Speaking Out

A Matter of Stance

On May 2, 1996, an African-American family who had moved into a white neighborhood in Philadelphia [Bridesburg] was forced to give up their home because of three months of racial harassment, illustrating that racism is a daily fact of life for Black Americans just as sexism is for women and discrimination is for homosexuals.

The University must oppose and eschew these forms of intimidation if it is to retain a position of moral leadership and a convincing ability to inspire confidence and achieve academic excellence. From my reading of the Provost's report on ROTC in Almanac, it is not at all apparent to me that considerations such as these played a major role in formulating a solution to the problem.

If we apply the reasoning of the report to a situation in which a program was barred from the campus because of issues of race or gender rather than life style it could result in the University's officially directing some of its students to participate in overtly and officially racist or sexist programs in order to obtain training and accreditation. This analogy is hardly far-fetched; not very long ago women and minorities were either excluded from or discriminated against by military training and service programs which could have been barred from the campus for these reasons. It is hard to believe that the Provost as chief academic officer or the faculty would knowingly and willingly transfer any part of a Penn students education to an institution or a consortium practicing any forms of discrimination considered unacceptable to Penn, as an official action by the University of Pennsylvania.

Not so very long ago a very similar issue was faced by the University. In the late 60s and early 70s, it was revealed that the University had secret contracts with the Army for research in chemical and biological weapons; these programs were not only a moral anathema to Penn students and faculty, they contained secrecy provisions which violated University standards which the Army would not change. To retain these contracts, an attempt was made to transfer them to a consortium known as the University City Science Center but this proved unsuccessful because the Center was barred from conducting research directed towards maiming or injuring human beings. As a matter of principle and of precedent, and on the basis of a rejection of any form of discrimination, the University must be prepared to reject a discriminatory ROTC program even if it means loss of DOD contracts.

Robert J. Rutman,
Emeritus Professor of Animal Biology/Vet


Volume 42 Number 33
May 21/28, 1996

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