Widgets Magazine

Constitutional Council rules in favor of ROTC advisory bill

The Constitutional Council ruled in favor of the respondents in the case Vaid-Menon v. Cardona late Saturday afternoon. As a result, the advisory referendum bill authored by ASSU President Angelina Cardona ’11 posing a non-binding question to the student body regarding support for ROTC will  remain on the spring elections ballot.

Deliberations lasted for an hour, with four of the five members of the Council involved in discussion. The Council debated both parties’ objections, witness statements and submitted evidence. Much of the debate centered around questions of the potential discriminatory nature of the bill versus placing restrictions on free speech.

The Council also agreed that their jurisdiction was over the intent of the bill, not of the potential effects. They explicitly ruled that the bill is not discriminatory.

The Council voted 4-0 in favor of the constitutionality of the bill, after Council member Brianna Pang ’13, who is also a member of The Daily staff, recused herself from the proceedings. Neither Vaid-Menon nor Cardona was present for the announcement of the decision.

Check back this weekend for continued coverage of the case.

-Kate Abbott

  • norotc

    While I agree it’s probably useless to challenge it on constitutional grounds, I really don’t think it should be on the ballot. Why? Because the committee on ROTC and/or faculty senate might be tempted to use it as evidence in favor of ROTC. It simply shouldn’t be evidence: no matter how many students want it back, the majority shouldn’t decide the rights and privileges of the few (here, trans students). While it’s non-binding, it might have influence on the final decision.

    I really hope Stanford does NOT follow Harvard’s lead in reinstating ROTC.

  • Wow reason prevails

    Maybe the SSQL/WBC will bother someone else now.

  • Sarah

    No one should be able to vote on the civil rights of others – period. Advisory or not. We would not have put an advisory question to the ballot as to whether we should bring in a whites-only set of restrooms. (Then again, ROTC is only one of the (potential) institutions on this campus that has unfair practices.)

  • Good call

    The council ruled in the right direction, good job!

  • @Wow reason prevails

    I assume you’re the same person who posted a comment elsewhere comparing SSQL to the Westboro Baptist Church. You are an idiot if you think that SSQL is anything like WBC, in ideology or in tactics.

  • @@Wow reason prevails

    Please don’t call me an idiot.

    SSQL protests ROTC, the WBC protests dead soldiers and Marines. SSQL uses bogus legal complaints to try to stifle free speech and to protest ROTC. The WBC uses real legal arguments to defend their behavior.

  • Stop conflating this

    It annoys me how many leaps of faith we take when discussing this issue. The actual question being asked is about people’s personal opinions of ROTC returning to campus… but whenever we discuss this issue, we somehow conflate the issue all the way to “voting on trans rights” or “putting trans rights on the ballot,” as if that’s actually the question being asked. It’s not. We are asked about ROTC, and everything else is empty rhetoric on top of that.

    When we frame the issue as one of ROTC vs. trans rights, we have to automatically accept the argument that ROTC unjustly discriminates against transgendered individuals, AND that the discrimination that ROTC students encounter violates a fundamental “right,” AND that returning ROTC to campus impacts those students in a significantly different way than it would if ROTC does not return to campus. All of these things are far from proven. Of course ROTC discriminates (in the neutral sense of selecting differently); is that discrimination unjust? (Not illegal, not against some policy, but unjust?) Does not letting trans students become commissioned officers in the ROTC violate one of their rights? Which one? Does returning ROTC to campus somehow violate that “right” more? The trans community (actually, let’s be honest here. SSQL and Alok, not the trans community) has run away just assuming that all of these things are proven connections, and acts as if they are the ONLY things that matter.

    In fact, I can see equally valid analogues everywhere. We might as well say that this is a question of military rights vs. civilian rights, or that this asks voters to weigh the merits of a military lifestyle choice vs. a queer one. We might as well say that this question asks students to balance the rights of the military-industrial complex with the individual rights of citizens, or that this asks our opinions on nuclear missiles vs. gay pride parades. Hell, we may as well say that this ballot question asks us to declare ourselves as Republican or Democrat, given the traditionally close connections between those political parties and the sides of this argument.

