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Columbia Spectator Staff

The University Senate might vote today on a resolution that would pave the way for Columbia's participation in the Reserve Officers' Training Corps. The resolution's key clause states, "Columbia University welcomes the opportunity to explore further mutually beneficial relationships with the Armed Forces of the United States, including participation in the programs of the Reserve Officers Training Corps." The senate will meet today at 1:15 p.m. in 104 Jerome Greene Hall. Katherine M. Franke, a Law School professor and opponent of ROTC, said a group of students will hold a protest outside the building before the meeting. The ROTC resolution is scheduled for discussion and a vote at today's full-body Senate meeting, but it is likely that some senators will try to delay it until the body's April 29 meeting. University senator and astronomy professor Jim Applegate, a longtime ROTC proponent and member of the senate task force which solicited opinions on ROTC, said there has been more than enough time for debate. "We have bent over backwards to try to get people involved in this I firmly believe that the senate has discharged its responsibility to due diligence," Applegate says. Eszter Polonyi, a student senator for the Graduate School of Arts and Science, said that there has not been enough debate to proceed to a vote, in part because "the majority of students and faculty are equally clueless on what is going on." She said it is also not clear what is being debated. She noted that while most of the debate has focused on ROTC, the actual resolution—which is billed as the "Resolution on Columbia University's Relationships with the Armed Forces of the United States of America"—encourages engagement with the military more broadly, only mentioning ROTC in passing. "What is clear is that there is a deadline that we are trying to make," Polonyi said in an email. "What happens when we hit that deadline remains largely opaque, which in and of itself begs the question of why we are rushing to get there in the first place." Before a vote can take place, a senator must "call the question"—asking that the resolution be brought to a vote—and another senator must second that request. But while this will almost certainly happen, other senators could try to delay the vote. Any senator could ask that the resolution be tabled until April 29, and, assuming that the request is seconded, the senate would then vote on whether to table the resolution. Senators have spent the last several weeks debating ROTC and making changes to the resolution. The senate's Faculty Affairs Committee and Student Affairs Committee, or SAC, both discussed the resolution and voted to send it to the full senate for a vote. Esteban Reichberg, a student senator from the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, said SAC voted 17-5 in favor of sending the resolution to the full senate, with one abstention. But he added that procedural votes like this are not always indicative of how student senators will vote on a resolution when it gets to the floor. Some senators might have voted to send the resolution to the full senate to make sure that all senators have the chance to discuss it, even though they oppose the resolution themselves, Reichberg said. "For votes and against votes are not as clear cut as one might think 17-5-1 is not actually indicative of proponents and opponents," he said. Reichberg added that when SAC discussed the bill last Friday, it made only one change, which he described as "a small change of verbiage." Still, there are several key differences between the final resolution, which the senate released yesterday, and a draft of the resolution which was sent to Spectator last week. The draft made no mention of the University's nondiscrimination policy. Some have argued against ROTC because the military does not allow transgendered individuals to enlist, even after the repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, which had prevented gays from serving openly. The final resolution notes that "the principles of Columbia University's non-discrimination policy, which are deeply important to Columbia's identity, express shared values of fostering an open and tolerant community, as shall not abridge the University's educational mission." But ROTC opponent Sean Udell, president of the Columbia College Student Council class of 2011 and president of the Columbia Queer Alliance, said that adding this statement was hardly a step in the right direction. "The proposal's in direct violation of the nondiscrimination policy," Udell said. "So they can make statements that give it lip service, but that doesn't mean anything." The draft also included a statement saying that the task force had found "widespread support for expanding Columbia's ties with the Armed Forces of the United States, specifically on the question of the Reserve Officers' Training Corps." But the final version instead reported the results of the ROTC question on the poll—60 percent in favor, 33 percent opposed, and 7 percent undecided—and listed the five schools that voted in the poll. The Senate removed from the final version a statement noting that President Barack Obama, CC '84, called for college campuses to embrace ROTC after the repeal of DADT, as well as a reference to Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, commending Columbia for its current engagement with the military. School of General Studies student senator Jose Robledo, a military veteran and ROTC advocate, said he argued successfully that the final resolution should be much less "pro-military" than the draft. While he believes he that "the civil-military [divide] needs to be bridged," he said that it is important for Columbia to maintain its autonomy. "We don't want Columbia to become an instrument or arm of the military," Robledo said. "Do I think that is going to happen? No. But you never want to leave the door open to that either." Both the draft and the final resolution state that "questions of academic credit, faculty appointments, academic governance, and space allocation shall remain the sole and exclusive domain of the Provost, of the faculties of the affected schools, and of their several deans." Robledo added that while the student senators did not reach a consensus on whether or not to support the resolution, they did all agree on one point. "Military engagement is a very important question," Robledo said. "And the position that the University takes from the senate decision is going to define our identity for many years to come."

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