This week, Brown University president Ruth Simmons announced that her campus would continue its policy of excluding the Reserve Officers' Training Corps. Simmons cited the opinion of many from the Brown community, who, according the Boston Globe, felt that currently military policies were "not in line with the university's values."
I wonder if the family of Kyle Coutu would agree with that. In February of 2010, Kyle, a 20 year old soldier from Pawtucket, Rhode Island -- a mere minutes' drive from Brown -- was killed in Afghanistan during combat operations in the Helmand Province, a stronghold of the Taliban. Kyle's short life was full of promise: the captain of his high school's football and wrestling teams, he had graduated only months before laying down his life for his country. Now, the most prominent institution in Rhode Island is going out of its way to tell his family and all of the state's Gold Star Mothers that the sacrifice made by their children isn't in line with their "values."
Does this mean that it's contrary to Brown's values to fight to ensure that little girls can go to school, women can see a doctor, and a hate-filled Muslim extremists can no longer flog females in the street for violating primitive Sharia laws? Does Ruth Simmons frown upon the joy of the Libyan people over the victory they have won with the assistance of an American-led coalition?
It seems she does. In her decision, Simmons cited an "opposition to recent wars undertaken by the country and to military solutions to world problems; and a belief that the hierarchical approach of the military is antithetical to Brown's open approach to learning, teaching, and research.'' She also cited the school's displeasure with the military's refusal to allow the transgendered to serve.
The legacy left by brave men and women like Kyle and others from Brown's own neighborhood consists of helping to bring finality to the cruel regime of Mouammar Qaddafi in Libya; continuing to sacrifice their bodies and lives to fight in Afghanistan against an evil group that aided and abetted Osama bin Laden in his murder of nearly 3,000 people on 9/11; and the continuing efforts towards stability in Iraq, were they fought to end the reign of one of history's most sinister dictators, the mass-murderer Saddam Hussein.
Even from a pragmatic perspective, Simmon's decision is pathetic. She's concerned that the military is "hierarchical?" Does she suppose that Brown's graduates will enter a workplace that is not? One wonders if Brown envisions all of its students assuming careers in communes, free of the oppression of bosses and supervisors.
Dean Katherine Bergeron lauded Simmons' decision, calling it "intelligent and generous." Was the recent decision made down the road at Harvard to reinstate ROTC at the world's most esteemed university indicative of a lack of intelligence and generosity? Perhaps, but something more insipid is at the root of this decision. Simmons, Bergeron and the others behind the ivied walls on College Hill are taking the opportunity to sneer with contempt at those who are committed to a cause greater than themselves.
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