Faculty Senate votes ‘yes’ on ROTC return

April 29, 2011, 3:06 a.m.
Faculty Senate votes 'yes' on ROTC return
Psychology professor Ewart Thomas, chair of the ad hoc committee charged with investigating a potential relationship between Stanford and ROTC, presented the committee's report before the Faculty Senate. (Courtesy of Linda Cicero)

Following more than a year of research and debate, the Faculty Senate voted on Thursday 28-9, with three abstentions, to extend an invitation for ROTC to return to Stanford. The vote effectively ends the 40-year ban of the program on campus.

“We believe that the majority of students support the return of ROTC, and a substantial minority opposes it,” said Committee Chair Ewart Thomas, professor of psychology.

“No member of our committee objects to the minimizing of violence,” he added. “We offer our recommendation in favor of minimizing the military-civilian gap.”

The ad hoc committee, established last March, released its report last week announcing its support for a Stanford ROTC program. ROTC was initially voted off campus in 1970 after concerns of its academic merit were raised. All ROTC programs were gone by 1973.

The report initially consisted of six clauses that served as the cornerstone of the committee’s recommendation, including the creation of a Stanford ROTC Committee that would evaluate military professors and courses, as well as serving as a mediator between the University and the military.

Thomas presented the ad hoc committee’s report to the Faculty Senate; debate then proceeded for more than an hour.

Professor William Perry ’49 M.S. ’55 presented the initial proposal to investigate Stanford’s relationship with the military last year. He reminded the Faculty Senate that they would not be debating ROTC if Congress had not recently repealed “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

“That repeal would not have happened without significant support from senior military officials in the U.S.,” he said. “Their enlightened views are obviously a product of their education. Stanford has the opportunity to help create military leaders that will later make these enlightened decisions. This is the single most important chance you will have to seize that opportunity.”

“We can no longer free-ride on the public good known as national security,” added history professor David Kennedy ’63.

ASSU President Michael Cruz ’12 distributed a packet of compiled materials covering a range of student opinions about ROTC. He spoke on behalf of the student body and urged the Senate to vote “no.”

“ROTC does not align with the vision of this university,” Cruz said. “Currently, Stanford is one of the safest communities for transgender students in the world. I want to make sure all Stanford students feel safe enough to call this place home as well.

“A rejection of ROTC is a rejection of exclusion,” he added.

Faculty Senate votes 'yes' on ROTC return
Stanford Students for Queer Liberation and others organized a protest attended by more than 30 outside the Law School before the Faculty Senate meeting. Many chanted demains for equal rights, while others handed out antiwar literature. Some protestors waited outside the auditorium at the metting's conclusion and voiced their disappointment with the Faculty Senate's ROTC decision. (MEHMET INONU/The Stanford Daily)

Imani Franklin ’13, who served as one of two student representatives on the ad hoc committee, spoke to the Faculty Senate about why she supported the return of an ROTC program.

“I came onto this committee knowing little to nothing about military lifestyles,” she said. “Most of my knowledge of the military came from watching ‘Pearl Harbor.’ That is not okay.

“A large portion of the student body is entirely removed from a piece of the American population that serves in the military,” she said.

Franklin said that by allowing ROTC back onto campus, the University could “humanize the people who fight our wars.”

“A huge part of our education at Stanford is to expose to different ways of life, nationally and globally,” she said. “Military perspectives have been invisible on this campus.”

Fourteen students currently participate in ROTC programs through cross-town agreements with Santa Clara University, San Jose State and UC-Berkeley. They do not receive course credit for their required military science classes or physical training.

Some professors asked the committee to clarify specific aspects of its recommendation, including to whom ROTC commanders would report. The committee has proposed a program similar to those found at MIT and Duke, where a faculty committee reviews each potential professor and evaluates the content of potential military science courses.

Later, an amendment was proposed to ensure that ROTC cadets’ chosen majors were not dictated by their involvement in the program.

Political science professor Scott Sagan, also a member of the committee, said that some students chose to attend other universities because of their ROTC offerings and a return could make Stanford a more viable option for prospective students.

“Some students do choose other universities over Stanford who offer on-campus ROTC programs,” he said.

Others expressed concern about the implications of interpreting the University’s nondiscrimination policy in light of an endorsed ROTC program.

“With respect to ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ that goal is not yet accomplished nor irreversible,” political science professor Gary Segura said.

“There is no evidence for any palpable benefits to Stanford,” he added. “Furthermore, it will always be an asterisk on our nondiscrimination policy.”

Graduate Student Council representative Justin Brown echoed this sentiment.

“How large does a group of students need to be so that they can feel as though their civil rights are acknowledged and protected?” he asked.

However, University general counsel Debra Zumwalt said that formal recognition of ROTC would not violate the nondiscrimination policy as it currently stands.

“Our policy prevents against illegal discrimination,” she explained. “Based on all the information we have, we do not see an illegal discrimination and [ROTC] does not violate our policy.”

Additionally, Thomas said that a small group of members of the transgender community told the committee they would not participate in ROTC even if the ban on openly serving were lifted.

Regardless, Brown said that even the debate over the last months has caused significant stress for many of the parties involved.

“I have never seen the student body so divisive,” he said.

“It is reasonable to predict, many members of the community would regard this as the correct decision, while others will see it as a mistake,” Thomas said. “Our research over the last year shows that this program will prevail into the future in shaping a more vibrant community.”

The Faculty Senate ultimately voted in favor of the committee’s recommendation with three additional amendments, including a condemnation of the military’s discriminatory policies against transgender people.

“Our support for reestablishing the ROTC program should not be misconstrued,” read a joint statement released by President John Hennessy and Provost John Etchemendy. “We understand the concerns about the military’s continuing discrimination against transgender people, and we share those concerns. But if the leadership of the military is drawn from communities that teach and practice true tolerance, change is more likely to occur. The U.S. military has demonstrated an ability and willingness to change over time, and we believe Stanford can contribute by providing leaders capable of helping create that change.”

Approximately 30 students, including members of Stanford Students for Queer Liberation (SSQL) and Stanford Says No to War, waited outside of the Law School to protest the Faculty Senate’s decision, while others applauded the committee members as they exited.

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