Joe Mirabella

Just Say No to ROTC on College Campuses

Filed By Joe Mirabella | January 26, 2011 7:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: President Barrack Obama, rotc, state of the union, war

President Obama acknowledged that gays and lesbians will serve openly in the abolishROTC.jpgarmed forces this year thanks to last year's repeal of the so called "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law. In exchange, the President has asked the college campuses and universities that banned the ROTC from recruiting on their campuses to let them return. I respectfully disagree.

Colleges and universities should focus all their energy on preserving the lives of their students, and students throughout the world. They should be harbors of peace, not war. Students should never have to face down a recruiter in the cafeteria, or outside class. No, there are better ways.

College is expensive and becoming more expensive every year as states slash their budgets and as our federal government diverts trillions to war. The military actively preys upon the poor and disadvantaged with the offer of a better future through the GI Bill. They are common in high school cafeterias and college campuses as students struggle to stay afloat. There is no greater predatory practice on our youth than the ROTC.

Instead, we should invest in more peaceful solutions to students, like the Peace Corps, AmeriaCorps, tuition reimbursement programs for educators, scholarships, grants, and more. We should create additional opportunities for students, opportunities that do not involve the perpetuation of the military industrial complex, but provide opportunities for students to help rebuild America.

Yes, Mr. President, we should end the divisiveness of the past. I was proud to be present when you signed the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," but that does not mean I'm prepared to see more young men and women die for war.

Universities used to ban the ROTC because they discriminated against gays and lesbians. Today, they still have a noble reason to keep the ROTC out; because no student should be put in harms way in the name of our current wars.

For those schools who do follow the President's request, they should require all ROTC recruiters to be accompanied by someone who is expert on other choices. Students, gay and straight, should receive a full picture of their future, not just one that leads them down a road towards war.

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"Universities used to ban the ROTC because they discriminated against gays and lesbians. Today, they still have a noble reason to keep the ROTC out; because no student should be put in harms way in the name of our current wars."

Another reason to protest ROTC is because the military does (and will continue to) discriminate against trans people. In fact, protesters at Stanford University are using that very reason to stop ROTC from being brought back onto their campus:

I agree with you that ROTC has no place on campuses, especially public high schools and public universities where lower income students are targeted for recruitment. There are lots of other forms of service which should be encouraged.

Thank you. Seems that once again, gay men forget they are not the only people in the TLBG acronym. Universities also have non-discrimination policies that including "Gender Identity and Gender Expression."


On the surface it would seem that I neglected the trans community in this essay. I wrote this seconds after the State of the Union address and wanted to speak directly to the President's remarks. Of coarse I want to end discrimination for the trans community in all aspect of life. However, even if the military stopped discriminating against the trans community my thesis would remain intact. That is why I stayed focused on DADT specifically -- because that was the exchange the President offered. Hypothetically, if the President said, "And now that transgender Americans can serve openly in the military, it is time to let the ROTC back on campuses..." I would still say no for the reasons I listed above.

I love and value my trans friends and won't stop fighting until we are all equal. I also won't stop until humanity evolves beyond war.

You should rather complain about JROTC. ROTC in colleges has a clear purpose and the people generally know what they are doing.

Junior ROTC takes place in high school and really preys on gullible kids.

I agree with everything you say, Joe.

I started college the same year the Viet Nam war was expanded into Cambodia. I remember why the ROTC programs were disbanded at the campuses that were able to get rid of them. I know many people who paid a dear price trying to force the Viet Nam war to a close by any means they could.

Why reinstatement of ROTC programs is even a question has to be the result of a collective amnesia because things are even worse today than they were back then. How anyone be supportive of the military culture as it exists in the U S today is way beyond me. Of course, trans people and everyone else should have the right to exist, even in the military, without discrimination based on simple prejudice but even if those issues are rectified, there are many other reasons to keep military culture as it exists today as far removed from college campuses as possible.

I believe in honesty in advertising. Military recruitment programs and anything related should be required to post accurate facts on casualties including civilians killed and wounded in Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam and other theaters of conflict. Lets force truth in advertising.

