PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — In a letter to the University community today, Brown President Ruth J. Simmons accepted the recommendations made by the Committee on the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) to maintain opportunities for interested students to participate in ROTC through an existing program with Providence College, and to discuss expanding opportunities for participation with the U.S. Department of Defense. She also called on the University community to work for the elimination of discrimination against transgender persons that excludes them from serving in the armed services.
Simmons released her response to the committee’s report as the Corporation of Brown University, the University’s governing body, arrives in Providence for its October meeting. The Corporation will consider the issue during meetings and discussion sessions, which conclude Saturday.
Simmons’ response follows a broad and inclusive campus discussion of the committee’s report, which was released to the campus earlier this semester. Simmons affirmed the committee’s recommendations:
- That the faculty’s resolutions in 1969 remain sound and should govern the University’s consideration of the ROTC issue. Those resolutions defined ROTC as an extra-curricular activity rather than an academic program and did not extend faculty status to ROTC instructors solely on their involvement with ROTC.
- That Brown’s current participation in the Army ROTC program at Providence College should remain in place, providing ROTC training for Brown students.
- That Brown should engage in discussions with the Department of Defense to learn how Brown students might engage in Naval or Air Force ROTC training that is not currently available to them.
- That any proposal for expanding ROTC opportunities be brought before the faculty for its consideration.
Simmons acknowledged valid and passionate arguments on both sides of the ROTC issue, affirming the University’s signature approach to addressing differences through thorough campus engagement.
“In my view, while there are many varying perspectives on ROTC and on Brown’s engagement with the military, two aspects of this debate emerge clearly,” Simmons wrote. “The first is that, consistent with its stated policy of anti-discrimination, Brown should take a stand against discrimination against transgender individuals by the military. … At the same time, it is just as essential that Brown recognize and accept its responsibility to support and serve the country by educating leaders for the military who understand the importance of such values to a nation that can only be held together by mutual respect and persistent attention to matters of justice and equality.”
In endorsing the recommendations of the committee’s report and recommendations, she reiterated her support for a fundamental principle that has been central to the campus discussion, indicating that decisions related to the curriculum and academic credit rest with the faculty, saying that the University should, “… explore with the Department of Defense whether, under existing academic policies at Brown, opportunities may be created for Brown students to participate in additional cross-institutional ROTC programs elsewhere.”
Simmons also wrote, “The question of whether there must be an ROTC unit on the campus is, in my view, less the nub of the question than whether the University understands and acknowledges its role as a national university in participating in the development of leaders for the country, including its military. Brown should not isolate itself by barring or denigrating participation in ROTC programs or the military,” Simmons wrote. “… The presence or not of an ROTC unit on the campus is not a litmus test for Brown’s commitment to serve the country loyally and honorably.”
Simmons convened the Committee on the Reserve Officers Training Corps in January 2011 and charged it with reviewing Brown’s policies on ROTC, listening to campus debate and opinion, and formulating a set of recommendations. Members of the committee included Katherine Bergeron, dean of the College (chair); Leslie Bostrom, professor of visual art; Andrew G. Campbell, associate professor of medical science; Catherine Lutz, professor of anthropology Kenneth Miller, professor of biology; Robert Pelcovits, professor of physics; Philip Rosen, professor of modern culture and media; Thomas Webster, associate professor of engineering; Chaney Harrison, undergraduate student, Class of ’11.5; Samuel Howard, undergraduate student, Class of ’14; and Sean Dinces, graduate student, American studies. Stephen Lassonde, deputy dean of the College, served as staff to the committee.
The committee released its final report this summer. Several members of the committee sent Simmons a memo outlining their concerns about the committee’s third recommendation. That memo, together with the full text of President Simmons’ response, the committee’s report and other documents, is available online at brown.edu/reports/rotc/