Lee Bollinger’s policy

Columbia University President Lee Bollinger has directed a message to the Columbia community following up on the ServiceNation Presidential Forum held on campus. He addresses the role of ROTC and the campus that came up in the Forum and wants to make it clear that Columbia does not intend to revisit Columbia’s rejection of ROTC on campus. His message concludes:

[I]n 2005, the University Senate voted overwhelmingly against formally inviting ROTC onto campus. Senate members may have had a variety of reasons for their votes, but the record and official reports make it reasonably clear that the predominant reason was one of adhering to a core principle of the University: that we will not have programs on the campus that discriminate against students on the basis of such categories as race, gender, military veteran status, or sexual orientation. Under the current “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy of the Defense Department, openly gay and lesbian students could or would be excluded from participating in ROTC activities. That is inconsistent with the fundamental values of the University. A number of our peer institutions have taken a similar position.

(Emphasis added.) Bollinger refers to “don’t ask/don’t tell” as Defense Department policy, but it is mandated by federal law. The law is set forth in 10 U.S.C. section 1054. The statute passed both houses of Congress in 1993 with large bipartisan majorities. It is what is referred to in other contexts as “the law of the land.” Bollinger’s reference to it as Defense Department policy is sophistic. Moreover, the subsequently adopted Solomon Amendment was intended to enforce the right of access on campus for ROTC and military recruiters.

Like a naughty child who points the finger at his partners in crime, Bollinger invokes the misconduct of Columbia’s peer institutions to defend the university’s disgrace. That is the story I set out to tell in the 2005 column “JAGs not welcome.” Unlike Senator Harry Byrd opposing Brown v. Board of Education, Bollinger is not expressly declaring massive resistance to the law of the land. But that’s what’s going on here.

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