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Brown remains uncertain about ROTC

September 7, 2011

Debate continues at Brown University over whether re-instate the military officer training program known as ROTC. A committee convened to look into the issue after the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has issued a divided recommendation to Brown President Ruth Simmons, citing concerns about transgender discrimination.

The faculty and student panel notes that “the University should not hold itself aloof from this aspect of American life,” but on the key question of whether to bring ROTC back to campus, the group did not agree.

“Those opposed are concerned not only about increased militarization on campus but also about Brown’s policies on anti-discrimination,” the committee wrote in its report. “There are ongoing issues of discrimination against transgender individuals that the country needs to face, and, in this, the University may have an important role to play.”

In the end, a majority of panel members recommended that Simmons meet with both the Navy and the Air Force and bring a proposal back to the faculty. ROTC has not had a physical presence on the Brown campus since 1972, an era when several Ivy League schools removed course credit for the program against the backdrop of the Viet Nam war.

Currently, Brown students can participate in Army ROTC as an extra curricular activity through Providence College. Since the military ended its ban on service by openly gay men and women, several universities have moved to bring ROTC back to campus to some degree, including Yale and Harvard.

Brown President Ruth Simmons says she will continue to meet with faculty and student groups about the issue, then make a report to Brown’s governing board in October.

“You will see from the report that the committee had difficulty reaching full consensus about the proper policy for ROTC at Brown,” Simmons writes in a recent email to the campus community. “I hope you will be patient a short while longer as we give the necessary groups the chance to reflect and respond to the Committee’s report.”

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