Stanford ROTC Debate Continues Elsewhere

The debate over the return of ROTC has continued to rage on well beyond the end of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Most recently, former Secretaries of State Condoleezza Rice and George Schulz, both currently at the Hoover Institution, have written an open letter advocating for the end of the ban. However, their letter is not the only one that’s receiving notice – Janani Balasubramanian ’12 wrote a letter to the Harvard Crimson that appeared today in response to that paper’s unsigned editorial, which argued that “It is time for Harvard to set an example for America’s universities once more and renew this noble tradition [of ROTC].” Balasubramanian is an officer with Stanford Students for Queer Liberation (SSQL) and takes issue with what she sees as a willingness to ignore the T – transgender – on the part of other LGTBQ organizations. This issue has formed the bedrock of SSQL’s opposition to ROTC’s return. (Sidebar: Stanford raised more money than Harvard for the sixth year running, which surely infuriates our Cambridge peers, perhaps even more than our weather.)

At the same time, the National Review Online (NRO) has taken notice of the debate at Stanford. The NRO article, by Brian Bolduc, draws on recent letters to the Daily, as well as other recent events in the debate, to argue for ROTC’s return. What does this attention mean?

On their own, these events won’t have much impact – local statements and developments are more important. With 3 months to go until the May committee report, it will be interesting to see what the decision actually turns on. Although the transgender/intersex issue has received more attention, it remains important to note that the key concern mentioned by Ewart Thomas, committee chair, related to student access to classified information – whether they would be allowed to access Wikileaks documents, for example. In the end, assuaging faculty concerns about academic freedom and quality of curriculum may be the key to winning ROTC’s return, not dealing with the issue of potential transgender cadets.

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