Johns Hopkins rejects calls to disband ROTC

June 01, 1995|By David Folkenflik | David Folkenflik,Sun Staff Writer

The president of the Johns Hopkins University has rejected the demands of student activists that the Reserve Officers Training Corps be disbanded on campus because the military does not allow openly gay people in its ranks.

After five years of deliberation, the university has decided instead to continue to lobby against the military's ban against homosexuals. The administration also will acknowledge in official literature that the ban explicitly clashes with the school's anti-discrimination policies, President William C. Richardson said.

Newly commissioned 2nd Lt. Rick Sharma, a member of a panel that advised Dr. Richardson on the issue, said the university's stance represented a step forward.

"It's making a statement, that a college of this standing is not simply sweeping it under the rug," said Lieutenant Sharma, who was commissioned through the Army ROTC program when he graduated from Hopkins last month.

But Dr. Richardson's position does not make any substantive change in university policy: the university has maintained a clause on sexuality in its no-bias policy since the 1980s and Dr. Richardson has spoken against the military's stance since assuming the Hopkins presidency in 1990. The university also has joined educational associations in opposing the government's current position.

Stephen Kent Jusick, a 1992 graduate and gay student activist while at Hopkins, led campus protests calling for the removal of ROTC. Mr. Jusick criticized Dr. Richardson and noted the university's reliance on government funding for its research.

"They're beholden to the Pentagon and Department of Defense spending and, typically, they're behaving in a craven fashion," he said of Hopkins officials.

Douglas Armstrong, a Hopkins senior who is a member of the task force created in 1990 and president of the campus Diverse Sexuality and Gender Alliance, endorsed the panel's recommendations. Earlier this spring, he had said the school could not both maintain its anti-bias policy and keep ROTC on campus. Mr. Armstrong could not be reached for comment last night.

"It's one of these issues that we have in society that really taps some deep emotions," Dr. Richardson said. "We expect to work to bring the government's policy in conformity to our own."

Dr. Richardson, who will leave June 15 to take the presidency of the Kellogg Foundation in Battle Creek, Mich., said he had wanted to resolve the issue by the time he departed.

About 60 students are enrolled in the Hopkins Army ROTC program, roughly four-fifths of them Hopkins students. The other students come from the University of Maryland Baltimore County, Towson State University and the University of Baltimore, which do not have ROTC units. The question of gays in the military has not emerged at other Maryland campuses that maintain ROTC units, including the University of Maryland College Park, Loyola College and Morgan State University.

Spurred by student protests at colleges throughout the nation, gay student activists at Hopkins began in 1990 to call for the program to be kicked off the Homewood campus.

The ROTC provides scholarships and military training to students in exchange for their service as officers after they graduate. About 70 percent of all officers in the U.S. Armed Forces are graduates of college ROTC programs. Only a handful of universities and colleges suspended their ROTC programs over the ban of gays in the military.

Even before Dr. Richardson's comments yesterday, Hopkins officials had signaled their intentions on the issue. Several trustees and officials had resisted even the prospect of kicking off campus an agency of the federal government, which annually provides Hopkins with more research dollars than any other university in the nation -- $673.6 million in fiscal year 1993 alone.

Dr. Richardson said he was guided by the unanimous recommendations of the advisory panel he appointed in 1990. The six-member panel, which included two administrators, two professors and two students, forged the compromise over the spring semester.

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