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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 From the outset, the implication that ROTC would be reinstated on the condition that DADT is repealed is patently false.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 Transgender individuals are categorically excluded by outdated medical regulations.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

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