Columbia University: No ROTC On Campus As Long As DADT Is In Effect

Last month both McCain and Obama stated opposition to the decades-long Columbia University ban on on-campus ROTC activities. This weekend Columbia president Lee Bollinger emailed students to affirm that the ban would remain in place as long as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” remains military policy.

“Under the current ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy of the Defense Department, openly gay and lesbian students could or would be excluded from participating in ROTC activities. That is inconsistent with the fundamental values of the university,” he wrote in an e-mail message to students.

Campus debate over the possible reinstatement of ROTC on campus was reignited earlier this month when senators Obama and McCain voiced their opposition to Columbia’s ban during a televised appearance on campus. “The notion that young people here at Columbia aren’t offered a choice or an option in participating in military service is a mistake,” Mr. Obama said. Mr. Obama has said he would repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” if elected president, while Mr. McCain has voiced support for the policy.

Several student leaders have been advocating for a student-wide referendum on the military program. Their plan is to host two community forums in October featuring pro-ROTC and anti-ROTC students, to be followed by a student-wide survey a week later.

In a 2003 survey, 65% of Columbia students said they supported ROTC’s return. But in 2005, the university senate voted in favor of upholding the ban. Mr. Bollinger voted with the majority.

Columbia students are allowed to enroll in ROTC but must travel to Fordham University or Manhattan College in the Bronx to participate. Five Columbia students are presently enrolled in the Fordham program.

There will be a student survey on the ban in October, but it will not be binding on school policy. Columbia banned the ROTC in 1969 in opposition to the Vietnam War.