Not only that, they should explain the real reasons for such conflicts, just in case, you know, the kids signing up to fight are blinded by an irrational form of nationalism or have simply been lied to all their lives about the nature of the conflicts.

That'll never happen, though. Once people understand what's going on, they're a lot harder to manipulate.

ROTC is not the evil we should target IMHO. Worse are MEPS that mislead young people, recruit sick people fraudulently and often target vulnerable LGBTs. I participated in ROTC and the culture *is* homophobic but that's the military as a whole really. ROTC at least helps put some brains and moral LGBTs in higher positions in the mostly under-educated military. The college culture infiltrates ROTC and makes it very basic leadership training. That training can provide skills that are transferable to all kinds of campaigning. Also, the "war" aspect much depends on the MOS chosen. There are many non-combat fields that deal with intelligence, medical/supply providing, civilian defense and sanitation training etc. I do think the homophobia of the military as a whole should be addressed. Having them on campus allows them to be engaged and the culture is a little more tolerable/educated there than in the enlisted segments. Where would we have a chance to serve in leadership roles? Leaving MEPS out would unfairly force poor LGBTs into positions of being commandeered instead of made into leaders. I respect the perspective you add however to the problem. I'm just not sure it's the focus point we should use.

During my undergraduate studies at Western Michigan University I remember for weeks every time I would walk from my job at the library to the intern office with the LBGT Student Services I would pass the recruiters in uniform trying to ask me to join.

They finally got the NO, when my boyfriend walked with me holding hands to class and we commented on purpose we liked a hunky man in uniform.

Why a student who is already struggling to afford to be there by loaning out their future, and cant find work has to daily say no to the military which is offering to pay well if they will pick up a rifle and get shot at is unjust for ALL people.

Suzanne O'Brien | January 27, 2011 7:30 AM

I wish we could get them and the ASVAB test out of our high school also. That has been a big thorn in my butt for a while.

ROTC should not be invited back to higher education until DADT is actually done. Currently it's just a political promise, and even after DADT is repealed, it doesn't mean they can't discriminate, it only means they don't have to discriminate. I'm flabbergasted that so many people trust a political promise, especially the LGBT community.

But, when it is truly repealed, and only after the military has policies in place that dictate not to discriminate against gays then... for God sakes people! Somebody has to defend our country! ROTC can lead to a great career, it should be presented as a choice from within our higher education system or a stepping stone or educational tool if students aren't ready for a career. I do agree with Deena about honest adverting. I hadn't thought about that before I read her post.... great idea Deena. I know several people in the military who love it. Just because you don't love it doesn't mean you should hide the idea from everybody else. Even if you don't agree with our current wars, we still need a military.

While I usually always insist the T remain in TBLG, I don't understand the importance of gender identity in this case. There isn't much gender identity in the military, is there? Just what would you like to see different? How is it they would still be discriminating? You're allowed to say you love somebody of the same sex, but you're not allowed to discuss that you identify as the opposite sex?

Aren't you aware that trans people are summarily dismissed from service or are prevented from joining because of their gender identity? That may not be a big deal to you but it might very well be a big deal to trans people who wish to serve.

Gender identity is important in this debate because trans people are unfairly discriminated against by the military, just as gay, lesbian and bisexual people are. That's why it's important.

My reply went to the wrong place. It wasn't attached to this comment. Please see below.

While I'd like to see no need for the ROTC, period, I REALLY don't like the idea of allowing them back on campus until DADT is -actually- repealed. It's not yet. They haven't certified it yet.

Oh. So, if I understand this correctly, you will be okay to let recruiters and the ROTC back on campuses, even when trans people are still discriminated against?

I respectfully disagree with you Joe. I'm speaking as a veteran. We've had no draft since the late 70s and in the 80s/early 90s we significantly drew down our forces (no big wars then). But, we need a defense force.

I would not presume that all recruits are answering only a call to solve their financial worries. Motivations vary, as do the backgrounds and situations from which recruits to both the officer corps and enlisted ranks. Nor can you presume that anyone signing up is swelled with some artificial sense of patriotism or that they are even ill-informed, we don't get to be the judge of that.

