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Column: Harvard Leftists Shouldn't Play Politics With ROTC

This story was written by Christopher Lacaria, Harvard Crimson


Last year, with her schedule presumably packed with planning the details of her incipient administration, President-elect Drew G. Faust neglected to attend the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) commissioning ceremony. This spring, however, she has indicated that she will grace the proceedings not only with her presence but also with a short sermon.Far be it for President Faust simply to honor her charges for their decision to serve: She must also, to confirm the politically correct prejudices that govern the Academy, use the opportunity for ideological grandstanding.Aside from commending the soon-to-be lieutenants and ensigns, President Faust will use her pulpit at the ROTC ceremony to decry the Dont Ask, Dont Tell (DADT) policy, which precludes homosexuals from openly serving in the military.For, in a campus culture contemptuous of patriotic ardor and saturated with overwrought human rights rhetoric, a word in praise of military service stands proxy for anti-gay sentiment.Even the Undergraduate Council (UC), in response to bipartisan lobbying from both the Republican Club and the College Democrats, recently resolved that many University-imposed inconveniences on ROTC should be lifted with the Democrat-sponsored proviso, of course, that DADT is despicable and violates Harvards anti-discrimination policy.The unfortunately-christened Dont Ask, Dont Tell policy of the United States Military has truly become the rallying cry for activists intent on limiting ROTCs official position on campus. And indeed the hand-wringing over this policy has provoked some rather excessive comparisons.President Faust, for example, imagined herself at the vanguard of a new era in civil rights. As a civil war historian in particular, she cannot but help think about what military service meant to African Americans. Thus, a policy that bars the right of homosexuals openly to serve in the military is a badge of degradation and second-class citizenship. With such stakes, President Faust cannot fathom keeping her silence.Crimson editorialist Andrew D. Fine 09 likewise sounded the tocsin. Pleading before the UC not to pass their aforementioned resolution, Fine as paraphrased in The Crimson deemed it incumbent upon the University to pressure the military into ending DADT, and thus imperative to exclude the commissioning ceremony from campus.The most presumptuous of the chattering classes, columnist Adam Goldenberg 08, made no apologies for his political, even partisan stance of urging President Faust to declaim against DADT at the commissioning ceremony. The militarys discriminatory policy, to Goldenberg, clearly overrides any respect for prudence or decorum. Evidently, the slightest support of ROTC without an accompanying jeremiad against DADT signifies complicity in oppression.Regardless of whether one deems DADT defensible or odious, President Faust and these conscientious objectors miss the crucial point. Faust, and indeed the whole Harvard community, should be able to recognize and to honor ROTC seniors without qualifying their praise with political slogans.As Goldenberg insinuated since the ROTC students happiness is . . . not the issue some activists hold that the cadets and midshipmen do not deserve a decorous ceremony free from political controversy and ideological harangues as long as some among their peers are excluded from their ranks. Yet, despite Goldenbergs and others well-intentioned crusade, how is this a fair and fitting reward to the students who have chosen, not immediately to pursue career ambitions or vain whim, but to serve their country?ROTC students, conforming to military restrictions on their free speech, must refrain from political statements while in uniform despite the position they may otherwise hold on DADT, the Iraq war, or any other issue. President Faust, encouraged and emboldened by Harvards own prejudice for leftist actvism, will not extend the students this same courtesy by observing at the ceremony an honorable silence on DADT which, as everyone already well knows, she and the administration staunchly oppose.DADT has been hotly debated for quite some time, both on campus and in American society at large. No political position no tacit countenancing of DADT would be implied were President Faust not to speak of the matter. To suspend the debate, and the sanctimonious rhetoric, for just the length of the ceremony will not require the President to abdicate her moral principles.Removing the dark pall of political controversy and polemics from the ROTC ceremony will not impugn the progressive credentials of the President or her University. Rather, it will permit, if only for a moment, the ROTC students a much-deserved yet seldom-granted spotlight.

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