Senate hears “Opposition to ROTC” bill

April 6, 2011, 3:05 a.m.

The Undergraduate Senate passed a resolution Tuesday opposing the discriminatory policies of ROTC in an effort to educate the student body.

After reaching the required number of eight senators to have quorum, the Undergraduate Senate started its meeting several minutes late, with Senators Ben Jensen ’12 and Carolyn Simmons ’13 joining the meeting from their study abroad locations via Skype.

Before the ROTC discussion, all funding bills for the evening were passed, and Publications Board Director Alice Nam ’11 and assistant director Zachary Warma ’11 discussed plans to create a publications media center on the second floor of the Nitery for use by all campus publications next year. Nam also put a bill on previous notice to redefine the role of the Publications Board director for next year, which will be debated for next week.

“We want to rethink how publications are funded on campus since a lot of them seeking out special fees,” Warma, a former Daily staff member, said. “We would like for our publications to have the best papers, the best layouts possible and we sit on a significant amount of money to do that.

“The Publications Board wants to expand its institutional presence, teach classes and be the driving force for a more vibrant publications culture on campus,” he added.

Nam also addressed the pending petition to bring a case to the Constitutional Council against the appointment of Warma to the Publications Board, which has yet to be accepted.

“I don’t see how I’m able to do my job currently because I’m supposed to propose a funding bill that The Claw is a part of, so it needs to be proposed by a different director,” Nam, who is the editor in chief of literary magazine The Claw, said. “This bill would help fix that.”

The main discussion of the night centered on a bill proposed by Senator Robin Perani ’13 and Senate Associate Alex Kindel ’14, titled “Resolution in Opposition to the Return of ROTC to Stanford University.” Kindel was not present for the proceeding discussion about the bill.

The original bill, which was later replaced, cited an obligation to protect the interests of all students, including transgender students, but voiced support for current ROTC cadets who participate in off-campus programs. It therefore opposed the return of ROTC in accordance with the University’s nondiscrimination policy.

Debate over the bill lasted for almost three hours as Senators discussed the language, the technicalities of the nondiscrimination policy and the intent behind passing such a resolution. Members representing the LGBT community and Stanford Students for Queer Liberation (SSQL) were present as part of the open forum.

Perani said that she felt it was the duty of the ASSU to protect minority groups’ rights, and therefore take a firm stance on the ROTC issue.

“[Transgender students] can’t serve openly, so ROTC will still violate the University nondiscrimination policy, and while DADT has been repealed, it has not been implemented yet,” she said. “The way we have ROTC now, people can be involved, just off campus. We are representing them by voicing our support for them off campus, but because the military discriminates against sexual orientation and not on any rational basis, we can’t allow it.”

Both Warma and Senator Rebecca Sachs ’13 expressed concerns with the bill as proposed.

“I think having Stanford students participating in ROTC and being able to have a dialogue on campus adds a very positive value,” Warma said during open forum. “If the ASSU is supposed to represent all students, regardless of the size of the group, the ASSU has to hear all voices and that cuts both ways. I don’t think there’s a place, particularly with the election coming up, for you to be weighing in on this. There’s a chance for transgender students and their allies, and ROTC cadets and their allies to weigh in…but I don’t think this is something this body should be injecting itself into.”

“The issue I see is that the student body is going to be voting this, if the student body has the opportunity to voice their opinion and their opinion should be held over ours…We should not speak for them when they have the opportunity to speak for themselves,” Sachs said.

SSQL co-president and Daily staffer Holly Fetter ’13 said that she believed this was a way for the Senate to show that the “nondiscrimination policy has teeth.”

“I have to wonder what Stanford’s values are if it wants to bring back an institution that discriminates blatantly against transgender students, and people disabled mentally and physically…that seems really flawed to me,” she said. “This is not about trans students versus military students; this is a basic issue of upholding the nondiscrimination policy.”

Army ROTC cadet Jimmy Ruck ’11 was also present to discuss his experience in the ROTC program, and clarified that transgender students would be able to participate in ROTC courses offered at Stanford. He also mentioned that discrimination within ROTC stems from federal policy.

“The military is under the subordination of the civilian leadership of this country, it’s a federal issue more so than a Stanford issue,” Ruck said.

After Senator Will Seaton ’13 voiced discomfort with the bill as it currently stood, Senator Pat Bruny ’13 suggested changing the language of the bill to specifically state opposition to the discrimination perpetuated by the ROTC program, and not against the program itself.

During this debate, Fetter chided the Senate for not taking a stronger stance against ROTC.

“[The revision] is another symbolic gesture where you can pass a bill that doesn’t say anything,” she said. “Be strong, be Senators, or else this seems to be like a lot of political bullshit.”

After Senate Chair Madeline Hawes ’13 called for a recess, the remaining Senators drafted a new resolution with consultation from members of the open forum titled, “Resolution to Acknowledge and Oppose the Discriminatory Nature of ROTC’s Policies.” The new bill, which did not include the original support for off-campus ROTC programs, was passed unanimously by the nine senators present.

“Students should know that what we’ve passed now, which is opposing the discriminatory policies of ROTC, is very different from what the students will be voting on Thursday and Friday, which is to support or oppose the return of ROTC,” Senator Khaled Alshawi ’13 said.

“In terms of support or not supporting the return of ROTC, the Senate is not taking a stance,” Bruny said following the vote. “We’re just saying we oppose the policies of the program that violate the nondiscrimination policy that the University has set forth.”

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