Widgets Magazine

‘Don’t ask’ repeal could ‘lighten task’ for Stanford’s ROTC committee

President Obama signed into law last month the repeal of the 17-year-old federal policy of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” which barred openly gay men and women from serving in the military. The ban, which conflicts with several universities’ anti-discrimination policies, was considered a major roadblock to bringing back an ROTC program to Stanford.

“I’m delighted by the repeal by Congress of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’” wrote psychology professor Ewart Thomas, the chair of the Faculty Senate’s ad hoc committee on ROTC, in an e-mail to The Daily. “I have a feeling that this repeal will lighten the task of the Faculty Senate’s ROTC committee as we discuss whether, and in what form, Stanford University should expand its relations with the Reserve Officer Training Corps programs within the U.S. military.”

The repeal does not necessarily guarantee recognition of ROTC by the University. The committee recently asked for feedback from the community on ROTC and will not report its findings until the spring.

“The impact so far of DADT on campus debates has been multifaceted, and I expect that the debate in the months following DADT repeal will be almost as contentious,” Thomas added.

The Faculty Senate formed the committee to explore the ROTC issue in March, but from its inception, some encouraged the committee not to let its findings depend on “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Others said the repeal would be a prerequisite to the program’s return. Thomas said not all opposition to ROTC is rooted in the federal policy, and that concerns about continued discrimination against gays and lesbians in the military after the repeal could still exist.

But the repeal eliminates some of the committee’s concerns, according to Thomas.
“To the degree that evidence and arguments can be adduced to suggest a decrease in discrimination within the U.S. military following DADT repeal, and to the degree that the repeal does indeed induce opposers to become supporters of ROTC expansion, the next phase of the Stanford-ROTC debate will contain fewer themes, and this, I hope, will lighten our task,” he said.

A version of this story was originally published online on Dec. 19, 2010.

–Kate Abbott