Ivy League to Welcome ROTC Back in Wake of DADT Repeal

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Tuesday December 21, 2010

Critics who gave voice to fears that recruitment and retention would suffer once gays were allowed to serve openly may well find that their predictions of a military gutted by an exodus of heterosexuals fail to materialize. As advocates of repeal point out, similar predictions were made in other nations that proceeded to set aside their own anti-gay bans, with no ill effect.

Moreover, similar predictions attended racial and gender integration in the American military, but no decimation of the ranks took place. Indeed, the Atlantic Wire pointed out in a Dec. 19 article that one immediate advantage to the end of DADT is that colleges that have been reluctant to invite the ROTC and military recruiters because their own anti-discrimination policies put them at odds with the military will now open up their campuses, because that conflict will no longer exist.

That prediction appeared ready to come true in short order at Harvard University, where the ROTC has not been invited on campus through official university channels for years. The president of Harvard University, Drew Faust, issued a statement on Dec. 18 saying that the ROTC would be allowed back on Harvard's campus, a Dec. 20 Boston Globe story reported.

"The repeal of DADT is a historic step," Faust's statement read. "It affirms American ideals of equal opportunity and underscores the importance of the right to military service as a fundamental dimension of citizenship. It was no accident that Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation not only guaranteed freedom to black Americans but at the same time opened the Union Army to their participation. Because of today's action by the Senate, gay and lesbian Americans will now also have the right to pursue this honorable calling, and we as a nation will have the benefit of their service.

"I look forward to pursuing discussions with military officials and others to achieve Harvard's full and formal recognition of ROTC," Faust went on. "I am very pleased that more students will now have the opportunity to serve their country. I am grateful to the Massachusetts delegation for their unified support for repeal."

Last month, while introducing Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen, Faust reiterated Harvard's policy and pointed out that once "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was repealed, the military would no longer come into conflict with the university's non-discrimination policy. Mullen was at Harvard to deliver a speech.

The Atlantic reported on Dec. 19 that the president of Yale, Mary Miller, was also quick to indicate that once DADT is gone, the ROTC will be back on campus. "We're very excited and pleased with today's results," Miller told student newspaper the Yale Daily News on Dec. 18. "This allows us to make the recommendations we wanted to make" to allow the ROTC back at Yale, now that the law no longer clashes with the university's non-discrimination policies.

At Politico, Ben Smith noted on Dec. 18 that a number of Ivy League schools had refused to allow the ROTC on their campuses since the days of the Vietnam war, "and many schools subsequently linked programs' return to open service for gays and lesbians." Smith went on to quote the president of Columbia University, Lee Bollinger, who said in a statement that the repeal of the 17-year-old anti-gay law would open up "the opportunity for a new era in the relationship between universities and our military services."

Bollinger's statement went on to say, "This is an historic development for a nation dedicated to fulfilling its core principle of equal rights. It also effectively ends what has been a vexing problem for higher education, including at Columbia--given our desire to be open to our military, but not wanting to violate our own core principle against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation."

The Kagan Connection

That "vexing problem" came to the fore during last summer's Supreme Court confirmation hearings of Elena Kagan, who was accused by GOP politicians--most notably Sen. Jeff Sessions--of having "punished the military in a time of war" by refusing to allow the ROTC to visit Harvard during Kagan's time as head of the university's law school.

Sessions, when asked about Kagan on CNN, sought to depict her as a Harvard administrator who implemented a policy to exclude military recruiters even as American servicemembers were dying by the thousand to "protect Harvard's right to exist."

"What happened was, a number of law schools, Harvard being, I think, a leader, when she was there, would not allow the military recruiters to come on to the law school to recruit JAG officers for the military because she didn't agree with the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy," said Sessions. "We had a thousand soldiers killed defending free speech and the right of Harvard to exist... during that period of time, so I think that that is something that would be asked [of Kagan during confirmation hearings]."

Sessions added that Kagan "felt that ['Don't Ask, Don't Tell'] was discriminatory, but it was the established policy of the United States... and she could work to change that, but I don't think it was acceptable... for her to say, 'You can't even come on our campus because I disagree with your policy.' "

Supporters of Kagan's nomination to the Supreme Court pointed out that Kagan remained within the law at every point, allowing military recruiters on campus when a federal law came into effect that would have denied funds from the U.S. Government to colleges and universities, and withdrawing that privilege from military recruiters when a federal court struck the law down. When the U.S. Supreme Court--the same bench to which Kagan has now been nominated--reinstated the law, Kagan allowed recruiters on the Harvard campus once more.

A May 11 Associated Press story that reported on Kagan's "precise" adherence to the law also carried a quote from Clinton-era Solicitor General Walter Dellinger, who said, "Elena Kagan does not have a single antimilitary bone in her body."

Moreover, the article noted, Kagan had not instituted the ban; she was simply following existing polices that had been put in place before her tenure, as her predecessor, Robert Clark, had also done. The ban came into effect in 1979, when Harvard put anti-discrimination policies into place that refused access to employers that did not protect GLBT workers.

Robert Clark himself wrote on the controversy in a May 11 Wall Street Journal article, explaining that Harvard's official policy had been circumvented for years by student groups who took the initiative to invite military recruiters to the campus themselves, which was allowed under the university's policies. "In 2002, however, the Air Force took a hard line with Harvard," Clark wrote, "and argued that this pattern did not provide strictly equal access for military recruiters and thus violated the 1996 Solomon Amendment, which denies certain federal funds to an education institution that 'prohibits or in effect prevent' military recruiting." Added Clark, "It credibly threatened to bring an end to federal funding of all research at the university," which would not have had much of an impact on the law school, but which would have been devastating to the medical school and to other elements of the university.

Harvard agreed to allow the military to recruit on the campus despite its anti-gay policy. Wrote Clark, "At the same time, I, along with many faculty and students, publicly stated our opposition to the military's policy, which we considered both unwise and unjust, even as we explicitly affirmed our profound gratitude to the military." When Kagan took over as dean of the law school, she issued a "memorandum" to explain why one anti-gay employer--the U.S. military--was being given access that other anti-gay employers were denied under the university's anti-discrimination policies.

In September, well after Kagan's nomination cleared Congress, Republican Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts criticized Harvard for not welcoming the ROTC, saying that Harvard "should embrace young people who want to serve their country," local newspaper the Boston Herald reported on Sept. 24.

College administrators, military leaders, and three-quarters of the American population had already expressed that same sentiment--with reference to the military.

In the end, Brown voted with several other Republican senators on Dec. 18 to rescind the anti-gay law and fully integrate the United States Armed Forces, noted GLBT publication theRainbow Times on that same day.

President Obama is expected to sign the bill repealing DADTon Dec. 22, but the anti-gay law will not end right away. The bill mandates that DADT will remain in effect until two months after the Commander in Chief, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Secretary of Defense certify that the time is right. There is currently no set date or deadline for that certification, noted Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a support organization for GLBT troops, in a Dec. 21 press release.

"We respectfully renew our call for Defense Secretary Robert Gates to use his authority to suspend all 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' investigations during this limbo period," said SLDN head Aubrey Sarvis. "Until the President signs the bill, until there is certification, and until the 60-day implementation period is over, no one should be investigated or discharged under this discriminatory law.

"Certification and the implementation period must be wrapped up no later than the first quarter of 2011," Sarvis added. "The bottom line: for now, gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members must remain cautiously closeted."

In the interim, SLDN has said, a federal lawsuit brought by the organization on behalf of three former members of the military discharged under DADT would still proceed, the Associated Press reported on Dec. 20.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.