AU ROTC will be allowed to use certain campus facilities next semester after simultaneous efforts by the AU administration and Student Government to loosen restrictions on the military program.
ROTC cadets will be able to use fitness facilities here and AU will offer military science classes, if space is available.
The Undergraduate Senate passed a bill Sunday to recommend the administration look into making changes to policies that currently deny AU ROTC cadets group access to AU fitness facilities for physical training and prohibit use of AUTO vans for ROTC transportation, among other things.
But the administration has already begun the process of making some of these changes for the spring semester, according to Phyllis Peres, vice provost and interim dean for Academic Affairs.
The Army ROTC consortium allows ROTC candidates to take military science classes at Georgetown University. The consortium includes Georgetown, George Washington University, Catholic University of America and AU.
The Hoya Battalion for Army ROTC, which consists of about 40 AU students, is based at Georgetown. The Air Force ROTC has about 15 AU students and is based at Howard.
There is no agreement in the works to make the AU ROTC cadets into their own formally recognized AU battalion, Peres said.
“We are not advocating that ROTC be recognized on campus as an organization,” said Brett Atanasio, the bill’s sponsor. “We are advocating that American University students that pay their tuition and pay their student activity fees be allowed to have access to the same resources that all other American University students can use.”
Currently, ROTC candidates cannot use the AU fitness facilities for their required physical training. However, Peres said next semester they will be able to do so.
The Army cadets now wake up at 5 a.m. three to six days a week to use Georgetown’s facilities, using their own transportation to get there.
“This means upperclassmen members of the AU platoon have to drive all 40 cadets in their personal vehicles to and from Georgetown,” Atanasio said.
The SG bill recommended the cadets be allowed to use the SG’s AUTO vans, for both the physical training and ROTC consortium classes at Georgetown, GW and Catholic.
The AUTO vans are available to all clubs, but since ROTC is an academic program, it cannot be recognized as a club.
In addition to the program’s mandatory physical training, ROTC cadets must participate in a four-year, two-part academic program that teaches military skills and knowledge, on top of regular AU course requirements.
The bill recommended military science professors be allowed to teach at AU.
AU will allow military science classes to be taught here through the Army ROTC consortium, if classroom space is available, Peres said.
The bill also said ROTC cadets do not have an AU point person and recommended there be someone who can be responsible for ROTC affairs. Peres will fill this role in the spring semester.
Reform focuses on student equality
The bill saw serious Senate debate Sunday over the ROTC program’s connection to the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.
The SG bill ignores the policy completely because senators said the issue is about student equality at AU, not sexual orientation.
“I think it is an absurd position to take, to ignore ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’” said Tonei Glavinic, executive director of Queers and Allies. “You can’t ignore the fact the SG is requesting expanded resources for an organization that discriminates against a significant number of AU students.”
The bill says the SG committee understands that there are individuals who believe “don’t ask, don’t tell” violates AU’s anti-discrimination policy, but it is “disingenuous” to hold students accountable for the law.
“You cannot punish students for a federal law that they have no control over,” Atanasio said at the Senate meeting.
Queers and Allies was not involved in the drafting of the bill. They asked the bill be tabled at the meeting Sunday, but it was passed anyway.
Two senators abstained from voting because they felt there needed to be further Queers and Allies input.
Army ROTC cadets and officials are pleased with these changes.
“The steps contained in the bill will help alleviate the many hardships experienced by our American University cadets in their participation in our program,” said retired Lt. Col. J.K. Morningstar, an assistant professor of military science at Georgetown, in an e-mail.
The SG bill has been in the works for about eight months. The SG committee that developed the bill has been on-and-off for about three years, and this is the most substantial bill they have ever produced.
“Today we made a tremendous step and a really historic push on behalf of ROTC,” Atanasio said at the end of the Senate meeting.
Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated retired Lt. Col. J.K. Morningstar’s rank as a Lt. Cmdr. This version has been corrected.