Be All That You Can Be… Except Transgender In ROTC

In the wake of the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Stanford University this week became the third prominent university (joining Ivy Leaguers Harvard and Columbia) to invite the military’s ROTC program back onto campus. Yale is considering doing the same. Most of these universities banned ROTC in 1969-70 due to student outrage over the Vietnam War, but more recently, they have opposed military recruiters on campus because DADT conflicts with their sexual orientation nondiscrimination policies.

With the impending repeal of DADT, campuses no longer see a conflict and are ending the ban. Unfortunately, a conflict persists. While the repeal of DADT will end discrimination based on sexual orientation, the Uniform Code of Military Justice will continue to discriminate against people who are transgender and gender non-conforming. Harvard, Columbia, and Stanford all have nondiscrimination protections for gender identity/expression in addition to protections for sexual orientation. By welcoming back ROTC, these campuses are suggesting it was not okay to discriminate against gays, lesbians, and bisexuals, but it is okay to discriminate against the trans community.

Stanford’s President John Hennessy and Provost John Etchmendy attempted to address this conflict in a joint statement:

Our support for reestablishing the ROTC program should not be misconstrued. We understand the concerns about the military’s continuing discrimination against transgender people, and we share those concerns. But if the leadership of the military is drawn from communities that teach and practice true tolerance, change is more likely to occur. The U.S. military has demonstrated an ability and willingness to change over time, and we believe Stanford can contribute by providing leaders capable of helping create that change.

The only conclusion is that either the university was not interested in teaching tolerance under DADT or it’s unconcerned with persisting discrimination now. Harvard and Columbia‘s presidents did not acknowledge the conflict with transgender discrimination in their statements.

Unlike its Ivy League brethren, Brown University decided this week to maintain its ban on ROTC, but did not directly address the issue of transgender discrimination.