To the Editors, I write to correct serious factual errors in the Spectator's reporting of what transpired during the Senate's ROTC forum on February 15th, 2011. Both the headline and the story are simply incorrect. The remarks I delivered during that event took no stand at all on the question of whether ROTC should be formally recognized by Columbia. My remarks began by asking the audience to consider three fundamental questions: (1) What kind of military is most conducive to the persistence of free and open democratic institutions? (2) How might we actually produce a military that best meets the needs of free and open democracies? (3) What do the needs of democracy, and what we might know about how to meet those needs, actually mean to Columbia? I suggested that the constitutional ideal of a military that remains fundamentally subject to civilian control might be a plausible answer to the first question. Then, in considering how to produce such a military, I asked whether a liberal arts education like the one we provide at Columbia might play a part in this process. In other words, might it be the case that exposure to the intellectual and cultural climate at Columbia could make influential military leaders more likely to consider and be moved by democratic values? I concluded my remarks with the following words, "The continued well-being of our democratic institutions depends upon your willingness to move past the answers that seemed 'obvious' in the 1960s and '70s and to resist views of military institutions and practices that might have seemed 'inescapable' in the 1990s. So, I invite you to consider whether the right question may no longer be 'How could we ever formally recognize ROTC on our campus?' but, instead, 'How can we not welcome them back?' Please do not shy away from this important debate." This is verbatim what I said on the evening of February 15, 2011. It is quite clearly entirely different both in content and tone from the ungrammatical declarative statement that was attributed to me in the Spectator article purporting to report the facts. Because I read from a text that was only slightly revised from some remarks that had been distributed in hard copy before, there is simply no room for debate about the substance of my remarks. My remarks posed difficult and intentionally provocative questions. But I believe that Columbians are capable of recognizing the difference between provocative questions and declarative sentences. I also believe that Columbians are capable of civil discourse, which means that they are capable of resisting the temptation to make an adversary out of someone simply because that person poses questions with the potential to challenge our preconceptions and considered judgments. Sincerely, Michele Moody-Adams Dean of Columbia College Vice President for Undergraduate Education Editors' Note An article that appeared in the Feb. 16, 2011 edition of the Columbia Daily Spectator ("College dean speaks out in favor of ROTC") misquoted Dean Michele Moody-Adams. The article has been updated online to include the accurate quote.
Columbia Spectator Staff