    To frame this issue as ONLY being about military vs. transgendered people ignores thousands of other relevant arguments, and does a disservice to the debate as a whole. I’m happy that this question is going towards the ballot, and I look forward to seeing more intelligent discourse that centers around all the aspects of ROTC – not just the one-sided, demagogic attacks levied by SSQL.

  • King Nine

    Stanford University has a long rap sheet of active discrimination itself. Although those practices are cloaked in agenda driven, affirmative action type guises, they define discrimination. I suppose if it suits the purpose it’s ok, if that’s your thing. The military , from my experience, is the least discriminatory organization I’ve ever been associated with, Stanford however is not. How many examples do you want? I can start with the admission policies, continue with financial aid and go on from there.

  • norotc

    @Wow reason prevails

    Yeah, pretty sure everyone thinks it’s absurd to compare SSQL to WBC. WBC goes around saying things like “God Hates Fags” (does SSQL say “Stanford hates the military”? No; it says it’s discriminatory); they are going around picketing people’s funerals; and so on. SSQL is attempting to stop a discriminatory institution from coming to campus, which is a haven of freedom and personal rights. That you would even compare the two is insulting.

    I don’t think it’s too far off to call you an idiot.

    @Stop conflating this

    “The actual question being asked is about people’s personal opinions of ROTC returning to campus… but whenever we discuss this issue, we somehow conflate the issue all the way to “voting on trans rights””

    If you read closely, I admitted above that it’s nonbinding (and thus only an opinion poll). The problem, as I stated, is that the faculty senate would be tempted to use majority student opinion in their decision. Ask yourself: if the results of the poll are to have no role in the decision made, what is the purpose of the poll itself? What do we gain from knowing what portion of the students care to have it back?

    You say not to conflate the issue, but then you extrapolate on to this: “We might as well say that this question asks students to balance the rights of the military-industrial complex with the individual rights of citizens, or that this asks our opinions on nuclear missiles vs. gay pride parades” — you are one of a kind, sir.

    The fact that you think there’s an actual question of whether it’s unjust speaks to your knowledge and disposition on this issue.

    @King Nine

    “I can start with the admission policies, continue with financial aid and go on from there.”

    I bet you’re one of those students who looks down on his/her minority classmates, assuming they are at Stanford because of AA and are thus unqualified, etc.

    Please, tell us about Stanford’s discriminatory policies outside of admissions’ affirmative action, which I’m certain you know very little about (in fact, most students completely misunderstand AA and what is actually happening there. Hint: AA has almost nothing to do with race).

  • Stop conflating this

    @norotc:
    “The fact that you think there’s an actual question of whether it’s unjust speaks to your knowledge and disposition on this issue.”

    You’re right, it does. The fact that you blindly accept those “facts” speaks volumes as to yours. Convince me with reason and logic, not shouting and insinuations that I’m uneducated and discriminatory because I don’t support your side.

    Toward your point that I provided extreme examples, that was exactly the idea. I used those to show that there’s no good reason to conflate anything. I’m advocating reducing this issue to the actual impact, until we can justifiably move beyond those. We can’t until someone actually provides that argument, and SSQL et al. have not. Currently the argument is a bunch of people yelling “trans people can’t serve in the military,” as if that proves anything about whether ROTC provides a beneficial educational experience at Stanford University.

    In fact, let me make a prediction: the ROTC question will go on the ballot, and SSQL will protest it every day in White Plaza. They’ll make the same tired, irrelevant arguments as they do right now, and will wonder why they can’t reach out to the average voter to “educate” them about the issue (i.e., with their side’s propaganda). Their normal modus operandi will be to make a few arguments about transgender people not being able to serve, then when people ask why those arguments matter about an educational experience at Stanford, they will drop that line of argument and start making generally anti-military comments because they believe in a “radical queer” political framework (remember that op-ed?)

