Schools, ROTC clash over homosexual ban

By Ellen Skelly

A ban on homosexuals in the military is forcing NIU and other universities to question potentially discriminatory policies.

The U.S. Department of Defense policy states, “Homosexuals’ presence in the military would seriously impair discipline, good order, morale and security.” The policy includes college Reserve Officers’ Training Corps programs.

Maj. Ken Elliott, NIU associate professor of military science, said NIU’s ROTC program follows Army policy, which excludes homosexuals from being commissioned and therefore from receiving scholarships.

Walker said the military employs seven instructors at NIU and offers about 10 scholarships each semester at NIU. ROTC scholarships pay college tuition up to $7,000 or 80 percent of annual tuition.

Capt. Richard Walker, NIU assistant professor of military science, said, “Anybody can come in and take our classes.” But when the added obligation to the military is involved, the Defense Department policy takes effect, he said.

The NIU Human Rights Statement states, “The Constitution and Bylaws of Northern Illinois University afford equal treatment regardless of political views or affiliation, sexual orientation or other factors unrelated to their scholarly or professional performance.”

Student Association President Huda Scheidelman said NIU’s position toward the Army’s policy is unclear, but on the surface, the ROTC policy violates NIU policy.

“We encourage people of diverse backgrounds to take our classes,” Walker said, adding he is not in a position to speculate why the military takes their position on homosexuals.

At Northwestern University in Evanston, the student Coalition for Equal Opportunity requested an ROTC ban because of the exclusion of homosexuals.

In December, faculty at the University of Wisconsin at Madison voted to oppose ROTC on their campus because homosexuals could not receive military scholarships.

“Being gay doesn’t mean you are going to be any less of an officer,” said Maria Gamino, NIU Gay/Lesbian Union president about the Madison vote.

Gamino praised the Madison faculty for backing the homosexual community and said she hopes NIU faculty would vote the same way if the situation arose.

The Wisconsin Regents, who govern the university, have since decided not to ban the ROTC at Madison and to lobby the Army to change their recruiting policies.

NIU’s Faculty Assembly and SA are scheduled to discuss the university’s position on allowing homosexuals to receive ROTC scholarships.