Widgets Magazine


Editorial: To end war and discrimination, bring back ROTC

Much has been said about the current advisory measure to gauge student support for ROTC’s return to the Stanford campus. In true Stanford fashion, many novel and thoughtful arguments in favor of supporting, abstaining, or rejecting ROTC have emerged on email lists and fliers. However, this Board wishes to address some widely believed misperceptions, and urges a “yes” vote on Measure A.

Opponents of Measure A have built their advocacy around the assertion that a vote in favor of ROTC’s return constitutes a disenfranchisement of minority rights. Voting on civil rights, the argument goes, is wrong; a tyranny of the majority should not be allowed to suppress the freedoms of the few.

The right to attend classes and participate in on-campus activities, regardless of one’s race, class, sexuality, or gender identity, is enshrined in Stanford’s nondiscrimination policy. Yet, ROTC’s return would not result in the abridgement of any of these rights on campus; any Stanford student, even those who are transgender, would be welcome to participate in ROTC classes and physical training.

Yes, ROTC opponents argue, but so what if transgender students can participate in classes or training? Transgender students still wouldn’t be allowed to commission as officers after graduation. Even if ROTC doesn’t technically violate Stanford’s discrimination policy because it only discriminates against students after they have graduated, the overriding concern is to send an important symbolic message to the military that Stanford will not tolerate its presence until it reverses its discrimination against transgender people elsewhere.

Yet, even if we ignore the fact that Stanford has no leverage — the military could fund two cadets at UC-Berkeley for the cost of sponsoring every ROTC cadet at Stanford, and has been quite happy to do so — any attempt to punish the military until it accedes to our demands will fail for the very simple reason that the military itself has no control over its hiring policies.

The military’s policy of discrimination against transgender citizens is written instead by Congress, which reexamines military policy in its annual defense authorizations and appropriations. Indeed, those who genuinely wish to change military policy should direct their attention towards those who speak for California on congressional military oversight committees: Dianne Feinstein, Jerry Lewis, Ken Calvert, Loretta Sanchez, John Garamendi, Duncan Hunter, Susan Davis and Buck McKeon.

But even if symbolic punishment of the military is misguided, isn’t voting to reject or abstain on the ROTC ballot measure the safest course of action? The answer is a clear no. In fact, voting “no” or “abstain” does a very real disservice to all parties, and not just for those in uniform.

While keeping ROTC off campus certainly creates significant headaches for Stanford cadets, forcing them to travel to other universities — an inconvenience that may also deter some ROTC cadets from accepting admission at Stanford — the real harms are borne by the rest of us. As the tenor of this debate has demonstrated, there is a widening chasm between civilians and the military, especially on the Farm.

This civilian-military divide carries very real consequences for the health of our democracy. As a nation, we are increasingly sending our poorest to fight our wars. In the absence of a draft, the wealthy may opt for military service, but the poor often have few other options. Some scholars have argued that this inequitable burden on the lower class has reduced the political costs to fighting wars, perhaps explaining why the United States has become somewhat of an exception to the political science theory that democratic countries are less likely to go to war. Consider that 180 out of 307 U.S. Army generals have children in the service, compared to only 10 out of 535 members of Congress. That’s fewer than the number of Stanford alumni (11) currently holding congressional office.

Out of sight, out of mind: by keeping the military off campus, we reinforce the very unsettling fact that those declaring America’s wars and those actually fighting them have rarely rubbed elbows.

By opposing ROTC’s return, queer-rights and anti-war advocates have made the implicit assumption that keeping the military out of Stanford will somehow lead to less discrimination or less war. Yet, why “abstain” and remove ourselves from the many contentious and difficult debates about a peace-loving nation’s use of organized violence, or who might serve in that cause? Stanford has already produced 18 senators, 33 representatives, many ambassadors and secretaries of state and defense, two national security advisors and one president.  By bringing ROTC on campus, we have to opportunity to promote such dialogue in an academic environment and shape the discourse of America’s next generation of military and civilian leaders.