Yes, we have two very horrific wars going on and I'm opposed to both in both motivation and strategy. But our military serves in many countries and all over the US as well. All doing a job of specific importance to maintaining the freedoms we have here.

It's unfortunate that a large number of recruits come from disadvantaged backgrounds and look to the military as a way to better their situation, but it's a fact.

And that needs to be addressed on two levels from my view: one, make it a level playing field and require all 18-26 year olds to do at least two years of service in the military (as many other countries do) or in a civic program like Conservation Corps or other works program. And, in return, receive your "GI Bill"-type benefits. It ensures that the less advantaged don't do all of our dirty work and provides jobs training, education, and also keeps our defense force strong.

And, in that, I'm just imagining the rich and powerful parents of all the kids forced into service who don't want them off in some Godforsaken war. They may have the influence and power to help end it. Might not get into these things at all if their own kids' lives are on the line.

John Demilio | January 27, 2011 10:01 AM

couldn't agree more. thanks for saying this, and saying it so well. the line about ROTC and the campus as an "exchange" in effect for repeal of DADT was one of those most deeply upsetting and disturbing lines i've heard from the President.

Yes, I do claim ignorance on this subject, so please forgive me. I'm not sure what you mean by "trans people are summarily dismissed from service or are prevented from joining because of their gender identity"

Does that mean, if you're preparing for a trans operation, you're dismissed. I would hope that anybody planning a serious operation would be dismissed.

Do you mean that if you've had the operation, you're dismissed? Then yes, this is discrimination, and should be a cause to prevent ROTC on our campuses.

Does it mean that if you say you identify with the opposite sex, you're dismissed. I find that hard to believe, I assume that type of thing is included in this DADT repeal.

Does it mean that you can't be a man, and wear a dress during combat? Are woman allowed to wear a dress during combat?

Please enlighten me so I don't continue to spew ignorant thoughts.

All it takes is saying you're transsexual. DADT only ever covered orientation, the repeal of it only covers orientation, transfolk still can't be open, do not assume things. If you do want to assume things, assume that the laws are written to be as detrimental as possible to transfolk, it will be more accurate.

Bil--Bolten seems to be channeling that guy who peed in everyone's cornflakes about DADT during December--he was never happy. I recall that you banned him--what was his name?

His political accumen was faulty, at best. It was the same old drivel day in and day out.

By the way, thank you for banning him--see how well it works? I've forgotten his name.

Rick, are you talking about AndrewW?

I agree with Lori on this one. The modern military ROTC program does provide excellent leadership training. Not a bad idea to get more LGBT people inside the military to help create a more open accepting culture. We can't make the military a more accepting organization by running away from it. America will need a military for a long time to come, so if you can't eliminate it, change it.

Remember, the military is commanded by the politicians and is there to protect America's interests. Is it perfect? no. Don't blame the military just because the politicians do not always know what is in our best interest.

Also, never forget that this country was created by suppressed people the had to fight, with guns, for freedom from repression. Yes, we then turned right around and did the same to others. But these decision are made by our political leaders. Most people, especially officers, in the military do not want to go to war.

Finally, when military officers retire, they typically do pretty darn well in the civilian world thanks to the discipline learned in the military. And, while not a liberal hand out, the military industrial complex created millions of well-paying jobs and helps to keep America on the leading edge of technology (it actually put us there in the first place). Imagine the world if America did not have a military. WW-I & II outcomes may have been a bit different.

I emphasis the point that campuses should not consider ROTC until after DADT is repealed. Only then will we really know what it means. I don't think you can assume that "transfolk" will continue to be discriminated against.

As you say, trans are not part of DADT, so they will have the same discrimination options as gays after DADT is gone. They big myth is that there is something to stop the military from discriminating against gays once DADT is repealed, when in fact, all we are doing is eliminating the law that says the military has to discriminate against gays.

