Speaking Out

ROTC: Action Now

As a member of the University of Pennsylvania's lesbian, gay, and bisexual community, I am very concerned with the lack of action taken by Provost Chodorow to fulfill his promise to the University Council and implement its recommendations on the issue of ROTC on this campus.

It is in the best interests of the University as a whole that University Council recommend that the Provost set a deadline of February 1, 1996, for completion of his negotiations with the Department of Defense, and that the Provost begin immediately negotiating with other area colleges to implement the arm's length fallback recommendation of Council, in case negotiations with the Pentagon are unsuccessful. Because this is a matter that University Council has already considered and acted upon, it should be considered old business at the next Council meeting. No further study is necessary.

It is clear that the Provost is dragging his feet in this matter, and I feel that is unwise. President Clinton is sympathetic to the issue of gays in the military. However, we are approaching an election year, in which politics will make it difficult for his administration to act on this matter. Therefore, it is imperative that the Provost complete his negotiations immediately, because now is the time that the University can best avoid any possible repercussions, and can negotiate an arrangement that both permits the University to end its participation in a discriminatory activity while avoiding retaliation by those who would punish this school for its courage.

I would also like to express my concern with Dr. Harris's handling of and comments on this issue at the open University Council meeting on November 29. The rules were quite clear--only members of the University community who were on the agenda would be allowed to address the University Council, and if there was time, at the end of the meeting, non-scheduled community members would be allowed to speak. Dr. Harris ignored those rules, and made a special exception in order to allow a representative of an organization that openly and egregiously discriminates in violation of University policy to address the Council. I was at the meeting also, and would have been quite happy to address some of the misstatements of facts made by a member of the UC in addressing the ROTC issue (and again, Dr. Harris permitted these personal and out-of-order comments to be made without interruption). However, as a member of the University community who respects the rules of Council (even if the President of the Undergraduate Assembly and the representative of ROTC do not), I held my tongue, hoping to get a chance to speak at the end of the meeting.

Dr. Harris owes the lesbian and gay community an apology for his mishandling of this issue.

I also feel that it is important to correct Dr. Harris's erroneous description of the Council's action on ROTC at that meeting (which was reiterated in Almanac). Dr. Harris stated that should neither option C nor D of the University Council ROTC Committee be possible to implement the status quo would remain. This totally misrepresents the will of Council, in that Council voted to accept the recommentation of the ROTC Committee which considered and specifically rejected Options "A" (the status quo) and "B" (changes in the University anti-discrimination policy). The only change that Council made to the ROTC Committee recommendations was to reject option "E." Thus the Council endorsed the Committee's strong preference for the "arm's-length" approach (Option "C"), and endorsed the "cross town" approach (Option "D") as the only fallback option. In his role as moderator, Dr. Harris should make clear that this is the University Council's position, and should take steps to ensure that the Provost understands and implements it as soon as possible.

-- Paul Lukasiak, Center for the Study of Youth Policy


Ed. Note: Provost Chodorow, who was not at the November 29 meeting, gave a detailed update on ROTC negotiations at the January 17 meeting (see preliminary coverage on page 3 of this issue). The Moderator's response on procedural issues is below.- -K.C.G.

From the Moderator

Paul Lukasiak's misunderstandings about the procedures of the Open Forum meeting on November 29 provide a good opportunity to clarify the nature and purpose of University Council. The reason for the annual open meeting is to provide Council with information about what citizens of the community believe should put be on the agenda of future meetings. The purpose is not to provide a series of closed speeches where Council members are a captive audience.

The format for the forum published in Almanac (November 14, 1995) specifically indicated that members of Council might engage the speakers in follow-up questions and remarks, and it stated that the Moderator might recognize members of Council to respond to speakers' statements. Even in the absence of such announced procedures, it would always be appropriate for the Moderator to allow a member to speak at a Council meeting. And, although it is evident to most observers that I conduct Council meetings in a highly structured manner, I have always been willing to extend the rules as far as I could to provide for open discussion of important issues. I have tried to allow persons not on Council to speak during regular meetings when time allows, and I would not be inclined to apologize for that.

Concerning Mr. Lukasiak's proposed relationship between Council Moderator and University Provost, I don't think this is quite the way things work. Both the President and the Provost are full members of Council, and as such they usually do not need to be informed independently of Council positions. More importantly, although we would hope that Council's decisions reflect both a representative view of the community and the deliberative wisdom of its members, any action it might take does not set University policy. Council advises the chief administrative officers of the University. We might well hope that these officers would take our recommendations very seriously--and even expect them to explain why they might decide to act at variance with our advice. But the President and Provost are not bound by Council.

-- William F. Harris, II,
Professor of Political Science and
Moderator of the University Council