Cardona Submits Bill to Include ROTC Return on Ballot

President Angelina Cardona has submitted a bill to the ASSU Undergraduate Senate and Graduate Student Council that would add “Measure A – Advisory Question” to the ballot for this April’s election. The Measure is worded as follows:

“The University has convened an ad hoc committee to explore the possibility of the reinstatement of the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program at Stanford. The committee will be delivering a recommendation to the Faculty Senate this Spring. This advisory question is just one of many forums for student input, if you have further comments, questions, or concerns please email [email protected]
“What is your stance on the possible reinstatement of ROTC to Stanford University? Please choose from the following statements:”“a. I support the reinstatement of ROTC to Stanford University.” “b. I do not support the reinstatement of ROTC to Stanford University.” “c. I choose to abstain.”
The addition of this measure to the ballot would not have any binding effect – it would solely fall under the purview of the legislative bodies’ right to add “advisory measures” to any bill. The bill comes amid rising attempts to inject popular opinion into the process of deciding whether ROTC should return. Most recently, Stanford Students for Queer Liberation (SSQL) has [begun a petition](http://www.stanforddaily.com/2011/02/07/rotc-opponents-start-on-campus-petition/) opposing ROTC’s return on the grounds of discrimination against transgender students. The petition has [gathered 120 signatures](http://www.petitiononline.com/mod_perl/signed.cgi?stanrotc) (four more since the publication of the article in the Daily today). What does this bill mean for the questions around ROTC’s return?
Assuming that the two bodies pass the bill, two things will be interesting to monitor. First, there will be the obvious question of watching the two sides attempt to lobby for votes (or not) and observing the result. The second, less obvious question, is to what extent (if at all) the ad hoc committee on ROTC will weight the results of this (non-binding, advisory) referendum.

Regarding the first question, I have a feeling that we’re going to pro-ROTC forces win by a sizable margin. I just don’t think that SSQL (or Stanford Says No to War) has successfully gained traction with most Stanford students, especially considering that grad students make up a large proportion of voters. Obviously, that’s far from certain, but considering that the SSQL petition has seemingly stalled out around 120, in spite of a boost from receiving Daily coverage, it just doesn’t seem likely that the anti-ROTC faction is going to be able to assemble the 2000 (or more) votes needed to win the popular vote. The key way that I could see pro-ROTC forces lose is if most students ignore the advisory question, thus resulting in a small pool of voters, where particularly strong partisans on each side carry more weight (side note: the last ROTC referendum had 3493 students participate, back in 1969).

The second question is totally open. As was mentioned in the Daily Article, there’s no evidence that popular opinion is currently playing a large role in the ad hoc committee’s decision-making process. Interestingly, when the debate over kicking ROTC off campus was heating up in 1969, it seems as though student opinion might have had an effect. In February of that year, the Faculty Senate voted to eliminate academic credit for ROTC classes. Later that year, students voted 60-40 for reinstating ROTC as an academic program. Early in 1970, the Faculty Senate agreed to (temporarily) reverse its position and reinstate course credit. To what extent this was the result of student pressure is not clear – the Stanford president and internal faculty debates certainly had a role – but it raises the possibility that a referendum would have meaning.

So, we’ll wait for the final votes before we start watching the campaigns and counter-campaigns, but this move certainly raises the possibility that each Stanford student could have their say on whether ROTC should come to stay.

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