Widgets Magazine

NMB petitions potential ROTC return

The National Marriage Boycott (NMB)–a group founded at Stanford to protest marriage discrimination in the wake of Proposition 8–is spearheading a national effort to prevent the return of ROTC at certain colleges.

The youth-led organization has more than 15,000 members and encourages college activism by providing an established support network across campuses.

Although the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT) in December ended the ban on gay and lesbian soldiers from serving openly in the military, transgender individuals are still excluded from service. NMB opposes the return of ROTC to college campuses whose non-discrimination clauses apply to transgender individuals, on the basis that the ban violates those legal clauses.

Stanford, Columbia and Harvard are three universities with such non-discrimination clauses. NMB is focusing much of its efforts on these campuses.

“What we’re working on right now with NMB is to create material to disseminate to other college campuses so that they can wage some large campaigns, or begin to think critically about their own ROTC campaigns at their own schools,” said Alok Vaid-Menon ’13, NMB publicity and communications director.

Vaid-Menon sees the ROTC debate as a lucrative opportunity to raise awareness about transgender discrimination.

“I really see the role of NMB in the debate as a reminder to a lot of LGBTQ people that it’s important not to forget about trans people,” Vaid-Menon said. “A lot of the time, the T gets left out of LGBTQ.”

Vaid-Menon and other members of the NMB saw the repeal of DADT as a huge victory for LGBTQ rights, but was frustrated by President Obama’s State of the Union speech last week, in which he said, “starting this year, no American will be forbidden from serving the country they love because of who they love.”

This statement was made hand-in-hand with Obama’s call for college campuses to bring back ROTC on the basis that LGBTQ discrimination had ended.

For Vaid-Menon and others, Obama’s remark brought a sense of disillusionment.

“We felt very disenfranchised, and we immediately created a national petition,” Vaid-Menon said. “The White House had forgotten about trans people, and Obama was simply lobbying for political interest. He was being strategic, but in the process [was] ignoring a group of people who are stilled barred from military service.”

The petition, issued in conjunction with Stanford Students for Queer Liberation (SSQL), was forwarded via e-mail earlier last weekend.

“Tell President Obama that the military is not an open or affirming institution as the State of the Union address would have us believe,” NMB education director and SSQL leader Janani Balasubramanian ’12 wrote in the appeal.

Vaid-Menon mentioned that while most of its efforts are focused on student involvement, NMB also pursues other venues, such as communicating with certain members of the military and collaborating with other national LGBTQ-rights organizations.

SSQL has also been prominent in coordinating campus events and facilitating debate about the proposed return of ROTC to Stanford. Next month, SSQL plans to hold “Transgender Awareness Week” from Feb. 28 to Mar. 4.

“With NMB, I’m trying to work with sensitive people in the military to get them to recognize that discrimination is arcane and not really necessary anymore, and encourage a lot of people to lobby the military to try to change it,” Vaid-Menon said.

NMB also provides financial assistance to its college branches, and it has backing from Get Equal, a San Francisco-based LGBTQ advocacy group, and the National Center for Transgender Equality.

Vaid-Menon plans to implement a monthly conference call between NMB activists at schools nationwide to formulate new ideas for their platform.

“In the end, the effort is really about gaining wide support and media attention,” Vaid-Menon said.

The group is gradually becoming more visible. Vaid-Menon was recently quoted in a New York Times article for his work with NMB, the first time the group’s ROTC objection was publicized nationally.

“If Harvard, Columbia, Stanford were to make a decision not to return ROTC to campus on the basis of transgender exclusion, the sheer cultural capital of that would help effectively prove to the military that it needs to change,” Vaid-Menon said.

  • Mark

    On Tuesday at the senate meeting SSQL (which Alok Vaid-Menon spoke for) also threatened a possible lawsuit if ROTC was reinstated onto campus because of violations of non-descrimination legal clauses. But these exact clauses wasn’t referenced or pointed out – does anyone know what specific clauses Alok is talking about??

  • Quinn Slack

    Mark: Stanford’s nondiscrimination policy is at http://www.stanford.edu/dept/registrar/bulletin/4767.htm. There’s been a lot of debate about it at http://blog.stanfordreview.org/ (search the archives).

  • Student

    Despite the fact that Stanford is a private university, it is subject to laws governing educational institutions receiving California government funding for financial aid. Thus, the following statute from (California’s Education Code, Division 1, Part 1, Article 3, Section 220) is applicable:

    No person shall be subjected to discrimination on the basis of disability, gender, nationality, race or ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or any other characteristic that is contained in the definition of hate crimes set forth in Section 422.55 of the Penal Code in any program or activity conducted by an educational institution that receives, or benefits from, state financial assistance or enrolls pupils who receive state student financial aid.

  • Mark

    I’m just going to put it out there…but a transgendered student *could* enroll as a non-contracted (i.e. non-scholarship) ROTC cadet for Freshman/Sophmore year and participate completely in ROTC. Non-contracted cadets don’t require a health medical screening for them to participate.

