With the opening of the new ROTC building, the University of South Florida has ensured that the presence of an exclusive organization known to discriminate would be a grand one.
As a part of the United States military, ROTC programs are required to enforce the controversial “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. According to the policy, members of ROTC are unable to be openly gay. If it were to become known that a member was, he or she would be at risk of losing benefits and being removed from the program.
USF states that it doesn’t discriminate and that it is separate from ROTC selection, and therefore cannot be held responsible for who ROTC chooses to admit.
But by spending $149,670 on ROTC salaries and expenses over the past year, USF is directly enabling an organization that would exclude its own students. In addition, the claim that USF is one of only 38 schools in the United States to have all branches of the military represented is a source of pride for the University.
The tolerance of all people doesn’t seem to apply when it is in regard to the military presence on campus. It is highly unlikely that Subway would be selling sandwiches in Cooper Hall if it were known that the company enforced a policy that prevented the hiring of openly gay employees.
John Sarao, Associate Director of the Joint Military Leadership Center, and others in control of USF’s ROTC program ask that you not blame the military for a regulation that could be fatal to a private organization. Sarao is reported as saying that the policy is in effect because homosexuality is “a behavior that society has said is unacceptable. Once society changes its mind then the law will change.”
What they are ignoring, though, is that society seems to have changed its mind.
A 2006 survey conducted by The Pew Research Center showed that a majority of people surveyed believed that homosexuals should be allowed to serve in the military, and a CNN poll in 2007 revealed that 79 percent of people questioned believe that openly gay persons should be allowed to serve.
So while the numbers show that homosexuality is increasing in social acceptance, the military blames society for its policy. In reality, it is one of the final bastions of intolerance toward homosexuals, and is allowed to enforce those policies in the heart of higher education across the nation.
The United States military has taken its own initiative in deciding that society doesn’t believe openly gay or lesbian people would be capable of handling their duties in the military.
Ken Gullette, USF’s Director of Media Relations, captures the feeling many have when considering the monumental task of asking the military to abide by the standards the rest of society upholds.
“We will defend the rights of all people as it pertains to the University, but this is the military,” he said.