Peter on University Principles and ROTC
January 25, 2011
FIRE's own Peter Bonilla has a new writing gig at PolicyMic, where his first piece examines the question of bringing the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) back to campus in light of a university's dedication to principles of freedom of association, nondiscrimination, diversity, academic freedom, and freedom of choice.
If the question is whether a university must bring back ROTC after having denied it a place on campus for whatever reason—most recently and most commonly because of the repealed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) policy—then the answer is no, Peter argues. A university has some prerogative to determine its own educational programs and to determine how to spend its money.
Yet, Peter writes, if a university had excluded ROTC over DADT out of concern about nondiscrimination and diversity, those same principles seem to operate now in favor of welcoming ROTC to campus as one among many diverse educational and social opportunities:
As Harvey Silverglate, co-founder of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE, where I work) wrote in The Wall Street Journal, "Our universities are, by their own claim (indeed, boast), bound by notions of academic freedom and free choice. It ill behooves such institutions to usurp and micromanage the ideological and personal choices of students."
Colleges reconsidering the place of ROTC following DADT's repeal have several factors to weigh, but no less important than academic and financial matters are their own commitments to diversity—the very commitments they have previously used to exclude ROTC. Universities now can take this moment to consider how seriously they take these commitments, and whether they are really willing to give their students the freedom to make up their own minds as they pursue their education and development.
FIRE, of course, takes no position on military policy—a subject outside of our mission—but we do encourage universities to honor the principles that they claim to stand for. I look forward to seeing more from Peter over at PolicyMic.