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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Monday, June 24, 2024

Resolution connects credits to Don't Ask, Don't Tell

A Tufts Community Union (TCU) senator has introduced a resolution calling for the university to award credit for military training courses at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, suggesting that the administration might be boycotting a discriminatory policy at the expense of students.

In his resolution, on which the Senate has yet to vote, Senator Toby Bonthrone alleges that Tufts might be refusing to offer credit for Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) courses in protest of the U.S. military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, which prevents openly gay people from serving in the armed forces.

Bonthrone argues in the resolution that it is unfair that the school does not hold the political science department to the same standard, because the department's internship course, "PS 99: Fieldwork in Politics," facilitates student employment at the House of Representatives, "which is the ultimate creator of the discriminatory DADT policy."

The resolution labels this a "manifest double standard" and calls for Tufts to either "extend their DADT-related boycott to the U.S. House of Representatives" or to "enable Tufts' ROTC cadets to gain credit for ROTC-related academic activities."

But Dean of Student Affairs Bruce Reitman said he does not believe that Don't Ask, Don't Tell has anything to do with the university's withholding credit for MIT ROTC courses. "The lack of credit predates the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy, so I don't think they're related," he said.

"This part about getting rid of PS 99, which takes place in [U.S. Rep.] Ed Markey's office, not Washington, is way off base," Reitman said. "Is this issue real? Yes, but the direction of the resolution is odd."

The dean also called the proposal's language unclear. "The resolution seems worded in a political, more off-target way," he said. "What do people really want to eliminate? If [credit for ROTC] is the goal, why not go right for that goal?"

The university does not award credit for the military training courses in the ROTC program at MIT because there is no cross-registration agreement between Tufts and MIT.

But Tufts does cross-register with Boston University, which also has an ROTC program. Tufts students can receive credit for participating, and BU's ROTC program has a course that can count toward a Tufts minor in leadership studies.

Tufts students interested in ROTC usually enroll in the non-credit-granting program at MIT rather than BU's program, because MIT is closer to Tufts.

Legislation passed in 1993 codified Don't Ask, Don't Tell, which prohibits the military from asking whether troops are homosexual or bisexual. But the bill stipulates that troops who are found in a homosexual act or who disclose their status as homosexual or bisexual must be discharged from the military.

Bonthrone, a senior, said that Tufts cadets' and midshipmen's grades are hurt by not being able to get credit for their ROTC courses.

"I think it impacts their GPA, particularly in the final two years as it gets more intense. And [they] have to take on top of that their Tufts classes, so they wind up taking five or six classes," Bonthrone said. "They would make Tufts prouder by raising their GPAs [and] winning more scholarships."

Administrators took issue with the argument that Tufts' refusal of credit hurts the GPAs of ROTC participants. "I haven't seen any evidence of it," Dean of Undergraduate Education James Glaser said.

"The students who do ROTC are highly dedicated," he said. "They work hard. Do they have to work harder to get better grades? Maybe they do. Is it worth it to them? Clearly it is."

But junior Nathan Elowe, an engineering student participating in the Air Force ROTC program at MIT, said he would like to get credit for the courses he takes there. "Junior and senior [ROTC] classes are definitely a lot more work, so it'd be nice if they gave credit for those," he said.

Glaser echoed Reitman's concerns that Bonthrone's resolution is too vague. "I thought the resolution was odd because I wasn't quite sure what its focus was, and if its focus was Don't Ask, Don't Tell, that policy is under new scrutiny by the new [Obama] administration," Glaser said.

Bonthrone said that if Don't Ask, Don't Tell is Tufts' explanation for why it does not give ROTC credit, this is not a legitimate reason. "My goal is to get Don't Ask, Don't Tell out of the picture when it comes to ROTC," he wrote in an e-mail to the Daily. "We need to get rid of this fig leaf for the inaction of the Tufts administration once and for all, and find out what really keeps these cadets from receiving credit."

Bonthrone admitted he is not sure why Tufts does not cross-register ROTC courses with MIT. In addition to the possibility that the university is not doing so out of protest of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy, he suggested that Tufts might be concerned that students would use cross-registration with MIT to abandon Tufts' engineering courses for MIT's.

"You talk to the administration about BU and MIT and you hear mumblings about the engineering school," he said.

Bonthrone suggested that if Tufts does hold such concerns, it should allow cross-registration only for ROTC students.

"It's a much, much broader issue than ROTC," Glaser said. For Tufts to cross-register with MIT, "it would have to be decided by [those schools'] presidents."


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