Council Reports from the Meeting April 24, 1996

Provost's Report on ROTC

About two months ago, Larry Gross raised the ROTC issue and said that there comes a time when you have to conclude that you've gone as far as you can go and then you need to report on what you've done, and where you are. I believe that I have now arrived at that point. The president and I have discussed this at some length. My last conversation with the Army was on Monday, and it confirmed my conclusion that we are now at the end of any useful negotiations.

First, let me take you back a little bit and give you a history of where we've been on this, and what I have specifically been doing in my negotiations with the military.

The debate at Penn began in 1990 as a serious issue on the campus. There was a recognition then, as we recognize now, that there is an inconsistency between the University's nondiscrimination policy and the military's policy, especially in its policies toward gays and lesbians. After much discussion, the Clinton Administration introduced the "don't ask, don't tell" policy in 1993. This new policy is no more consistent with our policy than the old one.

Going back to 1990to the pre-Clinton eraand again, in 1991, the University Council (UC) resolved that ROTC should be terminated no later than the end of 1993, unless the military altered its policy. In the intervening years, the Penn administration actively lobbied the DOD and Congress to alter that policy.

In July of 1993 just about the time the Council's deadline was expiring, the University's administration changed, and an interim administration was appointed.

Simultaneously, of course, Clinton was exploring the possibility of changing the policy, and as I said earlier everything was essentially put in abeyance while the new policy was being worked out.

Toward the middle of the 1993-1994 academic year, the interim administration appointed a committee to look at ROTC. That report was made in the spring of 1994. The president and I received that report when we arrived at Penn and discussed it at the first UC meeting we attended in the Fall of 1994.

The conclusion of this committee was that ROTC played an important role in diversifying the Penn student body. It also provided a way for Penn to participate in the diversification and improvement of the officer corps of the U.S. military. However, the committee also recommended that the University attempt to distance itself from the relationship with the military policy since it was inconsistent with our own non-discrimination policy. It recommended three basic options.

The first option was that we create an "arm's-length" arrangement eliminating the modest levels of University support but permitting ROTC to remain on campus as an "association." The second was that we seek consortial arrangements that would move ROTC off our campus but leave it available for Penn students, ensuring that Penn students continue to have the opportunity for ROTC participation at other area institutions. The third was that we seek some kind of regional consortium that would centralize ROTC off campus at some central location. We all thought at the beginning that the Delaware Valley is a very good place for that kind of centralization, and that was one of the options I pursued.

The committee report recommended that if none of these options was possible, then we should terminate our relationship with ROTC. At the September 1994 UC meeting, all of these options and recommendations were discussed, and the UC voted to accept the recommendations of the committee excepting the one that the relationship be terminated if we failed to negotiate a new arrangement with ROTC.

Since Fall of 1994, I have been working in that frameworkthat is to say, first and foremost, that I was seeking to change the relationship between Penn and the ROTC units. Second, that I was doing so as a negotiation between contractual parties. We do, in fact, have valid contracts with both the Navy ROTC and the Army ROTC. I operated as a negotiating partner. I knew that in the end, if I failed to negotiate changes, that the status quo would essentially remain in place.

To give you an idea of what I have done, I started by discussing with all of the provosts in our area what their situation was and how they felt about consortial arrangements. We have an agreement already with St. Joseph's for an Air Force ROTC. Our students can go to their ROTC unit at St. Joe's. They were interested in maintaining the current arrangement; they were not responsive to any further expansion. Villanova has an NROTC unit of its own. It is fully enrolled, and they were interested in maintaining the status quo as well. Temple and Drexel, both of which have Army ROTC, were very interested in partnering with us and, in fact being the home of, Army ROTC on their campuses to which Penn students would be welcome.

By winter, I had a picture of what the local universities were interested in and willing to do. At the same time, I started to discuss with the military the options they were willing to develop. Throughout this, I started with the local commanders, and depending on the answers, moved on to regional commanders and then to the Department of Defense (DOD) seeking to get the answers at the higher levels that I was not getting at the lower levels.

With the Navy, I wrote to Vice Admiral Timothy Wright, the Director of Naval Training, and ultimately I met directly with the Secretary of the Navy, John Dalton. I got a letter from Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy Karen Heath in the course of these negotiations. On the Naval side of the negotiations, we moved very rapidly up the chain of command but then got stuck until the Secretary of the Navy himself got involved. He came to campus to give a speech, and I took that opportunity to meet with him. He made it crystal clear, both in private, and later in public, that the Navy is very pleased with Penn and that the service has no interest in changing that relationship.

