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Columbia Spectator Staff

Columbia undergraduates are roughly evenly split on whether the University should reverse its forty-year-old ban on Reserve Officer Training Programs and allow the Naval ROTC to return to campus, according to results from the past week's student survey. Update, 12:24 PM: Results from Barnard College's survey indicate a wider gap in students' opinion, with nearly 62 percent of the 1,189 responses voting No and 38 percent Yes. The vote was conducted through the eBear program. break By a narrow margin—1502 no votes to 1463 yes votes with 6 abstentions—students in Columbia College, the School of Engineering and Applied Science, and the School of General Studies rejected allowing the NROTC on campus. 43 percent of eligible students in those three schools voted. Voting also closed Monday at Barnard, but results were apparently not available until Tuesday. An e-mail to Barnard students Tuesday announced the final tally: 453 yes votes and 736 no votes. The survey asked students in each of Columbia's four undergraduate schools to weigh in on whether or not they supported the return of the NROTC, reversing Columbia's four-decades-old policy of not allowing ROTC on campus. The votes will guide the positions of the schools' university senators as they consider whether to bring the issue before the full University Senate this year. "The results of this vote indicate that this is an issue that will be discussed in the University Senate," Student Government Association President Sarah Besnoff, BC '09, said in the e-mail, later adding, "Because of the clear majority for "no" votes, should our University Senator be asked to vote on the issue, she will vote "no" in accordance with these results." Since the tally was so close in the non-Barnard vote, it is not clear whether it will push discussion forward on the issue, which has been considered by the Senate several times over the past decades, each time with the same result: maintaining the current policy. "The turnout we had and the number of people who voted is going to command attention in the Senate," said Columbia College Student Council vice president for policy Adil Ahmed, CC '09, one of the student leaders who spearheaded the survey. But Ahmed added, "Conversation is going to happen, but as far as whether it's going to be seriously considered, I don't really know." The proponents of revamping the university policy—who pointed out that although Columbia students are allowed to participate in ROTC at other schools, there is no convenient NROTC program—were hoping for a dramatic show of opposition to the ROTC ban. In the weeks leading up to the survey, debate on the issue quickly grew contentious, pitting students in favor of bring NROTC programs to campus primarily against those opposed to the federal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, which excludes open homosexuals from serving in the military. The survey itself was embroiled in controversy as soon as it launched last week because of quirks in its online format, which seemed to allow students to vote multiple times and to allow alumni with Columbia logins to vote. In online posts on the subject, student government leaders explained that each student received a unique link in the e-mails that announced the survey's opening, and that only one vote would be counted for each student. But Ahmed said that since all votes were verified, he doesn't believe that the initial confusion jeopardizes the vote results. "Hopefully, those misconceptions were cleared up either in e-mails or in the newspaper," he said. In an e-mail to General Studies students, GS Student Council President Brody Berg questioned the validity of the survey, citing the discrepancy between validated votes and submitted votes. He also noted that the validation and invalidation of votes took place "with no supervision."

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