27 January 2012

ROTC At York: Who's Serving Whom?

Yesterday, I learned that there's talk about bringing an ROTC program to York College.

Since opening its doors in 1966, the college has not had such a program.  Some argue that it would open up job opportunities for students.  In this economy,that's no small consideration.

Also, there are more than a few veterans among the student body, as there are in most other CUNY schools.  However, the feeling among the student body, not to mention the faculty, is not as pro-military as one might expect.

I suspect that the Department of Defense is looking to York for two reasons.

First of all, the college has been expanding its programs in health-related sciences and professions.  So, perhaps, the Pentagon is looking at the college as a potential source of people who have at least some of the skills the military needs.

But second, and perhaps equally important, about 90 percent of its students are members of "minority" groups.  As much as it pains me to say it, the Armed Forces have offered more and better opportunities to "minorities"--particularly black men--than other areas of society and the economy.  That is not to say, of course, that there's no racism in the military.  It just means that one has a better chance of becoming a high-ranking officer than of becoming a CEO of a major corporation or university president if one does not come from the "right" families and schools.  And, of course, most who come from such backgrounds are white and well-off.  

Perhaps ROTC can present itself as a vehicle for equal opportunity if it comes to York. However, there's a problem I have with that.  While "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," may have been repealed, the military is a notorious hotbed of homophobia.  We've heard about Marine Lance Corporal Harry Lew, the son of parents who emigrated to New York's Chinatown, who committed suicide in Afghanistan because he was hazed so much, and so badly, by fellow Marines. The media have reported that the hazing was motivated by those Marines' prejudice against Asians like Lew.  However, I've heard rumors that the hazing was as much motivated by those Marines' suspicions that he was gay.  If that's the case, it wouldn't be the first time someone was so harassed and driven to suicide.

And, in addition to the residual homophobia that still exists in the military, there's the fact that transgender people aren't allowed to serve at all. And, of course, one won't remain a soldier, sailor, member of the Air Force or Marine for very long after starting to transition, or merely revealing a wish to do so.

So...I hope the college's administration and whoever else might be responsible for deciding on whether or not York gets an ROTC program to think about what they'd really be bringing to campus.