Keep ROTC but Oppose Ban on Gays, Survey Urges By Dennis O'Shea Students, faculty and staff at Homewood overwhelmingly oppose Pentagon restrictions on homosexuals in the military, but don't want to abolish ROTC at Hopkins in protest, a survey has found. Just what tactic they would approve to attempt to overturn the policy is less clear. By a 2-to-1 margin, respondents to the survey said Hopkins should keep trying to resolve the conflict between ROTC practice and the university's own non-discrimination policy. But respondents were about evenly split on whether that action should include direct university pressure on the Defense Department. "The respondents are telling us ... they believe very strongly in Hopkins' anti-discrimination statement," said Robert J. Massa, associate dean for enrollment management. "Two-thirds of them say we ought to do something about this. The question is: What?" The survey, distributed last semester by the Homewood student council with support from Dr. Massa's office, was designed to provide a framework for deliberations by a campus-wide committee chaired by Dr. Massa. The Committee on ROTC Policy is charged with recommending university action in light of the government's decision not to completely dismantle its ban on gays and lesbians in the armed forces. That ban also applies to campus-based Reserve Officer Training Corps programs. The Clinton administration took office in 1993 promising to drop the ban, but was forced by opposition in Congress and the military to settle for a compromise: the "don't ask, don't tell, don't pursue" policy. It provides, essentially, that only gays and lesbians who hide their sexual orientation may serve. About 1,200 of the 6,000 surveys distributed in the Homewood schools last October were returned, Dr. Massa said. About 65 percent of respondents said "don't ask, don't tell, don't pursue" was not a justifiable policy. But an even larger majority, 72 percent, said Hopkins ROTC should not be eliminated. Graduate students are the most opposed to Pentagon policy and most willing to phase out ROTC. Undergraduates are the least opposed to the "don't ask, don't tell" compromise; only 56 percent of undergrad respondents said it is unjustified, compared with 80 percent of graduate student respondents. Undergrads are also the least willing to support elimination of ROTC at Hopkins; 78 percent of them said "no" to a ROTC phaseout, compared with 57 percent of graduate students. Faculty and staff fell generally between the two student groups on these and other key questions in the survey. Though the survey did not ask respondents to explain their answers, Dr. Massa said he believes the strong opposition to abolishing ROTC derives mainly from a desire not to hurt Hopkins students who benefit from ROTC scholarships. Doug Armstrong, a junior, co-chair of the student council's ROTC committee and a member of Dr. Massa's campus-wide committee, said he believes that sentiment is misguided. If Hopkins dropped ROTC, he said, Hopkins students would be able to retain their government scholarships while participating in ROTC programs at Loyola College or Morgan State. Rick Sharma, co-chair with Armstrong of the student council committee and also a member of Dr. Massa's committee, agreed that Hopkins students could join ROTC elsewhere. But Sharma, a senior and an ROTC cadet, said fewer Hopkins students would be able to participate under such an arrangement. Cutting ROTC would limit the educational opportunities available to Hopkins students, he said. "You don't want to set that kind of precedent" at an institution of Hopkins' caliber, he said. Dr. Massa said the survey, while useful, did not provide the Committee on ROTC Policy with clear-cut guidance. The issue "doesn't have an easily obvious solution," Armstrong agreed. The Committee on ROTC Policy was created by President Richardson in 1990 to monitor developments on the ROTC issue over a five-year period while Hopkins joined other universities in attempting to persuade the federal government to drop restrictions on gays in the military. Other members are Bruce Barnett, professor of physics and astronomy; Ed Bouwer, professor of geography and environmental engineering; and Mary Ellen Porter, special assistant to the dean of Homewood student affairs. The committee's final report updating the situation and recommending future policy is due next fall, but Dr. Massa said he hopes to complete it this semester, before President Richardson's departure to assume the presidency of the Kellogg Foundation. Other universities also continue to struggle with the issue; some are also looking for the middle ground that the Hopkins community appears to seek between accepting government policy and abolishing ROTC. Harvard University, for example, announced this month that a trust fund separate from the university is being created to accept private donations. Those donations--not Harvard money-- will be used to pay a fee to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that allows Harvard students to participate in ROTC at MIT.
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