Advocates for “no” or “abstain” votes on Measure A have legitimate concerns with the military and the idea of voting on civil rights. However, this Board finds that ROTC would not violate Stanford’s discrimination policy, and urges voters to consider the effects of keeping ROTC off campus. We have the chance either to insulate both ourselves and the military even further or to bring essential civic debate to our home turf, where we set the rules of discourse. Because we believe that the military will remain an imperfect institution the longer we try to ignore and marginalize its role in our society, this Board strongly urges a “yes” vote on Measure A.


Editor’s note: Cyrus Navabi ’11 and Tiq Chapa ’10 recused themselves from this Editorial.

About Editorial Board

Editorials represent the views of The Stanford Daily, an independent newspaper serving Stanford and the surrounding community. The Daily's Editorial Board consists of President and Editor-in-Chief Victor Xu '17, Executive Editor Will Ferrer '18, Managing Editor of Opinions Michael Gioia '17, Desk Editor of Opinions Jimmy Stephens '17, Senior Staff Writer Kylie Jue '17, Senior Staff Writer Olivia Hummer '17 and Senior Staff Writer Andrew Vogeley '17. To contact the Editorial Board chair, submit an op-ed (limited to 700 words) or submit a letter to the editor (limited to 500 words) at eic@stanforddaily.com.
  • Danny Colligan

    War is peace
    Freedom is slavery
    Ignorance is strength

    Signed, the Daily editorial board

  • student

    go away danny

  • Sebastain Gould

    Bravo, but everyone has already voted. Shame it wasn’t printed earlier in the week.

  • Read some history

    This editorial exists in an imagined reality in which granting special privileges to an immoral and oppressive institution is the way to get that institution to change. It’s a cute narrative, but it reflects a sad ignorance of how positive social change has historically occurred in this country.

    Social change has not come through the granting of special privileges but through the principled refusal to take part in the immoral and oppressive institution. The time at which Stanford had arguably its greatest (positive) impact on US foreign policy was in the late 60’s when a small group of students resisted the presence of ROTC and the faculty made life uncomfortable enough for the program that it left. There is zero recognition, in the Daily’s editorial or elsewhere, of the victory for humanity that was achieved at that time.

    This quarter, Stanford has another opportunity to achieve a mini-victory for humanity by demonstrating principled refusal to participate in the immoral and oppressive institution that is the US military. History shows us that it is only principled refusal to participate that will have a political impact.

    Finally, the characterization of the military as separable from the purposes to which it is put by civilians is dishonest. No one would accept the validity of such a distinction in the context of a non-state institution (e.g. if the KKK had a military arm that didn’t make its own policy but simply followed orders, surely we would not separate that arm from the policy-makers and allow it to train on our campus), demonstrating that what really lies behind this support for ROTC (and the military more generally) is nationalism, or at least a reluctance to subject the US state and its institutions to the same standard of critique as every other institution.

    Forget about your US citizenship for a moment and try to look at ROTC through humanity’s eyes. Suddenly it becomes clear, doesn’t it? ROTC is eminently less deserving of an on-campus training facility than the many thousands of peace-promoting organizations in the world that are helping people, not killing them. All justifications for privileging ROTC above such organizations rely on a preference for the US state and US state-sanctioned institutions.

  • Steven Jacobson

    I knew the ROTC brainwashed its cadets, but the Daily Editorial Board? Well damn!

  • Mark Leavitt

    I can’t help but laugh/weep at the title… To end war and discrimination, bring back a bellicose and discriminatory organization. Solid rhetoric, that is.

  • Ryan Globus

    “ROTC doesn’t technically violate Stanford’s discrimination policy because it only discriminates against [transgender] students after they have graduated”

    If ROTC still discriminated against lesbians, gays, women, or African Americans in the same way as it does against transgender students, this would be a non-issue and 90+% of the student body would oppose ROTC’s return. Yet gender identity is on equal standing with sexual orientation, gender, and race in Stanford’s nondiscrimination policy, so we shouldn’t even be considering ROTC’s return.

  • Ryan Globus

    Correction to my comment: ROTC still discriminates against lesbian, gay, and bisexual students as Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is technically still in place. However, DADT will probably be officially repealed by the summer and thus before the next academic school year.

