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Council debates ROTC policy on gays

The Arts and Sciences Council appeared ready on Thursday to pass a resolution calling for ROTC to end its discriminatory practices.

But after an hour of debate, it was determined that the council lacked a quorum. It was therefore unable to vote on the proposal.

That proposal, developed by a University committee on non-discrimination, called for the University to undertake a five-year plan of action to end the Department of Defense's policy of excluding homosexuals.

"In the view of the faculty, ROTC should be able to cease discrimination within five years or else cease its relationship with Duke University," said committee chair Dale Martin, professor of religion.

Martin stressed that the policies of the Department of Defense, and not ROTC as an institution, were being attacked.

"We want to make it clear that this is not an anti-ROTC report," Martin said.

But he said, "ROTC policy is in contradiction of Duke's anti-discrimination policy."

Representatives of ROTC spoke after Martin and argued in favor of the program.

Capt. Robert Avery, chair of the naval sciences department, raised concerns that ROTC was being singled out unfairly.

"There are a number of scholarships that discriminate," he said.

He used the Bulletin of Duke University Undergraduate Instruction to cite scholarships that are granted exclusively to women or minorities.

Most members of the council appeared to support the basic ideas of the anti-discrimination committee.

The debate centered not on whether the Department of Defense ought to be encouraged to change its policies, but rather on how strong such encouragement should be, and whether deadlines ought to be set.

English professor Michael Moon argued that the steps already taken toward reform nationally should not prevent the council and the University from taking a stand on the current ROTC policies.

Such policies are demoralizing to students, including heterosexuals and cadets themselves, Moon said.

Others, though, cautioned that acting too quickly and setting time limits for ROTC changes could set Duke apart from other major universities that might be unwilling to take such drastic measures. "To be effective we've got to act in concert with other elite universities," said Victor Strandberg, professor of English.

Differences over the strength of the resolution led to the sponsoring of numerous amendments to try to make it acceptable to all of the council members present.

Most of the amendments failed, but at the end of discussion the resolution still appeared to have wide support, before it was determined that the council did not have a quorum.

The council's final recommendation on the proposal will be decided at its next meeting.