This would be a positive move not only for the U.S. military and the country, but also for Princeton. Since a 1972 agreement between the University and the Army, the ROTC program has provided some students with the opportunity to train for a career in military service after graduation. The time has come to extend this opportunity to all students.
Princeton is one of two Ivy League universities with an on-campus ROTC program. The University provides the program with resources such as classrooms, an administrative office, office equipment and storage space. However, due to the conflict between “don’t ask, don’t tell” and the University’s policy on non-discrimination, the ROTC program is considered an “outside organization” on campus, limiting its presence in both symbolic and practical terms. The restrictions placed on the ROTC program have been entirely appropriate until now. But the permanent repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” would represent an important opportunity for the University to reevaluate its relationship with the ROTC program and to grant it full recognition.
Such a reevaluation would benefit both the program and students considering a career in the military. Princeton’s informal motto of “In the nation’s service and the service of all nations” has led the University to actively support and publicize means of serving the public good, through internships, community engagement and academic programs such as the Scholars in the Nation’s Service Initiative. By embracing the military as another laudable means of entering public service after graduation, the University can continue to encourage students to find unique and exciting ways to serve their country and the global community during and after their Princeton careers.
The overturn of “don’t ask, don’t tell” would mark the end of the conflict between the U.S. military’s discriminatory policy and Princeton’s policy of non-discrimination. The University should use this chance, if the stay is lifted, to reassess its relationship with the ROTC program. It should extend a welcome to ROTC as an “inside” organization on campus: one that offers all students the possibility of serving their country with pride, honor and dignity.