But I still wonder what you mean by "transfolk." You didn't answer my question. In what fashion do you think they'll be discriminated against once military policy is changed? Do you think the military is going to make the distinction between, "Hi I'm Gay and I want to be in the military" and "Hi I'm trans and I want to be in the military" Why would anybody even say either of those things? Do you think that the military will cease to investigate if you like people of the opposite sex, but will continue to seek you out if you talk about your soul feeling of identifying with the opposite sex?

Are you talking about people who have had the operation? Is it these people that you think the military will say, 'no not you' ? Even if you do think that, I don't think you can assume that's how it will be. But again, I think we're in agreement that campuses should not invite ROTC until after these questions are answered.

Well, okay, as a trans person who was honorably discharged in Nov 2007 for coming out as trans to the Army...

I agree, excluding trans people from the military is fucked up, but there is another issue (one that I always bring up, and I think highlights a massie cultural problem) is that the officer corps in the military heavily overrepresents rural America and the south. From the standpoint of civil military relations, its absolutely important that more officers come from coastal, urban universities.

Having the officer corps represent only a small (and obviously very conservative) part of America, is a very big problem.

And yeah, its also for the best culturally if more people in liberal areas (like the SF Bay Area) are exposed to the military more.

Shorter Amanda: military culture is already fucked up, but it'll be less fucked with with more Stanford grads, and less Texas A&M grads.

In case you aren't aware, Stanford and Harvard students are working on keeping the ROTC and recruiters off the campus because of the discrimination against trans people.

Um..yeah, I already read the lined article, like a couple of days ago.

First, let's point out what doesn't need to be pointed out: Obama's mention of DADT repeal and his plea to let ROTC back onto America's higher education campuses was part of his Clinton-style "re-triangulation" to kiss ass ... oops! ... I mean, cater to the new Republican power in the House. Nothing more. He played politics with DADT repeal, and now he wants his political brownie points for saying what he said about the ROTC issue.

That said (so that we are all on the same page, and you know I'm not totally politically gullible), I find it inconsistent for the GLBT world to push so heavily for the right to serve in the military, but at the same time to oppose ROTC on campus. ROTC is a good opportunity for the right people, and some of those people will be the young gays and lesbians that will benefit from the DADT repeal we just achieved.

P.S. Then there is the trans issue -- if a university wants to ban ROTC because the military still discriminates against trans people, then I can still support that. But banning ROTC because it is ROTC just doesn't make sense after all the pressure we've pressed to get DADT repealed.

I would argue that there is a difference, however subtle, between arguing for the right of LGBT adults who freely choose and desire to serve in the military to do so and arguing for the right of the military-industrial complex to pressure young and possibly economically disadvantaged people into dangerous military service.

I guess I consider it blindingly obvious that being in the military is an inherently dangerous profession.

I'm not comfortable implying a large number of economically marginalized young people are completely ignorant about the dangerous nature of the military.Being poor doesnt make you stupid.

Being poor doesn't make you stupid, but it does make you far, far more vulnerable to an economic system that cuts out your choices making, for instance, your debt much harder to surmount - if not impossible, making it harder to get an education, a job and so on.

And poverty doesn't make you stupid, but it does make it easier for the military to make promises about upward social mobility. The military recruiting ads which play the up "bad (Black) mother" unable to give her kids opportunities are a prime example of how the military plays up its particular narratives around people living in poverty.

What Yasmin said is exactly what I meant by my comment. She said it much more eloquently, though.

By the way ... ROTC is not only the campus recruiting itself, but also the availability of the military training curriculae that prepare a college student to enter military service at the officer level. (If I understand correctly, if an ROTC graduate sees the combat field, he or she will at least be in an officer's position -- this can be viewed as a smart move by the ROTC candidate, but it also might be viewed as an unfair advantage that an ROTC candidate has over someone who just signs up on a downtown street corner. But this is yet a separate issue.)

So again, when we consider whether to support ROTC on campuses, we need to balance the "undue pressures" of the recruiters against the opportunities that ROTC might offer to someone who possibly or even probably might enlist anyway.

