New York Daily News posted an editorial on December 29, "Columbia and other Ivy League campuses must reopen their gates to ROTC." The tone is strident and wholly unqualified:

With Don't Ask, Don't Tell dead, that objection is now officially overruled. To his credit, [Columbia University President] Bollinger acknowledges as much; he has announced a task force that will examine whether the university should fully rejoin ROTC.

The answer: yes. As soon as humanly possible.

The problem is NY Daily News Editorial Board is basing their recommendations on several errors in fact, most notably, DADT is not yet dead.

The biggest problem is "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law hasn't been repealed yet. You don't have to take my word for it, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said so himself, quoted widely across the news media following the President's signing of the bill:

"To prevent any confusion, I want to be perfectly clear: At this time, there are no new changes to any existing department or service policies," Gates wrote to senior officials such as Clifford Stanley, undersecretary of Defense for personnel and readiness, who is the department's point man on implementing the repeal.  "Service members who alter their personal conduct during this period may face adverse consequences." [Dec 23, 2010]

It's rather disappointing to see the Daily News presenting this as fait accompli, when it is, in fact, not.

New York Daily News' sense of urgency seems misplaced. I'd recommend they send their "as fast as humanly possible" advice to the Department of Defense, regarding the finalizing of the new DOD regulations and to President Obama, Sec Gates and Adm Mullen to certify actual repeal of the law. Why Universities must rush, while the DOD receives little or no pressure, escapes me.

The editorial is filled with misleading language, "The welcoming of openly gay men and women..." Respectfully, gay servicemembers will be "welcomed" when they can walk into a recruiting station say, "I'm gay, and I'm here to serve my country," and the recruiter shows them a pen, not the door. But that day is not today. It won't be tomorrow. Def Sec Gates isn't saying when that day will come.

Daily News is by no means alone with this sloppy, inaccurate relaying of non-facts. That "this is done" is pretty much been so widely repeated it has transcended the factual record.

Columbia is looking at the issue, and well they should. But it isn't nearly as simple and clear-cut as NY Daily News and others would make it out to be, and not just because that, well, DADT is still in effect. Columbia President Lee Bollinger is quoted in the article as saying ROTC had no place at Columbia because "the university has an obligation, deeply rooted in the core values of an academic institution and in First Amendment principles, to protect its students from improper discrimination and humiliation."

Even if and when DADT repeal is certified and the law repealed, the military's practices do not yet square with Columbia's non-discrimination policy. Columbia includes gender identity in its non-discrimination policy. But the ban on transgender servicemembers will remain after DADT is gone. There appears to be little movement to address that discriminatory policy. [Update: Lurleen from the comments points out Harvard too, is overlooking the discrepancy on gender identity discrimination.]

Of course what to do with the ROTC campus bans is a conversation that's time has come. But I'd suggest NY Daily News and other outlets back off on making demands until they have a clearer understanding of the facts.

Columbia University and others are not obliged to set their policy based on what people think happened with the legislation. One would have hope the editorial pages of America would also make their recommendations based on facts.

Originally posted to Scott Wooledge on Mon Jan 03, 2011 at 08:45 AM PST.

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