ROTC based on "an undeniable culture of sexual violence" in the U.S. military that "would make Brown less safe." Their web page cites statistics revealing that the rate of sexual assault on women in the military is double that of the general population.

Furthermore, the coalition believes that bringing ROTC back to campus will compromise the University's institutional independence and academic standards. No other external organization is invited or allowed to set up a vocational training program on campus, regardless of what benefits it may provide to students.

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ROTC Removed in 1969

A faculty vote first removed the program in 1969 on the basis that it encroached upon faculty governance over instruction and that military training lacked inherent academic value. Members of the Coalition believe that the grounds for the 1969 decision remain unchanged.
CASPR and other ROTC opponents claim that reinstatement carries with it "an implicit endorsement and support of the military's actions" and make Brown "responsible for supporting problematic things that the military does now and in the future."

Most problematic, perhaps, is the irreversible nature of an affirmative decision. As a result of the 1994 Solomon Amendment, universities can no longer remove ROTC units from campus without risking their federal funding. Currently, Brown policy allows University students to participate in ROTC through the Providence College chapter. If, however, the University reopens a chapter of its own, ROTC will be there to stay.


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