As the federal government formulates the official repeal of the U.S. military’s “don’t Ask, don’t tell” policy, campus officials are waiting to see how the policy will change the dynamic of service members.
After the U.S. House and Senate voted to repeal the 17-year-old policy last December, President Barack Obama signed it into law — potentially allowing LGBT men and women in the military to serve openly. While military groups prepare their members for the future assimilation of the new law, University ROTC affiliates and members of the campus community say they think the certification of the law won’t affect the lives of those directly impacted by the repeal.
Bob Nichols, an assistant professor in the Air Force Officer Education Program at the University, said commanders have addressed ROTC students on possible changes due to the repeal, but they are waiting for the U.S. Department of Defense to release information about the details of the official policy.
Though the implementation of DADT relies on certification of the bill by Obama, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Congress, the U.S. military is beginning to educate military members about the LGBT community and foster tolerance in the pre-repeal phase, according to the Department of Defense website.
Jan Malaikal, chair of the Army Officer Education program at the University, said she could not comment on the current policy for treatment of LGBT ROTC members due to the changing nature of the law.
LSA sophomore Adam Kouroupas, who is in the University’s ROTC program, said he hasn’t noticed many changes in the ROTC Air Force branch in anticipation of the law.
“It hasn’t come up, and I think that’s a good sign,” Kouroupas said. “Everyone here is smart enough to realize that times aren’t like they used to be, and things are changing.”
Kouroupas also said he thinks the University’s ROTC would accept any members who revealed their sexual identity.
“Our captains always tell us that diversity in the military is the best thing for it,” Kouroupas said. “I think (if someone came out) it would be fine. People are afraid of the stereotype…We’ve been getting up at 5 a.m. together for the past couple of years now. We’ve gotten pretty close, so I don’t think that would change anything.”
Ariana Bostian-Kentes, the University’s Spectrum Center programming coordinator, said she thinks little will change within military operations if DADT is certified.
“I think that the day that it’s actually repealed is going to be a non-event,” Bostian-Kentes said. “I don’t think that there’s going to be any sort of mass comings-out. I think the only thing that will really change is that they’ll have one more class on some sort of diversity training.”
Bostian-Kentes said her former partner was a member of the U.S. military. In her experience, Bostian-Kentes said many servicemen and servicewomen have already disclosed their sexuality to close co-workers and even larger groups of people within the service.
“(This) is not something that’s new and radical,” Bostian-Kentes said. “A lot of people knew about me. I attended two military balls as her date, and we did not catch a lot of flack for it. The bottom line was that she did her job well, and that’s what mattered.”
David Halperin, a W. H. Auden Distinguished University Prof. of the history and theory of sexuality, said when he was teaching at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the 1980s, he learned of a gay student who was kicked out of ROTC for revealing his sexual orientation after enrolling in the program.
“The ban on non-heterosexuals serving openly in the U.S. military is one of the last instances of formally institutionalized homophobia at the federal level,” Halperin said. “There has never been any coherent reason provided for kicking non-heterosexual people out of the military or preventing them from serving.”
To help solve any potential problems, Bostian-Kentes said she is planning to offer the Spectrum Center’s resources to the ROTC program and the significant others of any ROTC members.
“Military partners are even more invisible than LGBT active duty service members,” Bostian-Kentes said. “I’m looking ahead and seeing that there is room for programming around that.”
Halperin added that the repeal would also affect the scholarship guidelines of ROTC programs on all college campuses if the program is open to gay or lesbian members.
“People who want to take advantage of ROTC scholarships to finance their college education will be able to do so regardless of their sexual orientation,” Halperin said. “There will no longer be a certain kind of inequality written into law.”