SSQL gathers signatures to protest ROTC’s return

Stanford Students for Queer Liberation (SSQL) started an online petition last week to gain student support for efforts to block the reintroduction of ROTC to campus. The petition had gathered 116 signatures at the time of publication.

A formal letter to the Faculty Senate headlined the petition, outlining SSQL’s objection to ROTC on the grounds that the military continues to discriminate against transgender students. In the letter, SSQL argued that the return of ROTC would “constitute a violation of our very own nondiscrimination policy,” a policy that prohibits exclusion from campus programs and activities on the basis of gender identity.

Last year, the Faculty Senate formed the Ad Hoc Committee on ROTC and tasked it to investigate the potential return of the military to Stanford. The SSQL letter called for the Faculty Senate to “remain at status quo and declare support for transgender students’ identity.”

Mario Villaplana ’14 and Alok Vaid-Menon ’13, both active members of SSQL, authored the letter.

Though other campus groups such as National Marriage Boycott (NMB) endorsed the petition, SSQL is chiefly responsible for its rhetoric and for rallying students in support of its cause.

“We’re building momentum on this issue, trying to reach out to concerned groups and students,” said SSQL leader Janani Balasubramanian ’12. “This affects all of us who are invested in the maintenance of the non-discrimination clause.”

On the other side of the issue, a pro-ROTC coalition of students is contemplating authoring a counter-petition, but nothing official is currently circulating. Recent weeks have seen a surge in the number of people advocating for the military’s return to Stanford, including an endorsement from Professor Condoleezza Rice and Hoover fellow George Shultz, both of who are former Secretaries of State.

Some proponents of ROTC groups argue that barring transgender people from military service does not clearly violate Stanford’s non-discrimination clause. They claim that the clause only protects against unlawful discrimination, and that ROTC’s policy is by definition lawful.

Balasubramanian responded to these claims by stating that legality often comes down to a matter of semantics.

“It depends on which law you’re privileging,” Balasubramanian said. “We think that a reintroduction of ROTC would not be aligned with the way that Stanford has protected gender identity in the past, for instance in their efforts to provide sensitive housing and health care to all members of the community.”

Balasubramanian hopes SSQL’s petition, which confirms signers’ Stanford affiliation by requiring e-mail addresses, will help sway the Faculty Senate as the University decides whether or not to reinstate ROTC. Balasubramanian and Villaplana both said the ad hoc committee has been unclear regarding the date of the announcement and the degree to which it will take into account popular student opinion.

  • Jennifer

    The petition clearly doesn’t confirm Stanford affiliation. It would have taken you seconds to check that yourself, instead of blindly trusting someone from SSQL. Biased much?

    #115 and #114 are both “Torie Bates” and the last signator is tupac.

  • Mark

    Mr. Balasubramanian, exactly what would be illegal about bringing ROTC back to Stanford?

    *chirp* *chirp*

  • Queer Alum

    How tolerant is a typical Stanford ROTC cadet compared to the rest of the military? Would having more Stanford ROTC cadets be good or bad for queer liberation?

    These SSQL people give queers a bad rep. We’re not all this dumb. I suspect that they mostly just crave attention.

  • Mark

    This is a preemptive effort of SSQL to attempt to sway public opinion before the Spring elections, in which there is supposed to be (at least this was proposed) a student poll on the election ballot to see if the student body would support the return of ROTC.

  • Steve Ng

    “…a policy that prohibits exclusion from campus programs and activities on the basis of gender identity.”

    I just looked up the nondiscrimination policy (http://www.stanford.edu/dept/registrar/bulletin/4767.htm), and that is just blatantly false.

    The first line of the policy reads: “Stanford University admits qualified students of any race, color, national or ethnic origin, sex, age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, and gender identity to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the University”.

    The policy prohibits gender identity based exclusion from things like IHUM classes or the CS major, not things like the field hockey team or a sorority or ROTC.

    I could understand if the SSQL wanted the nondiscrimination policy to be amended to prohibit exclusion from every single activity based on gender identity, but right now it doesn’t. By the SSQL’s logic, sororities, fraternities, and varsity sports are all currently in violation of the nondiscrimination policy.

  • Gay in Larkin

    The repeal of DADT threw open the gates for queer liberation in the military. It’s ridiculous that they are working this hard to prevent Stanford homosexuals from joining the military and enacting change.

    Bear in mind that SSQL isn’t representative of Stanford’s LGBT population. The group barely has any members and is just a puppet for Stanford Says No to War. Most people at Stanford realize what a huge step forward DADT’s repeal is and that ROTC at Stanford would be beneficial for LGBT acceptance in the military.

