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I fully agree with the letter from Robert Wheelersburg '88 PhD stating that, because of its unwillingness to invite ROTC back onto campus, Brown doesn't deserve to fly the U.S. flag ("Flying the Flag," Mail Room July/August).

While many avoided the draft by applying to graduate school or starting a family, I joined the Air Force ROTC unit on campus. As an officer, I learned discipline and management skills that later served me well in business. The responsibility for the actions and welfare of seventy people at Lincoln Air Force Base in Lincoln, Nebraska, during the Cuban Missile Crises taught me to grow up in a hurry and become streetwise, both of which have been valuable tools in business and life.

The military must remain a strong and viable instrument of U.S. policy in order to deter would-be adversaries from aggression. Without a strong military, we would not enjoy the freedom and liberty we demand as our birthright. By requiring every student to serve at least one year in ROTC, the military can educate young people about the privilege of what it means to be a free American.

Brown took a shameful, cowardly, and detrimental course of action in banning the ROTC program from campus.

George D. Tidd '60
Indio, Calif.
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Martin Velazquez '94 takes Brown to task for refusing to reinstate its ROTC programs. He criticizes what he considers to be the hypocrisy of Brown's memorializing its war deaths with Patriots Court while failing to provide any place on campus for training today's soldiers ("Glorifying Old Glory," Mail Room, November/December).

Honoring the memory of those who have died in war is unrelated to supporting the discriminatory practices of the military. As long as gays and lesbians are rejected by recruiters and discharged if discovered, Brown has no business participating in this denial of civil rights.

The real hypocrisy is placing restrictions on the service, and consequently the promotions, of women, while assigning them to frontline jobs by calling the assignments temporary.

Only when the military becomes an equal-opportunity employer should Brown take a second look at its ROTC policy.

Carol Orkin Agate '55
Santa Monica, Calif.
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Comments (1)
01/17/09
 
Dear Ms. Agate, 
 
Thank you for responding to my letter to the editor. Your criticism of the military's discriminatory policies is justified. I am a little surprised by your comments regarding women, however. As a 10-year Navy veteran, I had the honor of serving with female pilots and naval flight officers in combat during the Afghanistan campaign of 2001. These were not "temporary" assignments. Yes, the tradition-bound military has yet to open the doors of opportunity to homosexuals and some combat positions are still closed to women. Ultimately, however, these policies are set by our civilian leaders (it was President Truman who desegregated the armed forces in 1948 - years before the civil rights movement). That is not to say that we still have a long way to go (a fact that I was painfully aware of as the only minority aircrew in my squadron). The military is far from perfect, but so is the corporate world, where the discrimination you speak of is unnoficial yet ever-present. 
 
My main criticism of Brown's ouster of ROTC, which was edited out of my letter, is that it is counter to it's educational mantra and "openness." I have included my full letter below. Brown's policy is wrong - and so is the military's. Perhaps one of them will prove to be a true reformer and end this stalemate.  
 
LETTER: 
 
I read with interest "Flying the Flag," (Mail Room, July/August 2008), in which Dr. Wheelersburg criticized Brown University for throwing out the naval unit over three decades ago while retaining its symbolic flagpole. Brown’s refusal to reinstate military ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps) programs is hypocrisy unworthy of such a fine institution. It is ironic that the university that once hosted George Washington’s troops gives zero credit hours for military leadership courses. Brown has Patriots Court, named in memory of those who died while serving in past wars, and yet there is not a single space on campus allotted for today’s armed forces. The only option available for those students who want to serve is the Patriots Battalion Army ROTC at Providence College. Yes, Brown gives its students the “freedom” to choose their curriculum, but those who want a military education must take the bus across town. It is understandable that many in the Brown community find the military objectionable – its flawed policy towards homosexuals, the ongoing war in Iraq, and the simple fact that its mission involves killing. Even if circumstances change, as they have in the past 30 years, there will always be those who oppose the U.S. military. On this basis, are we to exclude the armed forces indefinitely? 
No matter what your views are, the military is essential to our country’s well-being. It is undignified for the University to accept federal tax dollars without allowing this vital entity to recruit its future leaders. Let's also not lose sight of the fact that politicians are the ones who dictate policy and wage wars from an arm chair. It is the men and women in uniform who obey orders and do the fighting and the dying - just look at the names of the Brown alumni on Soldier’s Arch. To blame it all on the troops is a convenient simplification of a complex subject. 
Brown’s rejection of ROTC undermines Francis Wayland’s vision for a student to "study what he chose, all that he chose, and nothing but what he chose." More bothersome than school policy is the apparent apathy of the community – such a lack of sentiment truly dishonors Brown’s veterans and war dead. I ask President Ruth Simmons to revisit this issue and bring it forward for discussion. To Dr. Wheelersburg I say that while I empathize with your frustration, the flag on that yachting mast should not be taken down. Rather, it must remain flying as a tribute to Brown’s military past and hope for redemption in the future.
 
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