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October 9, 1997

Senate committee wants to know whereabouts of ROTC disclaimer

In 1992, to protest the U.S. Department of Defense's ban on homosexuals in the military, Pitt's administration agreed to a University Senate request that University publications describing Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) programs include the following statement: "ROTC programs discriminate against students on the basis of sexual orientation and therefore are not in compliance with the University's anti-discrimination policy." In 1994, the defense department adopted its current "don't ask, don't tell" policy tolerating homosexual military personnel who don't proclaim their proclivities. But then-Chancellor J. Dennis O'Connor judged that "don't ask, don't tell" still fell short of Pitt's anti-discrimination policy, which was amended in July 1988 to forbid discrimination based on sexual orientation. In an Oct. 27, 1994, letter to the chairperson of the University Senate anti-discriminatory policies committee, O'Connor promised that the ROTC disclaimer would continue to appear in University publications describing ROTC programs.

So why hasn't the administration lived up to that promise? the interim chairperson of the anti-discriminatory policies committee wants to know.

English professor Richard Tobias told Faculty Assembly Oct. 7 that he plans to ask Chancellor Mark Nordenberg at Monday's Senate Council meeting why Pitt has failed to print the disclaimer in publications describing ROTC.

Tobias said his committee learned of the alleged failure this summer, after the University of Washington Faculty Senate asked Pitt's Senate for a copy of the ROTC disclaimer — and the anti-discrimination committee found the statement was missing from Pitt publications in which it clearly belonged.

According to William A. Savage, assistant to the chancellor and director of the Office of Affirmative Action, the administration hasn't changed its policy on the ROTC disclaimer.

But only a handful of Pitt brochures, bulletins and other publications actually "describe" ROTC, Savage said. Of those that do, only one — a 1993-95 School of Engineering academic bulletin, the school's latest — fails to include the ROTC disclaimer or at least a paraphrase of it, Savage said in an interview yesterday.

The current bulletin of the College of Arts and Sciences includes a three-sentence paragraph listing ROTC courses that are, and are not, accepted toward CAS degrees. The paragraph does not mention the fact that ROTC violates the University's anti-discrimination policy. But Savage said the disclaimer wasn't intended to accompany brief, passing references to ROTC such as the one in the CAS bulletin.

Savage cited the current College of General Studies bulletin as an example of a publication that follows the disclaimer policy. But while the bulletin includes a three-paragraph description of Air Force ROTC — noting that: "While the federal government continues to exclude gays, lesbians, and bisexuals from receiving ROTC scholarships or serving in the military, ROTC classes on this campus are available to all students" — the bulletin does not mention the University's anti-discrimination policy.

Then-Chancellor O'Connor announced the ROTC disclaimer to Pitt administrative officers, deans, regional campus presidents, directors and department chairs in a March 30, 1992, memo. O'Connor later sent a similar memo to faculty and staff.

A 1992 Office of Affirmative Action brochure, "Combatting Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation" (in use, but being updated, Savage said) includes the ROTC disclaimer.

Cindy Gill, director of publications in the Office of University Relations since February 1993, said her unit has never been instructed during her time as director to include the ROTC disclaimer in any publications. Gill's boss, Assistant Vice Chancellor for University Relations Mary Ann Aug, was unreachable because she is in South Africa this week. University Relations produces most of Pitt's promotional publications for external audiences.

Ironically, promotional materials distributed by Pitt ROTC personnel are exempt from the University's disclaimer because those publications are produced by the U.S. military, not Pitt, Savage said.

–Bruce Steele

Filed under: Feature,Volume 30 Issue 4

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