Task Force: Ms. Sarah E. Gallop; Professor Stephen C. Graves, Task Force Chair; Professor Kenneth R. Manning; Mr. Alan E. Pierson; Professor Lisa A. Steiner; Mr. Frank P. Tipton; Professor J. Kim Vandiver; Professor William B. Watson
The Importance of Inclusion at MIT
Despite the changes in DOD policy with regard to homosexuals in the military, changes in policy discourage gays from being open and honest about their sexual orientation, a fundamental aspect of their being. For many gays, there are considerable emotional, moral, and other costs to being closed or dishonest.
The issue of sexual orientation takes on particular significance for a population of university students, who are at a critical juncture in their lives. Many MIT students are experiencing for the first time a wide spectrum of new relationships and experiences - social, political, moral, religious, educational, and sexual - that will provide a basis for relationships and experiences throughout their lives. This Institute is a place where intellectual and personal dimensions are explored; where courses and programs have been designed to examine (among other things) issues of sexuality in culture; where students have the opportunity to delve into historical, cultural, and personal questions about gay life; and where some students discover their own sexuality. The Institute must foster an open, honest environment that respects the rights and privileges not only of gay students but of all within the community to explore myriad aspects of human experience.
The new DOD method of implementation poses a particular problem for ROTC cadets who are embarking, simultaneously, on civilian education and military training. The "don't ask, don't tell, don't pursue" directive is in conflict with certain day-to-day operations of the Institute as well as with certain fundamental tenets of university life and culture. The directive urges silence on both sides about the issue of sexual orientation. It may indeed be a personal choice as to whether or not a person declares his or her own sexual orientation, and MIT should support that choice. This Institute must be careful, therefore, not to support policies that systematically encourage students to be dishonest about their sexual orientation. Any such policy produces attitudes that are destructive to an environment so dependent on honesty and integrity, both in an out of the laboratory. As a practical measure, sexual orientation may be inadvertently disclosed more readily in this environment than in some others. Students move between ROTC and other parts of the Institute freely - attend social functions, participate in artistic and dramatic performances, and engage in autobiographical writing - in a way that could easily reveal their sexual orientation. Moreover, there are certain activities whose connections are not always readily apparent. For example, in order to assure proper medical attention, students might need to declare sexual orientation in both a civilian medical context and a military medical context, or they might need to share information between the two. How these and various other instances would work themselves out at MIT remains uncertain, but the Task Force feels that we could develop ways to monitor and control the "don't ask, don't tell, don't pursue" policy within ROTC units at MIT to the temporary and mutual accommodation of both MIT and DOD.
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