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Columbia U. Plans ROTC Student Survey

This story was written by Mary Kohlmann, Columbia Daily Spectator


A controversial student survey on the possible return of the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps to Columbia University's campus will open online next Monday, according to members of the student councils organizing it.

Although the phrasing and logistics of the survey were discussed with members of student groups in a pair of September meetings, the councils have faced criticism for what some students see as an excessively closed-door planning process.

I feel like the student councils have not been very forthcoming with information about it, Chris Daniels, president of the Columbia University College Democrats and CC 09, said.

College Republicans Executive Director Lauren Salz, BC 11, agreed, saying she was surprised that student groups have not been included in the planning process since the September meetings.

Columbia College Student Council Vice President for Policy Adil Ahmed, CC 09 and a primary organizer of the survey, countered assertions of non-transparency. We decided from the get-go that the councils would be in charge of the survey, Ahmed said. We released the date for it and the question being asked. I dont know how much more transparency could have been had.

Ahmed explained that the work surrounding the survey has been roughly divided three ways while he and CCSC were in charge of setting up the survey, members of the Engineering Student Council have sorted out the forums and Barnards Student Government Association has, among other tasks, organized the surveys online implementation. The mechanics of the vote, though nearing completion, are still under discussion.

Because its being done over Thanksgiving week, were thinking about leaving the polls open for a week, Ahmed said. The yes-or-no poll will ask respondents, Do you support NROTC on Columbias campus?

Controversy has surrounded the survey for weeks, with the College Democrats forming a coalition with such groups as the Columbia Queer Alliance, Everyone Allied Against Homophobia, the Chicano Caucus, Proud Colors and Lucha to protest NROTCs possible return, primarily on the basis of the militarys "Dont Ask, Dont Tell" policy, which many perceive to be in violation of the universitys nondiscrimination policy. The groups are working both together and independently on protest projects ranging from posters to demonstrations.

The College Republicans tack is different although Salz said they feel the issue is an important one, they are not formally mobilizing. It shouldnt be an issue of Republicans or Democrats, Salz said. The Republicans support ROTC on campus, but are not participating in concerted activity. Were encouraging our members to vote in the survey, Salz said.

Some members have aligned with what Salz called a very informal coalition called Columbia Students for NROTC, and with the national group Advocates for ROTC.

While the debate has been vehement, some say that it may be confined to only a portion of the student body.

I think theres not a great campus awareness, Daniels said of the NROTC issue, and thats a problem.

The councils hope that their advertising campaign will be effective. It should go out in all the e-mails all the council e-mails and all the class-council e-mails as well, Ahmed said.

Although he agreed that overall awareness of the specifics of the survey may be lacking, Ahmed said that advertising about and media coverage of the survey has been widespread enough that most people are somewhat tuned-in.

Everyone sort of knows that theres a vote coming up soon, he said.

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