ASG split over bill backing NROTC

Helena Oh

Associated Student Government’s External Relations Committee narrowly approved an emergency bill Monday night that requests support for Northwestern’s Naval Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. But opponents said the bill’s passage perpetuates discrimination against gay men and lesbians.

Members of the committee voted to support the bill 6-5 with three abstaining after about an hour of heated debate. ASG senators now will consider the measure.

The bill asks for ASG support for NROTC because the U.S. Department of Defense may cut NU’s 79-year-old program entirely if it does not attract more students. Only 50 students are enrolled in the program at NU and a scant six of them pay for their educations without the help of ROTC scholarships, according to Capt. Dan Moore, commanding officer of the NROTC unit and a professor of Naval Science.

Federal proposals to eliminate the unit or to cut 40 percent of NU’s NROTC scholarships could mark the beginning of the end, Moore said.

“Northwestern appears to be bearing a larger cut than other units,” he said. “We could potentially take 40 percent less people next year, which could jeopardize the long term health and viability of the unit.”

But opponents of the bill said NU should not ignore the military’s discrimination against members’ sexual orientation. Currently, openly gay men and women are effectively banned from military service.

“It’s a direct violation of Northwestern’s constant support for diversity,” said Weinberg sophomore Christian Appel, who attended a Rainbow Alliance meeting about the bill. “It doesn’t make sense to endorse (NROTC) or to have them at all on campus.”

The bill — written by NROTC Executive Officer Casey Osterkamp and ASG Rules Chairman Daniel Broadwell– stresses the importance of Naval ROTC’s functions on campus and asks ASG to support the continuation of the unit on campus.

The U.S. Department of Defense is proposing to cut NU’s NROTC scholarships for new midshipmen, the term for students enrolled in NROTC, from 25 scholarships to 15.

Without a Naval ROTC scholarship, Brian Hock said his family would have taken out a second mortgage on their house to pay for tuition.

“I didn’t want my parents to have to keep working after they were 65 years old,” the Weinberg freshman said. “The other option was going to a less prestigious school that cost less.”

However, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocates said they thought the ASG bill was unacceptable.

Earlier drafts of the bill offended some LGBT advocates who heard about the bill last week.

The bill was revised to clarify that ASG’s support for NROTC would not mean ASG is taking a stand on the group’s “discriminatory practices.”

It also states that the NU unit has no option but to comply with federal “discriminatory” policies such as the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy.

However, these clauses will be omitted if the resolution is distributed to military outlets, according to the language of the bill.

“If they take out the clauses, then the bill won’t reflect the ideas of the student body (if the bill passes),” said Leslie Stewart, Rainbow Alliance co-president.

But Osterkamp, a Communication senior, said the bill needs to be passed.

“We understand their views. It was never our intention to offend them,” she said. “We (just) want to get the support of ASG to keep our organization on campus.”

Reach Helena Oh at [email protected].