Although it is a separate issue, it also bears pointing out that military service is a way for an illegal immigrant to move to the head of the line at obtaining US citizenship. US citizenship is not a dream of a carrot at the end of a stick, it is something very real and very valuable.

For the most part, undocumented and documented immigrants have been recruited with such promises that were never kept.

And it seems particularly unjust to promise such a trade - your body/life for the possibility of citizenship - in the absence of any real commitment of sustainable comprehensive immigration reform.

When I was eighteen the word straight had a much different connotation than it does now. I think that is rather unfortunate because I don't think being lgbt or even q keeps one from being straight in the sense of the word as I remember it being used. I remember the old anti-war line, "Join The Army, Visit exotic places, Meet strange people, THEN KILL THEM." Strange is a synonym for queer, I believe.

DADT had a lot of support from people who respect difference, who were not lgbt or queer. It was a human rights matter, a matter of equal rights. I would think there would be more dissenting opinions about how the military might of this country has been misused over the years. Unfortunately, most of those involved in the promotion of peace and justice over the years have splintered into their own myopic special interest movements supporting only their own selfish brand of identity politics. I remember the environment the lesbian and gay rights movement grew out of. It's a much different world now. It bears no relation whatsoever to the peace and civil rights movement it that really gave lesbian and gay rights its push. From my perspective, most of the people involved in lgbt activism are straight.

I don't know. Is Rotsy the way to promote economic and social justice? All I know is being a paid mercenary of the British did little to promote economic and social justice for the Irish. Whatever.

ROTC should not be back on campuses until DADT repeal is certified and implemented AND the regulations are revised regarding refusal to accept recruitment, and the stimatizing discharges imposed on transgender people are stopped.

I do not approve of the military-industrial complex, believe that the military budget should be reduced to about 1/10 or less of the current budget, and that we should not be involved as aggressors in military adventurism, or in occupying nations for decades.

However I do approve of ROTC itself provided it is available to all.

I do approve of national service as a pre-requisite for full citizenship/voting rights for natural an naturalized citizens - and believe that training toward national service (including but not limited to, and not exclusively, military training and physical fitness) is properly in high school and college curricula.

The vision of universal national service would provide both military and non-military outlets, depending on personnel needs. Competetition for first and upper choices could be tied to grades, aptitude tests, etc. (And those who choose to not serve would not be penalized except for the loss of the right to vote.) Deferments could be provided for those who track for professional qualifications, including tachers, lawyers, doctors, engineers - but those who defer service until after reaching educational qualifications could be expected to serve a longer period.

The ideas are lifted from the background of a Heinlein novel - Starship Troopers.

I'd even actually tie in the "right to bear arms" with continued military service in reserves or state militia - and the arms to be kept to be in conformity with appropriate milspec.

The President was premature in his call for the return of ROTC to campuses. I do not oppose ROTC (but for the discriminatory policies), but see it as a component part of a wider education and training effort.

I was bitterly opposed to having ROTC on campus during the years of DADT. Now, I favor letting it return as soon as the end of DADT actually becomes a proven reality. I respect the views of many here who are opposed to the presence of ROTC in any case and who fear its possible exploitation of students. However, just as we respect the discretion of college students to participate or not participate in a myriad of other activities and organizations, I think we have to respect their discretion regarding ROTC as well.

As far as JROTC in high school is concerned, it is intuitive to think that it will be lower-income students who are more attracted to it, but at least in my experience (and, of course, this is only my experience), this is not the case. The discipline of JROTC and the attitude of the sergeant in charge have had a significantly positive effect on the academic performance of many of our students who've been involved in it over the years. I came to our school thoroughly prepared to detest JROTC, and I have wound up admiring its overall role in the school. By the way, JROTC entails no further obligation to the military. When you graduate, if you choose to be, you're done.

im a new cadet in the rotc program at my college, and all i have to say is that its making me damn proud to follow in both of my grandfathers footsteps and serve the people of the u.s. and protect the people i love and care for. The rotc is simply making me a more effective leader and preparing me to better protect the rights of u.s. citizens and the ones i love and care for.

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