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Columbia Spectator Staff

A vote taken by Barnard faculty members revealed that a majority oppose a return of ROTC to Columbia, according to Barnard's Provost Elizabeth Boylan. Boylan said opponents of ROTC were "a clear majority" but that the vote was "far from unanimous." The vote took place Monday at a Barnard faculty meeting. A student survey conducted by the University Senate last month showed that Barnard students opposed ROTC by a 47-42 plurality. The other four schools surveyed—Columbia College, the School of Engineering and Applied Science, the School of General Studies, and the School of International and Political Affairs—all showed majority support for ROTC. The University Senate will likely decide next month whether to invite the Reserve Officers' Training Corps back to Columbia after a more than 40-year absence. The Monday vote of Barnard faculty members was meant to instruct Barnard's two faculty senators how to vote when the issue comes before the senate, Boylan said. English professor Peter Platt, one of Barnard's two faculty senators, said that his decision on ROTC will be based on Barnard faculty opinion. "A vote was important to us senators so that we could accurately represent the majority view of the Barnard faculty in the University Senate," Platt said in an email. "It should be noted that this vote took place without knowledge of the exact wording of a motion that the Senate will consider," Boylan wrote in an email. "However it does provide our senators with an expression of faculty sentiment that will allow them to vote in a manner consistent with majority opinion of the Barnard faculty." The vote on ROTC was preceded by a vote on a separate motion, which said that the Barnard senators "should be directed to vote on the Senate ROTC matters according to their own analysis and beliefs," Boylan said. This motion failed to pass. Professors and administrators spent about two-thirds of the faculty meeting debating the merits of ROTC, Platt said. He described Barnard faculty members as a "divided group." "I'd say that there's not unanimity by any means," Platt said. "There's strong feelings on both sides." He said many ROTC opponents expressed the belief that military philosophy and educational philosophy are "antithetical" to one another, and that others discussed the military's policy of barring transgendered individuals from enlisting. There was also "great concern" among faculty members that under an ROTC program, Columbia would be forced to "cede control" of some curriculum and faculty appointment decisions to the military, Platt said. A few faculty members voiced this concern at a University Senate meeting last week as well. The senate Task Force on Military Engagement, which gathered campus opinions on ROTC, made clear in its report to the senate that Columbia would maintain control of all academic issues should an ROTC program return. "I think that for people on the fence, that's an important concession," Platt said. Platt added that ROTC had gained some support among Barnard faculty because of the December repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," the policy which had prevented gays from joining the military. "It [the debate] was nuanced and respectful," Boylan said in an email. "I believe that there was a full airing of perspectives." sammy.roth@columbiaspectator.com

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