    Following that, ROTC will “win” on the ballot, something like 60-70% in favor and 30% against. SSQL will be so within their own victim complex that they will continue to write angry op-eds in the paper about how their classmates are discriminating against them, never asking or considering the roots of their argument or WHY students have already rejected their line of weak argumentation. The ad hoc committee will report in favor of ROTC, which will be accepted by the Faculty Senate, and will promptly be villified by the same 20 or so people who are stuck in their own worldview and moral superiority.

    After all that, ROTC will not return to campus for at least two years, because the military won’t find it useful.

    I’ll bet you a beer at Treehouse, norotc.

  • @stop conflating this

    Excellent responses to “norotc.”

  • @ the above

    Stop congratulating your own post.

    I think you have shown that you have a lot of extreme bias against SSQL. I haven’t seen anyone who’s against ROTC because of trans rights ever back down because someone asks “why those arguments matter about an educational experience at Stanford.” It’s pretty self-evident that discriminatory policies, especially ones that fly directly in the face of Stanford’s nondiscrimination policy, are ample reason for not reinstating ROTC.

    Their point, which seems rather obvious, is that it doesn’t matter “whether ROTC provides a beneficial educational experience at Stanford University.” It’s discriminatory; therefore it must go. They’re not going to support an institution, no matter how beneficial, that discriminates against trans people. IMO, I think you’d be hard-pressed to show that ROTC does add some concrete benefit to the quality of Stanford. The burden of evidence is on *you*, since you support the return of the program, to show that it does add educational benefit.

    SSQL, even though I don’t agree with all their tactics (like trying to stop the ballot), has provided a concrete reason for not wanting ROTC back, and they have Stanford’s nondiscrimination policy to support it. Based on the above, it seems *you* aren’t “asking or considering the roots of [your] argument or WHY students have already rejected [your] line of weak argumentation.”

    I predict that the Faculty Senate will ultimately vote down ROTC, people like you will continue to scream that Stanford’s losing out on so much value (what value?), yelling about them damned liberals with “radical queer” ideas stopping students from “changing the military from the inside,” and calling for federal money cuts to Stanford.

    For the record, I don’t champion trans rights; I support their point of view, but it’s irrelevant to mine, because I don’t think that ROTC should be on Stanford’s campus at all, ever, regardless of its policies. Trans students have a different view, but I’m anti-military and anti-ROTC. Those are my views; they are close to me, they are not changing (I’ve tried), and they are mine. I’ll thank you to allow me to have them. You’re free to have yours. (Of course, this different from our current debate on whether trans students have a valid argument.)

  • @@ the above

    You are annoying. You were IHUM kid.

  • @@@the above

    I never took IHUM; I’m a transfer student.

    Good response, at any rate.

  • Re: Anti-Military Stance

    @@@above:
    Not having ROTC also discriminates against veterans and the students currently doing ROTC. I see NO reason why we can’t have both SSQL and ROTC. SSQL is clearly discriminating against the military affiliated students. We have other organizations that discriminate too, Frats, Sororities, religious organizations, etc.

    I see no reason why we can’t have the Hoover Institution and Condi, etc. but we can’t have the soldiers. Its elitist to say “We are happy to have the policy makers who send ROTC into war, but we can’t have ROTC.” And by the way, before you say “Oh, well, I don’t want Hoover here either,” I will take a moment to remind you that any policy maker who has served under any administration who makes military decisions shouldn’t be allowed here if ROTC is not allowed here. Any organization that purports to be responsible for influencing the government in the broad sense is responsible for our actions abroad. Civilians making the decisions that send the military to various places are JUST AS responsible for the actions of the military, if not more so.

    You can be anti-military, but I suggest you transfer to somewhere that isn’t getting defense funding.

  • Sarah

    Students in the military are NOT being discriminated against – they are free, and have always been free, to participate in the ROTC program at other schools. No trans student can participate in the ROTC anywhere because of the military’s discriminatory policies. Stanford also has an extremely liberal student leave of absence policy that goes above and beyond to protect those students who decide to join the military during their years here. Stanford also compensates current ROTC students for travel to other ROTC programs. Stanford is not discriminating against military-affiliated students.