  • Seriously?

    Obviously having ROTC at Stanford would be good for queer rights in the military.

    This witch-hunt by SSQL makes me think that they are really just anti-military. Part of that is probably because of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but the bulk of it is probably because to them the military represents the segment of society that looks down on them.

    Even after transgendered individuals are allowed in the military, Stanford Says No To War will conveniently start championing some other cause, e.g. illegal aliens who can’t join the military.

  • Robin Thomas

    SSQL is anti-military. They said at the town hall meeting that even if transgenders were allowed to serve in the military, they would continue to oppose ROTC.

  • LT

    “It’s ridiculous that they are working this hard to prevent Stanford homosexuals from joining the military and enacting change.”

    “Stanford homosexuals” can already join ROTC. Many people seem to conveniently forget that Stanford does host an ROTC program via cross-enrollment agreements with Cal, UC Santa Clara, and UCSF. Stanford removed ROTC from campus because of academic concerns. This point remains cogent today, as the ROTC curriculum courses offered on campus were not judged rigorous enough to be offered for credit. For more information, check out the contemporary log of the Faculty Senate decisions on ROTC:
    http://facultysenate.stanford.edu/Ad%20Hoc%20Committee%20on%20ROTC/LogonROTC2.pdf

    In the wake of the sobering study on trans discrimination (http://transequality.org/PDFs/NTDS_Report.pdf), it’s really saddening to see folks frame transgender discrimination as something that either doesn’t exist or as some sort of “canard” to keep ROTC off campus. Trans discrimination is very real and present in both the military *and* on campus.

    Interestingly, before the repeal of DADT, anti-discrimination rhetoric was common in the ROTC debate. Now that it’s “just” trans people, we see this shift to “discrimination is bad, but you’re just anti-military” or “discrimination is bad but just wait and it will change.” I suppose we never should have fought DADT and instead just waited for gays and lesbians in the military to quietly change the system from within.

    Finally, I’ll address the flawed argument that Stanford students are so liberal (although this forum and other Stanford publications suggest otherwise) that just letting ROTC touch our soil will change the military. I’ve not seen a single coherent argument that shows how Stanford’s tacit approval of a system that directly conflicts with our non-discrimination policy will influence the military to change said system. I *can* think of several campus activists currently working to enact change within the military. There may even be some ROTC cadets themselves doing this work. The change we are looking for is already beginning. However, until that change occurs, we should not just brush aside discrimination while putting the onus on students and cadets to change what’s wrong. Stanford needs to stand by its policies and its students. We can’t just ignore discrimination. We can’t just pass the buck.

    Your friendly neighborhood activist,
    LT

  • Seriously?

    @LT: I call BS. SSQL have been more vocal about ROTC than they were about Prop 8.

    How come they have never protested NCAA rules that discriminate against the transgendered?

    Why hasn’t the SSQL tried to get the military to change their policy or the APA to revise their list of mental illnesses?

    Because they are a puppet for Stanford Says No To War. They focus solely on some imaginary GI-Transgender-Jane instead of working to combat real gender identity discrimination, like my phone trying to autocorrect “transgender” to “transcend” or the synchronized swimming team barring biological males.

  • bad comparison

    “I suppose we never should have fought DADT and instead just waited for gays and lesbians in the military to quietly change the system from within.”

    Protesting the military’s trans policy is infinitely more realistic for gays in the military now than protesting DADT was for them before it was repealed. Use common sense.

    “…it’s really saddening to see folks frame transgender discrimination as something that either doesn’t exist or as some sort of “canard” to keep ROTC off campus.”

    I agree with you, but they are doing it in response to SSQL only complaining about ROTC after being influenced by Stanford Says No To War.

  • Alum

    Agree 100% with LT; those in favor of ROTC can’t stop downplaying the trans cause and then just say “you just don’t like the military,” a response which at best is offensive, at worst disgusting. I really hope that most of the people who post on these comments are not affiliated with Stanford, because I’d like to think that Stanford students are intelligent and sensitive enough to be above that.

  • Observer

    Alum, I like how you shoehorn everyone in favor of ROTC into one group and proceed to put words in their mouths and insult them.

    You are very narrow-minded and intolerant of others’ viewpoints.

  • Robin Thomas

    Seriously, Alum. It sounds like you’ve got some good arguments to make. I think it’s a shame that you’re letting your own arguments be undermined by your tendency to insult others outright.

    Sincerely,

    An “immature”, “presumptuous”, and “petty” student.

  • @ Gay in Larkin and Seriously?

