Interim Report of the ROTC Task Force: Section 5

February 1, 1996

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

Possible Options

In this section we describe five possible actions that MIT might consider. We first present the two opposing actions that MIT might consider: (1) maintain status quo, and (2) sever ties to ROTC. We then describe three intermediate options: (3) postpone any action, (4) create arms length relationship, and (5) remove ROTC from campus.

For each possible action, we provide a brief description and then sketch the supporting arguments as well as the counter arguments. We do not make any judgments about the actions or their arguments. Rather, our intent is to lay out a range of options for the purposes of encouraging an informed discussion within the MIT community.

We recognize that some of the arguments put forward are not as well developed or as well reasoned as others. Furthermore, some of the arguments are based on assumptions that may not be supported by facts. However, the Task Force has heard or read all of these arguments in one form or another, and views them as appropriate at this time for the sake of discussion.

Maintain Status Quo

The ROTC program would remain and operate as it currently does. MIT would modify the Statement of Nondiscrimination to clarify the exception that is made for ROTC.


As part of this action, MIT might establish a policy for how it would help any student who lost his or her ROTC scholarship as a result of disclosure of sexual orientation. If the DOD required the student to pay back the costs of the scholarship, MIT might reimburse the student for these costs. A bolder action would be for MIT to continue to fund the scholarship, contingent on the student committing to public service for four years, say, upon graduation.

Another variation would be for MIT to file amicus briefs on relevant cases, as well as continue efforts to change current DOD policy.

Argument For

a. There has been some progress via the "don't ask, don't tell, don't pursue" policy; gays can now serve in the military as long as they keep their sexual identity hidden. Commanding officers are forbidden to initiate investigations merely to uncover evidence of cadet misconduct. Furthermore, this policy has prompted a series of court cases that may result in more change in the military's policy toward gays.

b. Any action by MIT, such as severing ties to ROTC, is likely to have no positive effect on DOD policy toward gays, and is likely to be irreversible. And any action could embarrass and/or anger DOD, with the possibility of negative consequences on the various relationships between DOD and MIT. Indeed, these negative consequences could be officially sanctioned by the "ROTC access to campuses" clause in the pending DOD authorization act.

c. To the extent that the DOD policy on homosexuals in ROTC will continue to evolve, MIT will have more influence on these changes by being "part of the conversation," i. e., by having ROTC programs on campus.

d. The benefits from ROTC outweigh the consequences from the acknowledged discrimination. Students benefit from a critical source of financial aid, the opportunity to serve the country as a military officer, and the ROTC academic program. MIT benefits from financial relief, as ROTC scholarships eliminate the need for MIT financial aid to most ROTC students. And the country benefits from having MIT-trained officers in our military.

e. Many students have a strong desire to serve their country through military service. MIT has a responsibility to provide opportunities for MIT students to fulfill this desire.

f. The courts and society have long recognized the military as a unique and special institution, for which the nation occasionally makes exceptions from certain norms and regulations. These exceptions include circumscribing behavior in areas of dress, speech, and other forms of conduct. Given the broad agreement between the legislative, judicial, and executive branches on the special status of the military, MIT must accept t he current discrimination against gays until one of the three branches determines otherwise. As discussed earlier in this report, there are several cases in process in the judicial system that challenge the existing DOD policy.

Argument Against

a. There has not been adequate progress toward eliminating the DOD policy on sexual orientation; hence, the 1990 Faculty resolution calls for "making ROTC unavailable to students beginning with the class of 1998." Furthermore, there are no promising prospects for change in the near future from the legislative or executive branches of the federal government.

b. DOD policy discriminates against gays. As such, an openly gay student is not eligible to participate in all aspects of the on campus ROTC programs; an openly gay student would not be eligible (i) for enrollment into the military as a reserve officer, (ii) for the scholarship support provided by DOD, nor (iii) for commissioning as a military officer upon graduation. Hence, the ROTC program conflicts with MIT's Statement of Nondiscrimination.

c. MIT is in a unique position due to its close relationship with the military and other government agencies. Any action by MIT on the status of ROTC will receive attention and promote further policy debate in Washington and at other educational institutions. As such, MIT has an opportunity to encourage positive change on this issue. Doing nothing at this time would waste this opportunity, would imply MIT's compliance with a discriminatory policy, and would be inconsistent with MIT's ongoing effort to end the ban on gays fully participating in ROTC.

d. The college years are a critical period of discovery and personal development for most students. For most students this is often the time they become aware of their sexual identity and its evolution. ROTC policy does not support this process of personal growth for gays in the corps, and does not contribute to a hospitable environment for other gays on campus.

e. As part of its educational mission, MIT has a responsibility to create a learning environment for all of its students. MIT cultivates student awareness of the outside world, of their peers, and of themselves. The sponsorship of any discriminatory program is counter to these principles.

