Will the End of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Lead to the Return of ROTC Programs to Elite Universities?

At the Weekly Standard blog, Cheryl Miller asks whether the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell will lead to the return of ROTC programs to elite university campuses [HT: here]. In recent years, university officials have defended the exclusion of ROTC from campus as a way of countering the military’ discrimination against gays and lesbians, and have vehemently denied that they are antimilitary. With the end of DADT, that obstacle to ROTC should be removed.

As Miller points out, the Pentagon may have reasons for its own for choosing not to establish ROTC programs at some elite schools. And there are those in the military who strongly dislike elite academia. Thus, some schools might not get ROTC programs any time soon even if university administrators support the idea. Still, nothing prevents university officials from announcing that they would now welcome the return of ROTC programs if the military is interested. President Obama urged them to do just that in his recent State of the Union speech.

The same point applies to law schools. After having lost a Supreme Court case over the issue, law schools were forced to permit military recruiters to interview on campus as a condition of receiving federal funding under the Solomon Amendment. In the aftermath of this legal defeat, most law schools admitted recruiters, but continued to emphasize that they were doing so under duress. Some also adopted various “ameliorative practices” required by the American Association of Law Schools, and designed to emphasize their opposition to the presence of military recruiters. Both the AALS and individual schools should repeal the varous ameliorative practices and officially indicate that they now voluntarily welcome military recruiters on the same basis as other interviewers. As recently as May 2010, the AALS emphasized that its opposition to military recruiters should not be interpreted as “antimilitary,” but was instead merely an effort to oppose discrimination against gays and lesbians. The time has come to live up to those principles.

For reasons I outlined here, I think that it was wrong to exclude ROTC and military recruiters even while DADT was in force, despite the fact that I also believe that that policy was a serious injustice. Regardless, with DADT on its way out there is no longer any plausible reason for universities to exclude either ROTC programs or military recruiters.

UPDATE: The Harvard Crimson, Harvard’s main student newspaper, just published an editorial calling for the return of ROTC to campus [HT: Harvard student and Crimson writer Yair Rosenberg:

Just as DADT represented an outdated prejudice directed toward gay American citizens, the absence of ROTC now stands as a relic of an outdated bias against the American armed forces. When ROTC was expelled from Harvard in 1969, military enlistment was mandatory, as was ROTC participation on countless U.S. campuses. Today, absent its prior objectionable compulsory and discriminatory policies, ROTC deserves recognition as a legitimate pre-professional track at Harvard. The university supports pre-law, pre-med and pre-business activities on the part of its students; it should support pre-military study as well. Further, the same access to Harvard’s student body that is granted to recruiters for countless career paths should be given to the U.S. military….

We remind those who would oppose this move that President Faust and other Harvard administrators have repeatedly predicated the return of ROTC upon the repeal of DADT. Thus, should the university backtrack on its public commitment, its political credibility will be greatly impaired, as will Harvard’s ability to influence future legislation with similar pronouncements.

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