    I agree that we have other organizations that discriminate. That is NOT an excuse to sponsor more of those programs.

  • @Re: Anti-Military Stance

    “Not having ROTC also discriminates against veterans and the students currently doing ROTC. ”

    That makes no sense, because the absence of something cannot be discriminatory (something which does not exist cannot, by definition, engage in the act of discriminating). But you didn’t address the other point – that it discriminates if it is present. What then? Are you okay with ROTC discriminating, even though it’s against a group that is explicitly protected under the University nondiscrimination policy? At best veterans are implicitly “protected” through other clauses, but clearly an explicitly stated group would take precedence over an implicitly stated one. Also, students doing ROTC aren’t “discriminated” against (they might be if say ROTC students were not allowed to eat in the dining halls, for whatever absurd reason); they have ROTC programs that they can, and do, participate in. You don’t seem to grasp the concept of “discrimination” well.

    Yes, there are organizations that discriminate, but not based on the protected statuses outlined in the nondiscrimination policy. Frats and sororities discriminate, in a general sense of the word (as in, to distinguish), based on gender; but they are segregated, not discriminatory. (There is no “ROTC for trans people.” Not that it would be valid if there was, since that screams “separate but equal.”)

    I have no idea what your point is with Hoover in this discussion. Condi might be implicated in some of the decisions, and many people protested her return. But that is neither here nor there, because we are not talking about individuals, and a discussion of discriminatory institutions or programs does not lend itself to extrapolation to individuals. It is not logical to make that leap; you’re basically making a slippery slope argument, which is a fallacy.

    “You can be anti-military, but I suggest you transfer to somewhere that isn’t getting defense funding.”

    I suggest you transfer somewhere that tolerates and supports ROTC. See what I did there?

    By the way, the fact that Stanford gets defense funding is pretty irrelevant here. For one, the only defense funding that Stanford gets is for research, which has no effect on me or my education; it does not support the general university (in the same way that state funding supports public schools, which seems to be the implicit analogy you’re making). For another, defense funding has been on a national decline, and Stanford, among others, have had to look to other sources of funding to conduct research. But this too is immaterial, for this reason: the DOD gives Stanford some research money in return for discoveries and products that the DOD can use. The relationship between the two is not, as you imply, one of benevolence and generosity, where the DOD gives Stanford, out of good will, vast funding to conduct research. As said, it’s giving Stanford that research money with the expectation of getting a return on its investment. Thus the DOD needs Stanford’s research as much as Stanford’s research needs DOD funding (though, in the grand scheme of things, both would do fine without the other, but the DOD would be sorely missing out on a lot of amazing, patentable, useful products that come out of the innovation/research powerhouse that is Stanford). So the DOD doesn’t give a damn whether Stanford supports or reinstates ROTC. I dare the DOD to pull funding to Stanford, especially for something neither really cares about.

  • Robin Thomas

    Two quick reminders:

    1) The military itself doesn’t have the power to change the policy regarding transgender servicepeople. Only Congress has that power.

    2) Transgender students could still take all classes offered through the ROTC program.

    …not to say that this somehow means ROTC doesn’t discriminate against transgendered people, because it of course does. But I think they’re important things to remember.

  • Mark

    Also Dr. Thomas, the head of the Ad-Hoc committee, already said that the results of this ballot is unlikely to have any effect on their recommendations. (This is because the vote is so close to the recommendation deadline.)

  • @Sarah

    If Stanford banned all queer related groups and said, “You can still participate in these sorts of groups off campus,” that would be discriminatory.

  • @@Sarah

    You really don’t understand how discrimination works. Do those queer groups discriminate against other groups? No. They welcome, with open arms, straight people. Anyone can join the fun. But ROTC is not like that. It discriminates against a group, namely the trans group. Is this starting to make sense? Do I need to explain it better?

  • @Sarah

    In previous decades, establishments that allowed African-Americans inside but required them to use freight elevators still discriminated.

    You are very narrow-minded and ignorant. You don’t have to expressly ban a certain group to discriminate.