  • oh my

    @Mark: sure, but it’s the principle. Same with DADT–a gay person could enroll, but just not say they’re gay. It’s wrong and discriminatory.

    @Student: I dare the government to try to stop Stanford’s funding for this. They know it’s a legitimate reason. And I’m sick of people making it sound like Stanford is simply benefiting from all the government funding. The government is pumping $$ into Stanford because it benefits too! Directly (through contracts) and indirectly (through the economy–improving the intellectual capital of the US, etc.). The government needs places like Stanford just as much as Stanford needs government funding. Plus Stanford is already seeking other sources of funding given that gov. funding, especially from DOD, has been shrinking nationwide (there was a Daily article about it recently).

  • Legal claim

    SSQL and NMB are making a fundamental and obvious error if they believe they have LEGAL grounds to oppose ROTC due to the US military policy on the transgender characteristic. Stanford’s non-discrimination policy bars unlawful discrimination, not lawful discrimination. The US military policy is lawful.

    You don’t need to be a lawyer to understand this – it’s just common sense. Does anyone seriously believe that any state government or the federal government would or could sanction a university for discrimination on the grounds of hosting ROTC? If you believe that, you need to take off the blinders and realize that your cause doesn’t trump the military in the national interest.

  • SSQL is puppet of SSNW

    From Stanford Daily, Jan 5 2011, ‘Don’t 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.”

  • @Legal claim

    That’s not what Stanford’s nondiscrimination policy says. It explicitly states it does not discriminate based on gender identity, regardless of what the law says. Please read this carefully:


  • poli sci major

    “the sheer cultural capital of that would help effectively prove to the military that it needs to change”

    No, it wouldn’t. It would only prove that Stanford’s critics are right that Stanford is hopefully out of touch, DADT was just an excuse, and transgender people are anti-military. SSQL isn’t helping anyone with this protest except the anti-military activists fighting against civil-military integration.

  • poli sci major

    Excuse me: hopeLESSLY out of touch

  • a friendly face

    @poli sci major

    You’re so right, some folks at here are hopelessly out of touch. DADT *was* just an excuse…for Stanford to bring ROTC back to campus. Remember all the faculty senate members calling DADT a “hurdle” to overcome in bringing back ROTC? The “repeal DADT and we’ll love ROTC” stance is interesting, considering that DADT wasn’t around when we kicked ROTC off campus for issues that have still not been resolved.

    I knowww, it’s just so easy to ignore the trans population because there’s not many of them. However, it’s equally easy to just maintain the status quo and support off-campus ROTC. What’s happening is that faculty senate members are trying to “weigh” the suffering of trans folk against the suffering of ROTC students. If I *were* to subscribe to this shameful mode of thinking, I’d have to say that continual institutionalized discrimination and the increased risk of suicide and depression faced by trans people is far worse than the “suffering” of driving off campus.

    By the way, nice generalization about all trans folk being anti-military. I not even going to point out the error in that reasoning. I will note that there’s a big difference between being anti-war and anti-military. There’s an even bigger difference between being anti-military and wanting to change its harmful and discriminatory practices. The biggest distinction of all is the one between a private research university and a military academy. So let’s maintain the status quo — off-campus options for ROTC — and stay in touch with reality.

  • Legal Claim

    “It explicitly states it does not discriminate based on gender identity, regardless of what the law says. Please read this carefully”

    I have read Stanford’s non-discrimination policy carefully. A plain reading of Stanford’s non-discrimination policy clearly shows that ROTC would not violate the policy:

    First part: “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.”

    Analysis: Key phrase is “generally accorded or made available”. Some areas of Stanford are “generally accorded or made available” to all students. However, the areas of Stanford that are not “generally accorded or made available” to all students discriminate by requiring entry standards additional to general admission requirements. As long as the additional entry standard is lawful, Stanford has discretion to discriminate. I remind that US military policy on the transgender characteristic is lawful.

    Second part: “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 in the administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, scholarships and loan programs, and athletic and other University-administered programs.”

    Analysis: Key phrases are “consistent with its obligations under the law” and “protected by applicable law”. Stanford’s non-discrimination policy states that Stanford’s non-discrimination obligations conform to the law and its protections are defined by applicable law. In terms of Stanford’s legal obligations, there is no legal obligation for Stanford to violate lawful military policy by requiring transgender students contract in Stanford ROTC. In terms of protection under applicable law, although gender identity is protected by applicable law in other circumstances, the applicable law for the Stanford ROTC circumstance does not require allowing transgender students to contract.

    Stanford discriminates already – it must. The distinction is between lawful and unlawful discrimination, and US military policy on the transgender characteristic is lawful.

    Of course, adding ROTC to the campus would not replace nor substract anything now accorded or made available to transgender students. ROTC would not be a separate zone on campus that allows for harassment of transgender students. Transgender students should feel as safe in ROTC offices as anywhere else on campus. And ROTC arguably already would meet the “generally accorded or made available” theshold because some ROTC courses are made available to all students in order to serve ROTC’s broader civil-military educational purpose.