Our troops come from every corner of this country – they are black, white, Latino, Asian and Native American. They are Christian and Hindu, Jewish and Muslim. And, yes, we know that some of them are gay. Starting this year, no American will be forbidden from serving the country they love because of who they love. And with that change, I call on all of our college campuses to open their doors to our military recruiters and the ROTC. It is time to leave behind the divisive battles of the past. It is time to move forward as one nation.
The first important conclusion one can draw from this statement is that Obama expects DADT to be officially repealed this year (“Starting this year…”). That will occur when the President, the Secretary of Defense, and the Joints Chief of Staff all approve the repeal. But most important for the ROTC debate is his call to college campuses to allow ROTC to return.
Obama could certainly be using this statement as a tool to shape public opinion and put even more pressure on universities to allow ROTC to return to their campuses. His voice will likely bring with it the support of many more Democrats, if they weren’t already in support of ROTC.
But Obama has other options beyond just public opinion. He can call on the Department of Defense to enforce the 1996 Solomon Amendment. The amendment requires the DOD to compile a list of schools that do not allow ROTC on their campuses so that it can revoke federal funding from those schools. But due to an oddity in the law, the DOD does not have to actually question universities about their ROTC stances, thus avoiding having to put them on the list. Wielding the Solomon Amendment, President Obama could immediately compel Stanford and other universities to allow for ROTC’s return.
Among those remaining in opposition to ROTC at Stanford are students concerned about transgender discrimination in the military (read about it here). They’ve responded to Obama’s remarks by circulating a petition to alert Obama to transgender discrimination in the military. But the transgender discrimination argument has not gained any national traction, so it would be quite surprising to the national media if Stanford ruled against ROTC based on those grounds.
With this latest endorsement, the return of ROTC looks closer than ever. If the senate does not vote for its return, the University will certainly draw criticism from the mainstream public, and the battle will likely be far from over. Do you think the faculty senate will vote to allow ROTC’s return?