    Where you got the notion that “they [SSQL] are a puppet for Stanford Says No To War” ? While representatives of Stanford Says No to War did come to SSQL meetings and ask for support and collaboration in opposing ROTC, decisions are not made by representatives of Stanford Says No to War and, to my knowledge, there is no overlap of leadership. SSQL emphasizes collaboration based on inherent intersectionality meaning that while they’ll work with groups like stanford says no to war, they also work with myriad other groups on campus combating all types of discrimination.

    While I won’t pretend to agree with SSQL’s stance on ROTC, it’s false to imply that the actions of the entire organization are somehow being controlled by Stanford Says No to War.

  • a combat veteran

    Watching this discussion play out, I’ve come to the conclusion that you people are so far off the mark about the nature of ROTC and the military that Stanford doesn’t deserve to get ROTC back on campus.

  • LT

    @Seriously?
    I usually try to keep out of counterproductive internet fights but…you must not have read my comment at all. You wrote: “They focus solely on some imaginary GI-Transgender-Jane instead of working to combat real gender identity discrimination, like my phone trying to autocorrect “transgender” to “transcend” or the synchronized swimming team barring biological males.”

    I directly addressed the foolishness of arguments that belittle or ignore trans discrimination yet that’s the only argument you seem capable of mustering. Realize this: trans folk are serving in the military as we speak, but they are closeted for fear of losing their jobs, just as gays and lesbians were before the repeal of DADT. I’ll direct you to The National Center for Transgender Equality (http://transequality.org/Issues/military.html) and the Transgender American Veterans Association (http://www.tavausa.org/) for more information on this issue.

    I hope that once you visit those websites, you will no longer conflate trans identities with “imaginary,” although I suspect from your screed about gender discrimination that you have already made up your mind.

    Now, here is the most important point. I can not claim to know what is in the hearts and minds of the folks at SSQL. However, you can’t say that SSQL is anti-military any more than I can say that pro-ROTC folks are anti-trans. These are not platforms that either group has taken and I think we can both agree that name-calling like that is just ignorant. So for your own good, you might want to stop. Recycling the same old arguments with increasingly offensive terms is not doing any favors for your side.

    @ bad comparison
    I’ll ask again how Stanford’s tacit approval of a system that directly conflicts with our non-discrimination policy will influence the military to change said system. While I share your view that positive changes in military policy may be easier with the politic climate that allowed for the repeal DADT, I think it’s naive to suggest that this climate will remain the same or that we can just pass the buck to gays and lesbians in the military. Issues like transphobia, biphobia, racism, class-ism, and sexism are as present in the queer community as in the non-queer community. It seems unrealistic to assume that people will spontaneously take up this cause, especially since very few Americans (gay or straight) know about trans issues to begin with. I, for one, knew very little about trans issues until last year’s Trans Awareness Week. If you want to raise awareness about this cause to help promote change, and one of the best ways to do it is to have Stanford stand by its non-discrimination policies. What would you suggest as a more powerful message to send against trans discrimination?

    Which brings me to my second point (also a response to seriously?):
    “I agree with you, but they are doing it in response to SSQL only complaining about ROTC after being influenced by Stanford Says No To War.”

    I’m ashamed to admit that I didn’t know about the extent of trans discrimination in the military until it was brought to my attention by SSNW. But does that make the issue any less important or real? Should my voice be discounted because I’m not a super-activist who knows about every issue in every field? It’s so interesting how ulterior motives can be read into something as simple as learning about a new issue. Come to think of it, those freshmen didn’t start talking about Plato until they started IHUM…why weren’t they talking about The Allegory of the Cave before? If they really knew anything about the classics, they would have been discussing Aristophanes and Euripedes already. There’s something verrrry suspicious about this…

    Your friendly neighborhood activist,
    LT

  • Colligan = Pied Piper

    http://www.stanforddaily.com/2011/01/05/dont-ask-repeal-jumpstarts-rotc-debate

    ‘Early in fall quarter, SSQL formed a subcommittee to investigate ROTC soon after Daniel Colligan, a graduate student in computer science and president of the group Stanford Says No to War, came to speak at one of their meetings. He presented his views on ROTC and asked the group if it would like to take a stance on the issue as well.

    “We had already been talking about the ROTC issue in light of DADT,” Balasubramanian said, “but he was definitely sort of a spark for us.”’

  • john

    combat veteran is the winner. Only one on this comment section who gets the big picture.

  • trans women

    @john: Is combat veteran a trans person? Doubtful. So he does not get the big picture. I, on the other hand, do get the big picture.