Op-Ed: Cowardice, Co-optation, and ROTC

Opinion by and
April 1, 2011, 12:25 a.m.

At Tuesday night’s Undergraduate Senate meeting, Senator Ben Jensen ‘12 deemed it appropriate to make an analogy between the upcoming ROTC ballot measure and a hypothetical vote on allowing the Klu Klux Klan onto campus. Coupled with the recently launched “Campaign to Abstain,” urging voters to abstain on the grounds of civil rights on said ballot measure, I have had enough.

Let’s begin with the fact that I watched with joy on C-SPAN as DADT was voted off the legislative rolls this past fall. I was one of the drivers who fliered Bay Area universities and then sat in the Circle of Death to protest the passage of Proposition 8. And I am no doubt one of numerous individuals who supports open service for transgender people. I also, however, support ROTC’s return to Stanford University.

The United States military being likened to the Klan means it is high time we begin setting the record straight. This controversy, which includes the ballot measure, the Constitutional Council case, the Senate prattling and now the ‘Campaign to Abstain” — this has nothing to do with ROTC. What we have witnessed this year is the co-optation and exploitation of Stanford’s political and governmental processes by…two dozen, at most, students looking for a very public political power grab at the expense of ROTC, reasonable discourse and the greater student body. The leadership of SSQL, sympathizers in the “Women’s” Coalition, Stanford Democrats and SOCC has missed an opportunity to foster a productive dialogue on the matter, choosing instead to wage an emotionally charged battle based off of specious claims.

Earlier this year, SSQL decided it wanted Stanford to talk about “privilege.” I say let’s do it. Let’s talk about Stanford privilege, of our god-given right to accuse the United States military of any known societal ill, free of actual implications. Let’s talk about our acute disconnect to the realities of the world at large. Please, take a minute and think how Sanford is one of the only places where such a debate could even possibly occur. Given that ROTC cadets are forbidden to discuss any of these issues, the fringe has been allowed to dominate the tenor and content of this debate.

To haphazardly denigrate the military (given that SSQL is openly, and unabashedly anti-military regardless its stance on LGBTQ issues) is not only ignorant, but also damaging to the long-term intellectual vibrancy of Stanford and the nation we hopefully choose to better. Stanford’s educational mission would be failed if the Farm were to churn out America’s “next great leaders” who lack any knowledge or understanding of the armed forces.

Lastly, it is important to reflect on the cowardice of the “Campaign to Abstain.” The saber-rattling hard liners failed with the Constitutional Council Case, failed to overturn the ballot question in the Senate and will undoubtedly fail next week once ballots are cast. Instead of campaigning openly against ROTC (because once again, this is not about ROTC), the “Campaign to Abstain” has been launched. I challenge those supporting the campaign, particularly those looking for sheer political advantage — if you believe this is an issue of civil rights, vote no. Stand up, and vote no on ROTC. Vote no based on your beliefs, just as I will cast a yes vote because of mine. If you cannot do that, then I say it’s time to stop disseminating distortions, and let the student body finally have a chance to be heard.


Zachary Warma ‘11

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