The University Council committee examining the campus ROTC program is soliciting comments from the University as part of an investigation into whether ROTC practices violate the University's non-discrimination policy. In May, Council asked its Steering Committee to begin an investigation, after a former student charged that he was forced out of the program when he publically announced that he was gay. The Reserve Officer Training Corps program has come under fire recently at universities nationwide for barring and discharging gays from service. ROTC's policy is the same as a Pentagon policy which states that "homosexuality is incompatible with military service." Council has also called for ROTC to be kicked off campus in June 1993 unless it "adheres to the spirit and the letter" of University policies. Faculty Senate Conduct Committee Chairperson Kenneth George, whose committee is conducting the examination, said this week that the committee is looking for people to testify on their experiences with the University's ROTC program. George said the committee is looking for gays or lesbians who felt harassed in the program as well as people who feel that ROTC has played a positive role on campus. He added that the committee has not met yet and will probably be unable to report to Council as scheduled in December, because it just received its formal charge. George said that the committee will probably be ready by February at the latest. The heads of the campus Naval Science and Army ROTC programs have been asked to meet with the committee, George said. Naval Science Director Lyle Lewis said Sunday that he would participate in the process. Army ROTC Director Jerry Warnement was out of town this week and could not be reached for comment. Because his committee has not met yet, George said he did not know which way the committee was leaning on the issue. But he noted that when Council first discussed ROTC policies in May, members were "horrified" by claims of discrimination and harassment. The issue of ROTC discrimination came to the fore when former College student Peter Laska charged that he was forced out of the Navy ROTC program because he was gay. He subsequently left the University. In an April letter to President Sheldon Hackney, Laska stated that he was intimidated, verbally abused and interrogated when rumors of his homosexuality began to circulate. He said that he eventually was kicked out after writing a letter to his superior officer declaring his homosexuality. In April, Laska said that after he left the University, the Navy demanded he repay $25,000 of "training expenditures" and tuition. He said that the Navy made threatening calls and letters and said they would file suit against his parents if he did not pay. Laska, who moved to San Francisco after leaving the University, could not be reached for comment this week. Other students at several universities have reported similar treatment from their campus ROTC. Thirty-five members of the U.S. House of Representatives, including Philadelphia Congressman Tom Foglietta (D-Phila.), sent a letter to the Secretary of the Navy in March on behalf of one Harvard and one Massachusetts Institute of Technology student who were reportedly kicked out of the NROTC programs at their schools and ordered to repay over $40,000 each in scholarship grants. "In our view, it is wrong that private sexual orientation remains grounds for dismissal from the U.S. military," the letter states. "We believe that to compel these men to repay this money would not only be fundamentally unfair; it would also reflect an appalling mean-spiritedness which has no place in the Navy." Other colleges across the nation have taken similar steps to the University's. The faculty at the University of Wisconsin at Madison recommended ROTC be kicked off that campus by 1993 unless it accepted gays and lesbians. At Harvard University, where ROTC was dismantled in 1969 as a Vietnam War protest, the administration has stated that it will not allow ROTC to come back on campus unless it accepts homosexuals. Yale University voted not to take ROTC back for the same reason. And the provost of MIT sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Richard Cheney in April urging reconsideration of the policy.Comments powered by Disqus
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