With the Army, it has been a much more complicated and drawn-out affair. I spoke on numerous occasions to the local commander, Lt. Col. Ted Majer, about the arrangement. I made contact with Major General James Lyle at headquarters, U.S. Army Cadet Command. I also had dis cussions with Lt. Gen. Theodore Stroup in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel at headquarters of the Department of the Army. Just at a time when I thought that these conversations were getting to the stage where we could actually negotiate something, the entire command structure was changedit is the Armyand we had to start over again.

In the fall and winter of this year, I had conversations with the new regional commander of the Liberty Brigade who is located at Fort Dix, Col. Lonnie Dale Vona. At one point in those conversations, it appeared that Col. Vona and Lt. Col. Majer were going to propose a consortial agreement for the Army centered at Drexel. However, the Army is a hierarchical organization, and the proposal had to go to the next level, and when it did the new regional commander said that he did not want to close the Penn program. This was a program that he regarded as a good program and a healthy program, and he wanted to keep the program open at Penn. Those negotiations came to a close at least at that level.

In the meantime, I had been dealing with the DOD directly in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. That is not just within the services but also pushing the discussion to the administration of the military. I wrote letters and spoke with Edwin Dorn, who is Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness. David Morse, who I think all of you know, spoke with Bill Carr, who is in the Office of Accession Policy in the DOD. Those discussions and letters went nowhere. I was able to spend time on the phone talking to these people trying to explain to them what the issues were from our point of view, what it is that we wanted to accomplish in the end. Although they were willing to listen to us and think about it, ultimately they came back and said "No go."

The latest thing that has happened has been the passage of the Pombo Amendment in February which basically says that an institution that takes unilateral action and creates an anti-ROTC policy will lose its DOD funding in contracts. We studied that very carefully, talked to several people in the Pentagon about how it was going to be interpreted and applied, and we became totally convinced that it simply did not apply to us. We are not acting unilaterally. We have been engaged in a negotiation. The amendment has nothing to do with a mutual agreement; it has to do with unilateral action, and we were not engaged in that. The passage of the amendment is, however, a further sign of the government's intractability on the issue.

Ultimately, neither the Army nor the Navy has wanted to give up Penn as a "host" institution for their programs. The Navy directly through the Secretary of the Navy and the Army through its regional commander made it quite clear that they are not interested in pursuing these negotiations any further.

There are a number of things that I think we can conclude from this. The first is that we are now at a point at which there is nothing to be gained by pursuing these negotiations further. We have talked to everyone all the way up to the top, and we have now gotten definitive answers.

In the meantime, we have continued to be very active as we were--as the administration was back in 1991 and 1992 and, I presume, 1993--in pursuing the matter of changing the policy itself through legal avenues. After discussion with the president, I have joined with the provost at Dartmouth to send a letter to the ACE urging them to file an amicus brief in one or more of the many cases that are now going through the courts dealing with the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. We are urging the ACE to take a position against the policy as inconsistent with the nondiscrimination policies on most campuses in this country, certainly most members of ACE. We will pursue all other avenues that appear to us to accomplish the same thing. Penn is committed to doing what it can to change the policy. It is unjustified and unjustifiable.

In addition, we are very concerned about the fate of the individual students who find themselves in the situation in which being members of ROTC and declaring that they are gay or lesbian, find themselves ousted or removed from the program. Many of those students have scholarships from ROTC, and we have undertaken to guarantee that such students will be able to continue at Penn. The actions of ROTC with respect to its members for that reason and other reasons should not affect the ability of students in the program to continue in our program, and we intend to make certain that is the case.

The only other issue that I might mention is the matter of academic credit. There are a very few ROTC courses that receive credit in Wharton, Engineering, and Nursing. It is a faculty decision to grant or not to grant credit, and I have not myself been engaged in any discussion about whether that is appropriate or inappropriate in these cases. That is the end of my report.

--Stanley Chodorow

Postscript on Credit for Courses

After the University Council meeting, the Provost indicated that he will write to the faculties that give credit for ROTC courses and raise the issue with them, and that he will also review any benefits provided to ROTC faculty that are not covered by the contracts.--K.C.G.

Exerpts from Q&A: On ROTC

Dr. Larry Gross: As you can imagine, I have some comment on the ROTC report.