Sever Ties to ROTC

MIT informs DOD of its intent to terminate ROTC from campus and develops an implementation plan for ROTC to withdraw gradually so as to minimize the impact on current ROTC cadets. ROTC would not be available on campus to students beginning with the class entering in 1998. At that time, MIT does nothing to facilitate a student's participation in an off-campus ROTC program. For instance, MIT would not pay any fees for students to participate in ROTC at Boston University. Conceivably, MIT refuses to accept DOD scholarships for ROTC students.


There are many variations in the implementation details of the transition to no ROTC on campus.

Argument For

a. The arguments against "Maintain status quo."

b. This is the strongest statement MIT can make, and has the most likelihood of having an impact on DOD.

Argument Against

a. The arguments for "Maintain status quo."

b. The termination of ROTC is inconsistent with the continuation of other relationships with DOD, such as the Naval Construction and Engineering Course (13 A), that provide graduate training for officers.

Postpone Any Action

MIT would decide to take no action at this time, but would leave the ultimate status of ROTC subject to a future review. The ROTC program would remain and operate as it currently does. MIT would modify the Statement of Nondiscrimination to clarify the exception that is made for ROTC.


This action could also state a time limit or a condition on duration of postponement, and then specify what would happen after, say, 5 years or after some judicial ruling. Another variation would call for MIT to file amicus briefs to lend support to relevant cases, as well as to continue efforts to change current DOD policy

Argument For

a. Same as "Maintain status quo" but recognizes that MIT needs to take some action, but that it is premature to act now, given the pending court cases.

Argument Against

a. Same as "Maintain status quo" but with prognosis that current court cases are unlikely to result in a more liberal policy.

b. MIT should contribute to the debate through policy making and action.

c. MIT should determine for itself what is appropriate, and not defer to others to decide for MIT. There is no reason to delay further the resolution of the status of ROTC.

Create Arms-Length Relationship

This option would maintain the presence of ROTC at MIT, but would increase the distance between the units and the institute. The intent would be to remove ROTC from the scope of MIT's non-discrimination policy. Instead of viewing ROTC as an "Institute administered program or activity," MIT would strive to establish ROTC as an outside program.

Presumably, in an arms-length arrangement, ROTC would not be supported in any way by MIT funds; it would rent space, and pay "user fees" for access to campus facilities. The military instructors would also lose their academic appointments.


There are many variations depending on details of a new contractual arrangement

Argument For

a. ROTC would no longer be an MIT-administered activity or program, but rather an outside program. As such there would no longer be a conflict with MIT's Statement of Nondiscrimination.

b. MIT students have access to and retain the benefits of an ROTC activity.

Argument Against

a. DOD might not go along, resulting in ROTC's removal from MIT.

b. ROTC and its discrimination are still on campus, even though the financial and academic arrangements may have been changed. And even with an arms-length arrangement, MIT's affiliation with ROTC may be ambiguous.

c. MIT loses its influence on ROTC by having ROTC at arms length. For instance, there would be no faculty governance as provided by the oversight committee, and much of the academic program would be outside of MIT's purview.

d. MIT loses leverage it may have on the issue of DOD's policy toward gays.

Remove ROTC from Campus

MIT informs DOD of its intent to terminate ROTC from campus but develops explicit arrangements for MIT students to participate in other nearby ROTC programs, such as at Boston University. MIT works with DOD and the military branches to develop an implementation plan to minimize the impact on current ROTC cadets, while creating opportunities for new classes of MIT students to continue to participate in ROTC, albeit off campus.


There are again many variations in how such a transition would be implemented, especially based on the availability of cross-town units and on arrangements that MIT would need to make with the host university. For instance, if the host university charged a participation fee, then MIT would have to decide whether it could pay for this and if so, how.

Argument For

a. Similar arguments as for the "Create arms-length relationship," but this provides a cleaner split than the arms-length arrangement.

Argument Against

a. It may not be possible to develop cross-town arrangements for all branches of the military, which would limit the options available to MIT students.

b. A cross-town program would create an inconvenience for MIT ROTC students, who are already heavily burdened by their MIT academic program.

c. MIT would have even less oversight and leverage on the ROTC programs than with the arms-length arrangement.

d. MIT loses leverage it may have on the issue of DOD's policy toward gays.

e. The host university may charge a student fee, much like MIT now charges Harvard and Tufts. If MIT were to pay, then MIT would still be supporting ROTC activities.

Preface | Section 1 | Section 2 | Section 3 | Section 4 | Section 5 | Appendices

MIT Task Force Home Page

Send comments to Although we cannot reply to all who write to us, we do promise to read every letter.

Please send web-page related comments to

MIT Home Page