  • Will Robins

    Vote YES on ROTC.

    To inhibit an accelerated career in the armed forces for some of the brightest minds in America, simply because a small minority is excluded from that option, is foolish. That is my opinion. I’m sure many disagree with it.

    I support the inclusion of open transgender citizens in the armed forces. However, I do not believe that discrimination against them is reason to keep ROTC off campus. In order to be as effective as possible, the armed forces need to be a cohesive and homogenous fighting force. Anything that presents a distraction to that homogeneity threatens that cohesive nature. It is an unfortunate reality of contemporary society that open transgender people are often perceived as “other,” or some sort of distraction. This is the fault of society, and not the fault of those transgender people. Regardless, this commonly held attitude means that they may present a disruption within the armed forces. Again, this is the fault of discriminatory service members, not that of the transgender citizens. As American society gradually becomes more liberal, as it has almost continuously for the past two centuries, we will hopefully reach a point where transgender people can be widely accepted within the armed forces. Society is not yet at that point. However, I do not believe this to be reason to, as I stated before, inhibit an accelerated career in the armed forces for some of the brightest minds in America.

  • You Can Still Change your Vote

    You can change/alter your vote until midnight tonight

  • Absurd

    Agreed 100% with Steven Jacobson, Ryan Globus, and Read some history.

  • For the record

    Sebastain Gould is a “machine gunner” for the marines and is studying “war” at Stanford (according to Facebook).

    How did you even get into Stanford?

  • @For the record

    Why is it a problem that Sebastian Gould was a “machine gunner” in the marines? Your condescending tone is pathetic and a disgrace to yourself and Stanford. As a non-military affiliated Stanford student, I have infinitely more respect for people like Sebastain Gould and the perspectives they have to offer this university than to sheltered pricks (trust me, I’d like to use a stronger word but won’t out of respect for this public forum) like yourself.

  • @@For the record

    I think the more deplorable fact is that he says he’s studying “war” at Stanford.

  • @For the record

    and philosophy, which “for the record” chose not to mention. Moreover, war is often a topic discussed by philosophers.

  • Robin Thomas

    @@@For the record

    Hold on, just because you study war doesn’t mean that you’re learning how to better kill people. War is, as it stands, an unfortunate part of life; if we ever want to be able to end war, I think we could all agree that studying war and its history is very important. Know your enemy.

    And I’d encourage you to get to know Sebastian before making judgments like this. He’s a philosophy major. He left Stanford to enlist in the Marines in the first place because so many of the most profound philosophers were warriors at some point in their lives (Socrates, Machiavelli, Sun Tzu, etc.).

  • Cisco

    Great editorial, but one of the stats you mentioned needs some context (“…180 out of 307 U.S. Army generals have children in the service…”).

    To me, that mostly just says that the children of U.S. Army generals are likely to have long military careers, just like the children of lawyers are likely to have long law careers.

    The other stat (“…compared to only 10 out of 535 members of Congress…”) says a lot more about the civilian-military divide. It would be interesting to compare that to e.g. Mississippi state representatives.

  • @For the record

    You are a hateful and intolerant person.

    You’re also quite ignorant. It’s closed-minded people like YOU, not Sebastain, who should never have been accepted to Stanford. It’s apparently news to you that Stanford has courses like “PHIL 90B/ETHICSOC 175M: The Ethics of War”.

  • @For the record

    1. That’s so creepy that you Facebook stalk (!) people who use their full names here.
    2. It’s “Marines” with a capital M.
    3. Go away, you ignorant turd.

  • haha

    Leaving Stanford to go into the military is a waste of your brainpower and a waste of the opportunity that Stanford has given you.

    It’s one thing to study war, but it’s another to make that the primary focus of your education. I’m not surprised that people like him put “War” instead of their real major “philosophy.”

    I’m not going to capitalize “marines,” because that would show a form of respect. I don’t respect the military.

    I wonder how many of the above posts are Sebastain or other people who waste their education and brains on the military. So unfortunate.

  • @haha

    Are you really that small-minded or are you just trolling?

  • student

    My guess would be that it’s a mix of both.