Policy on ROTC unchanged after repeal of don't ask, don't tell
On Dec. 22, President Barack Obama signed a bill that ended the military’s ban on openly gay men and women serving in the armed forces. The 17-year-old policy, which applied to ROTC programs, prevented the military from asking about a soldier’s sexual orientation.
“The only change I anticipate is the opportunity for gay students to join ROTC,” President Shirley Tilghman said in an e-mail.
Vice President for Campus Life Cynthia Cherrey echoed Tilghman, saying in an e-mail that “the present relationship that the University has with ROTC will remain the same.”
Under a 1972 agreement, Princeton ROTC operates as an “outside organization” but maintains a program on campus, University Vice President and Secretary Bob Durkee ’69 told The Daily Princetonian in October. The University provides the program with classroom space and administrative offices.
Durkee has said that ROTC’s status was unrelated to the don’t ask, don’t tell policy.
“The reason that ROTC is considered an outside organization is because it is an outside organization: The ROTC program is sponsored, operated and controlled by the U.S. Army, not by the University,” he said in a letter to the ‘Prince’ in October.
In October, when a federal judge ordered the military to halt its enforcement of the don’t ask, don’t tell policy, Lt. Col. John Stark, director of army officer training and commissioning for Princeton’s ROTC program, expressed optimism that the program’s status might improve if the policy were repealed.
But as of now, “there have been no discussions, not yet,” he said. Stark was barred by the military from making any specific comments about changes in procedure or the application process that may result from the repeal of the don’t ask, don’t tell policy.
The last official review of the University’s relationship with the ROTC program took place in 1989. After the review, the University decided that its nondiscrimination policy did not apply to ROTC because the University did not directly control the program. It could continue to aid the program as long as the University “distance[d] itself from the unit’s discriminatory practices to avoid complicity in them,” according to the review.
ROTC has had a tumultuous history across campuses nationwide over the last decades. After the U.S. bombing of Cambodia in 1968, anti-war protests took place at colleges across the country, and many college ROTC programs faced a significant decrease in recognition or were forced to leave. Aside from Princeton, Cornell was the only other Ivy League school to continue hosting a program.
But the repeal of don’t ask, don’t tell may pave the way for other Ivy League schools to again allow ROTC programs on campus. The policy had led to the continued banning of ROTC from many college campuses, even after the end of the Vietnam War.
In December, Harvard president Drew Faust said she looked forward to discussions with military officials to formally reinstate and recognize ROTC, according to The Harvard Crimson.
Columbia University president Lee Bollinger told Politico that the repeal marked a “new era” in the University’s relationship to the military and that he looked forward to future campus discussions.
At Yale, a November College Council survey found that more than 70 percent of Yale students said they would be in favor of the reinstatement of ROTC at Yale should don’t ask, don’t tell be repealed.