I'd like to begin by thanking the Provost for what I believe were very detailed extensive and sincere negotiations. I take seriously the account of the complexity and degree of negotiations.

I also have to say I'm not a bit surprised at the outcome, for two reasons.

One, I think it's abundantly clear that the Department of Defense is not inclined to give any ground on this issue. If anything, the last year or two has shown that the post- "Don't ask, don't tell" performance of the Pentagon and the Department of Defense has been, if anything, worse than before. It's as if they were provoked by the whole issue. There are many accounts, including several published in the Army Times, of the degree to which their punitiveness has not slackened at all after the policyit's another way of showing the White House who's the boss.

But, even more important, I think the negotiations took place in a framework that gave the military no reason to give in. If the ground rule of the negotiation is, "If it doesn't work out, we'll leave the status quo," then what would move the Department of Defense to give any ground? If they know you're negotiating under an understanding which says if they don't give in then we'll leave things the way they are, that is of course fine with them; they never had any problem with the way things were. I don't see what would have motivated them other than some sense that things would be worse if they didn't accommodate. I think that's connected with their saying they like this thing at Penn, why would they want to change it.

We're left where I expected. I think the recent amendment was the only last component to that piece, and I don't think it was directed necessarily at Penn. It was directed at universities around the country where this issue has come up. I know there's been a recent development at MIT, at least by the faculty. I would be very surprised if MIT felt like endangering its Department of Defense funding; I'll wait and see, but in much suspense.

I'm somewhat disappointed"somewhat" might be an understatementby the conclusion of a process that began, as you said, in 1990. Repeatedly, bodies of the University reported that the ROTC was in violation of University policy. [In addition to those chronicled by the Provost, Dr. Gross mentioned the Senate Committee on Conduct.Ed.] The last of these bodies was the one that rejected one of the recommendations of the second committee, appointed by the interim administration, in an effort not to deal with the previous record of recommendations. So, in a sense, there has been a consistent set of responses of advisory bodies and commissions, and the one that gives the "out" [the status quo option] is the one where the process stops. Once that out was there, the outcome was foregone or foreclosed.

That leaves us, however, with the question of what to do now and I'm not, on the spur of the moment, going to propose anything very substantial. I need to think about it, and I'm sure others will as well. But I think there are some issues that need to be thought about and that I would urge consideration be given to.

One is the question of harassment of students in ROTC; this is not a small issue, it is an ongoing issueit is one that has not stopped and the atmosphere as the University accepts the status quo is that this is seen as victory by ROTC. It is very important that the administration make clear by whatever means available that it will actively respond to harassment to students in any way that is possible; because that has already been going on and will only get worse.

I would also suggest some thought be given to the questionand this is the question being raised at MITof what there is exactly that prevents openly lesbian or gay students from participating in ROTC; my understanding is that ROTC students are not commissioned members of the United States military at the time they are studentsor are they?

Provost Chodorow: I actually looked into this, but why don't you finish.

Dr. Gross: If it is the case that they are students, and not commissioned members of the military at that time, then the military's policy of exclusion doesn't apply to them. The "Don't ask, don't tell" policy strictly interpreted means that while they're members of the military they may not be asked nor may they tell anyone what their sexual orientation is. There is nothing in it that precludes their being members of ROTC while students at Penn, where being asked or telling are permissible under University policy. So, it's not entirely clear to me what there is to prevent them from that.

And third, there is the question of credit. I recognize this is a faculty issue, but it seems to me that the administration is fully capable of raising and discussing the issue with appropriate faculties. In my experience, when the administration raises a question with faculties it is at least considered very seriouslyperhaps more seriously than if it is raised by a member of the faculty...

[Dr. Gross cites the faculties' willingness to consider ROTC credit issues during the Vietnam War. Dr. Chodorow indicates he is willing to talk to the deans about approaching faculties.

[The Provost also notes that all but two ROTC courses are open to enrollment by anyone, but only those who are admitted to the cadet corps can take those two: one called a leadership laboratory and another a field exercise; he adds that cadets also receive stipends.

[Dr. Gross asks whether this does not make the students "civilian employees," not subject to the "Don't ask, don't tell" rule.

[The debate on that point is inconclusive, and discussion ends with the Provost's saying:

"The real core issue, as I said earlier, is the policy itself, and I think Penn needs to do and is in fact committed to doingwhat it can to change that policy. It is an unjustified, unjustifiable policy and I think most of us agree about that."]


Volume 42 Number 30
April 30, 1996

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