05/11/2005 08:19 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Columbia Says No to ROTC, Yes to Principles

The faculty senate of Columbia University has rejected a proposal to bring ROTC back to campus. The move will inevitably drive conservatives into a university-bashing frenzy—the Wall Street Journal is already hyperventilating— but it's actually a reminder of the principled role that our universities can play during wartime.

Columbia originally banished ROTC in 1969 because of protests about Vietnam, but the current rationale is because of the military's discrimination against gays. Columbia has policies that prohibit discrimination on its campus, and military recruiting would violate those policies—so the faculty senate voted against ROTC. And no, it's not because universities are filled with unpatriotic, anti-war lefties.

Given how the Bush administration has aggressively labored to expand its control over private universities, this vote takes some guts. Expect the conservative media machine to go into overdrive. (Michelle Malkin, you know who you are.) But the university should be congratulated for sticking to its guns, as it were.

Columbia President Lee Bollinger was one of those who voted against ROTC. That, too, takes guts. But this is what university presidents should do: take a clear position defending the autonomy of the university, even if it's not the easy position to take. Good for Bollinger.