Tuesday, April 21, 2009


You've all read or heard some variant of the story about George Bernard Shaw at a dinner where he asked a woman sitting nearby if she'd sleep with him for a million pounds. She says yes, and then he asks if she'd sleep with him for ten shillings, and she says no, and asks if he thinks she's a prostitute. And he answers that they've already established that, now they're just haggling over the price.

ROTC is entering NWU.

We have this big priority that says we're all about inclusivity and diversity; it's supposed to be the underpinning of everything we do.

But when I ask about why we're letting ROTC come to campus (we already have students participating through another nearby campus), we're told it's about money. The program will bring us money that the students otherwise pay to the other campus. And because of the Solomon Amendment, if we reject ROTC, we'd lose access to all sorts of federal funding. (Link to the Supreme Court decision upholding the right of the government to withhold funding from law schools that refuse to allow recruiting by the US military, despite that "Don't Ask/Don't Tell" violates their principles of free expression and freedom of association.)

So basically, we've already determined that we're willing to sell out our basic principles. Now we're just haggling over the price. And right now, the price is pretty damned low when the principle is about discriminating against glbt folks.

Yeah, it's complicated, as one of my colleagues says. No one wants to endanger funding for anything, especially these days. I completely understand that, and I, too, am afraid of losing funding.

I hate cowardice, my own included.


  1. there are certain policies that i hope hope hope will change during this adminstration. eliminating don't ask don't tell would eliminate the conflict with universities' excellent non-discrimination policies. it's also a shame that funding is tied to allowing military recruiting despite university policy, but that seems secondary to the larger goal of ridding the military of official discrimination.

    as distasteful as giving in for the sake of funding is, though, i have some faith in students to see the problems, particularly if they are informed of them. here is a letter my law school sent last year to students: http://www.uchastings.edu/careers/students/resource-center/military.html

    many students have protested the presence of military recruiters. see, e.g., http://www.nhregister.com/articles/2008/10/02/news/a3-nemilitary.txt http://www.michaelmoore.com/mustread/index.php?id=862

    many more simply vote with their feet, and are not attracted to the military. wars, torture, forced extensions of duty, poor medical care after injuries -- it's not looking like a great career option at the moment, anyway.

  2. Eliminating discrimination in the military would be the best outcome for everyone. In the meantime, there's one way to be a little more comfortable with the cowardice. I participated in a series of protests on a previous campus that was debating accepting ROTC, and the argument that ultimately convinced me that it was acceptable was this: the ROTC guys are going to exist anyway, and they're going to be the leadership of the military. Do you want to bring them in and at least make sure they get a solid liberal arts education on the way(including the very principles of diversity and inclusion that the university should be based on)? Or exclude them, and ensure that they remain a closed system, unengaged with the rest of society? I'm beginning to be convinced that it's better to bring them in and persuade them to change from the inside.

  3. You put it really well. Though, I do have a hard time seeing you as a coward; you are being too hard on yourself.

    What would it take to write a letter to your college's president? To Pres. Obama? These are things you can do to overcome paralysis you may feel about it, and they do make a difference.

  4. Anonymous11:39 AM

    The policy excluding homosexuals from the military doesn't come from the military itself, it comes from Congress, who enacted the UCMJ. Efforts to change the policy would best be addressed to those people who have the power to change it, namely your congressional representatives. Taking it out on the recruiters themselves is both pointless and gratuitously nasty. Both of those attributes seem to be perfectly acceptable in American post-secondary education.

  5. Kathy A., My Dad, like lots of other people, wouldn't have finished college without the GI bill; I think the military provides some great opportunities for people. I want all qualified people to have those opportunities. (And I think we should have a much stronger, more generous GI bill.)

    From what I've read, the military has moved farther than any other US institution in being non-racist. I doubt it's perfect, but I know people of color who've found it better than most other organizations in the US. An executive order started that change; I hope an executive order can make the next change.

    Pilgrim/Heretic, Yes, I understand that's an important argument. I want a well-educated and highly capable officer corps. I just want them not to discriminate against our glbt students or servicefolks.

    Kate, You're absolutely right that the best response is a letter to the president. Thanks. I think it really is a matter of an executive order. But I also think that more colleges standing up institutionally would say more than a lone professor.

    Anonymous, You're correct, of course, that the military doesn't make this policy. It's made in Washington. Nonetheless, I do think that inviting the military to our campus when the policy is at odds with our stated values of diversity and inclusivity is a problem. I don't think I'm taking anything out on the recruiters; I've been talking to campus officials, because they're the ones who have made this choice so far. And yes, I understand pretty well how constrained they feel.

    Your point about pointlessness is well-taken. That could certainly be said about my blog as a whole, for example. And I've seen my share of gratuitously nasty, though I try to control that in myself.