Widgets Magazine


Op-Ed: Repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Does Not End Military Discrimination

Forty years after Stanford University’s phase-out of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC), based on mass protest, punitive clauses in student contracts and concerns about the academic compatibility of its courses, a Stanford University Faculty Senate ad hoc committee is investigating the possibility of reintroducing ROTC to the University, pursuant to the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” (DADT) the U.S. military policy mandating the discharge of service members known (or discovered) to be homosexual. The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ordered a stay on implementing DADT’s repeal, leaving the issue in legal limbo.

In reading the available information on DADT for Stanford University, the proposal’s sponsors apparently have little interest in the outcome of DADT and provide no material link between the repeal of DADT and the reinstatement of ROTC in the actual proposal. From the outset, the implication that ROTC would be reinstated on the condition that DADT is repealed is patently false.

In fact, in the Senate minutes, Dr. Stephen Krasner urges fellow Senate members to reinstate ROTC regardless of the fate of DADT: “If we go forward with this [ROTC], I would urge the committee to not make it hostage to what happens to ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’” The link between DADT and ROTC at Stanford is at best, artificial, and at worst, misleading.

Not only do Senate members demonstrate an indifference to DADT, even as they co-opt its language, they also betray barely concealed contempt for proponents of its repeal.

Dr. David Kennedy states: “The premise that underlies our bringing this question to the Senate is the assumption that the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Policy’, which has been a serious impediment to reopening this discussion at all, will probably go away within the next year or two, and the field will be open to have a reasonable discussion.” (Italics added.)

Does a “reasonable discussion” mean that a bunch of liberal, Bay Area intellectuals won’t be so hung up on institutional discrimination in the military? Had the presenters any interest in human rights, they would realize that the repeal of DADT does not end recruitment discrimination against LGBT people. Transgender individuals are categorically excluded by outdated medical regulations. In addition to this kind of outmoded de jure discrimination, the military disproportionately recruits the poor, people of color and recent immigrants—to say nothing of the endemic gender discrimination highlighted in recent high-profile abuse cases.

In this regard, the “serious impediment” to reinstating ROTC, that is that the military will no longer practice discriminatory practices which conflict with Stanford’s anti-discrimination policies, is false. Until the military successfully addresses its endemic official and unofficial forms of discrimination, then ROTC, which is subject to the military’s recruitment criteria, will violate Stanford’s commitment to “prohibit discrimination, including harassment, against students on the basis of sex, race, age, color, disability, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, national and ethnic origin.” (Statement of Non-Discrimination Policy)

Accordingly, Stanford Students for Queer Liberation holds the following position on ROTC: We oppose the reintroduction of ROTC at Stanford for two reasons. First, we adamantly oppose any dialogue on this issue until DADT has been repealed at the federal level, as this legislation is in direct opposition to Stanford’s non-discrimination policies and mission. Second, as an organization that supports a radical queer political framework, we oppose ROTC as a representation of militarism. The United States military is an institution steeped in racism, sexism and other oppressive systems in both its recruiting practices and everyday functions, and thus we do not feel it in our interests to support the ROTC program even after the repeal of DADT. We hope that other social justice-oriented student groups will find common ground on this issue and similarly work against the militarization of our campus.

Charles Ledbetter, MTL graduate student, with contributions from Janani Balasubramanian ‘12

Written on behalf of Stanford Students for Queer Liberation

  • You’ve got to be kidding me

    Soo…in what is supposed to be the free market place of ideas, you oppose any dialogue on the issue? Did you somehow fail to actually comprehend Professor Kennedy’s words about a reasonable discussion??? You are simply proving him correct!

    Yes, the United States military is not blameless, and yes, there are ways in which it can improve as an institution. One of those ways – expand the range of individuals exposed to the military. What better way to do that than by bringing ROTC back onto premier education institutions across the country?

    It does not take a genius to appreciate the fact that this is a sensitive issue. However, employing mindless vitriol (“work against the militarization of our campus”) in place of reason is no way to engage on the topic.

  • Tom Ricks was giving a talk at Dartmouth…

    When told that bringing ROTC to Dartmouth would “militarize” the campus and threaten a “culture of tolerance,” he replied, “Wrong. It will liberalize the military.”

  • Cardinal

    The author makes all sorts of wild allegations against the armed forces, but runs out of space before actually putting so much as a cursory argument behind them. Then, it is argued that these allegations imply ROTC should be kept out. Color me puzzled.

  • No to anti-intellectuals

    “we adamantly oppose any dialogue on this issue “: How does this closed-minded demand fit at all with a premiere American intellectual institution? Regardless of the issue at hand, the author poorly represents Stanford.

  • Non-discrimination policy

    You realize military status is also protected by Stanford’s non-discrimination policy, right?

    “Consistent with its obligations under the law, it prohibits discrimination, including harassment, against students or applicants for admission, or employees or applicants for employment on the basis of race, color, national or ethnic origin, sex, age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or ANY OTHER CHARACTERISTIC PROTECTED BY APPLICABLE LAW . . .”

    2.Military and Veterans Code section 394 . . . makes it a misdemeanor for any person or public official or employee to discriminate against a member of the armed forces because he or she is a member of the armed forces.

  • Sebastain Gould

    I wholeheartedly agree that the military should be non-discriminatory.

    I would love to open a dialogue with you to discuss these issues, and correct injustices. You mention that there has been discrimination in recruiting too many minorities (among other issues). I would love to help you correct this. Let me know who your rich Caucasian friends are, that wanted to join, and I will make sure they do not get a cold shoulder. I will take them to the same recruiting station I went to, and we can all go to Afghanistan together.

    The best way to change a policy is to engage the institution you have an issue with. You can’t win a race by staying home, so please: join me.

    Sebastain Gould

    Semper Fi

  • Marcia

    I would like to point out one small, but VERY important, flaw in the argument presented above.

    The author states: “In addition to this kind of outmoded de jure discrimination, the military disproportionately recruits the poor, people of color and recent immigrants—to say nothing of the endemic gender discrimination highlighted in recent high-profile abuse cases.”

    I would like to point out that installing ROTC at liberal institutions, like Stanford, will go a long way to correcting these disproportionate recruitment practices. By offering ROTC on campus, more affluent, white students can and will join the military.

    Speaking from personal experience, I was going to do ROTC until I learned I would have to commute to either Santa Barbara or Cal multiple times every week, an additional commitment of at least 5-10 hours a week on top of normal ROTC requirements. I chose not to join, and the military lost the opportunity to have a white woman of affluence join. Had ROTC been offered on Stanford’s campus, I would have signed up in a heartbeat.

  • Stanford Alum ’05

    There’s a lot of words and meandering here, but I’ll cut to the chase: the editors don’t like the military and don’t want them on campus.

  • Military protected

    The author presumes incorrectly that the military is excluded from Stanford’s discrimination policy. The university policy is actually a reiteration of anti-discrimination laws and extends generally to legally protected categories. Members of the Armed Forces – such as ROTC cadre and cadets – are a legally protected category. ROTC presence at Stanford would be protected by the university’s non-discrimination policy.

  • Re: Alum ’05

    How do you get, from this piece, that the EDITORS don’t want the military on campus?

  • Sceth StXellus

    The main contentions seem to be over the last paragraph. I do not see why they switch to antimilitarism, and it would have been a much stronger piece without that.