ROTC Students React to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Policy


Published: October 25, 2007

FORDHAM—“I remember, in my scholarship contract for Army ROTC, signing a statement along the lines of ‘I have never engaged in homosexual acts, etc.,’” said a Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) student at Fordham who wished to remain anonymous. Though there is no general consensus of the opinions of ROTC students at Fordham, some ROTC students are opposed to the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that is instated by the military.

The military-wide policy that prohibits asking about a service member’s sexual orientation, as well as prohibiting the service member from being open about his or her homosexuality is commonly known as “don’t ask, don’t tell.” The policy also applies to the enlistment contract when students sign up for the ROTC program at Fordham, said Cliff Evans, FCRH ’08 and a member of ROTC. Within this policy, if someone is found to be homosexual, he or she can be dismissed from the military, he said.

Fordham University is the host institution of Army ROTC in New York City, according to Donna Rapaccioli, dean of the College of Business Administration (CBA). “Army ROTC has been administratively and academically integrated” with CBA, offering courses in Military Science. Dean Rapaccioli said that the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy is not related to Fordham’s practices.

“ROTC students on scholarship, and other students who enroll in the ROTC advanced course, are required to make a contractual commitment to serve as an officer in the Army,” Rapaccioli said. “The prerequisites for such service are determined and administered by the Army as a matter of national military policy, and are not within the province of CBA or Fordham.”

Linette Palladino, FCLC ’07 and a member of ROTC, said that she thinks the Army’s position is open-minded. “What you do in private is no one’s business but your own,” she said, “but once you join the U.S. Army, you, in a sense, relinquish some personal liberties as you fulfill your service obligations to your nation.”

Daniel Friedman, FCRH ’09 and a member of ROTC, said that the policy is outdated. “I think it’s a very ignorant, archaic policy that is hurting our war efforts,” he said, adding that an Arabic translator was recently dismissed from the military because he was found to be gay, which The New York Times reported in June.

According to the U.S. Army Homosexual Conduct Policy Training Materials, Congress said in 1993 that “military service by those who have demonstrated a propensity to engage in homosexual acts creates an unacceptable risk to morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion.” Although applicants cannot be asked about homosexuality when applying to the Armed Forces, if there is credible evidence that the soldier has engaged in a homosexual act, that is grounds for discharge from the military.

Jeff Hansen, FCRH ’08 and a member of ROTC, said that he has not heard of ROTC’s stance on the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. “As a cadet in the ROTC Batallion at Fordham, I can tell you that I personally find it wrong and irresponsible to discriminate against someone simply because of their sexual orientation,” Hansen said.

According to the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO), the Solomon Amendment gives universities a choice to allow military recruiters access to students through ROTC, or else they will forgo federal funding. The amendment has been upheld by the Supreme Court as of 2006, when its constitutionality was questioned.

Though some universities are exempt from complying with the Solomon Amendment if they have a history of pacifism based on historical religious affiliation, Fordham is not one of the schools which are exempt, said David Rigney, LLB, from the office of legal counsel. An example of an institution that would be exempt from the Solomon Law would be a Quaker institution, Rigney said. Therefore, Fordham must comply with the Solomon Law and offer an ROTC program in order to be eligible to receive grants from the Department of Defense, and the Department of Education, he said.

The Rev. Michael Tueth, S.J., professor of communication and media studies said that he thinks that the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy of the military is “technically and legally not discriminatory.”

“That’s how the Clinton administration set [the policy] up and it got passed,” Tueth said. “We should certainly drop it, not because it’s actually illegal or unconstitutional, but because it’s stupid and generally harmful to our nation’s interests.  We could benefit a great deal from the contributions of professionally skilled homosexuals in every area of our national life, including the military.”