Saturday, March 8, 2014

Book Review: Direct Action by David Graeber

Usually when someone asks me to recommend them some literature to explain contemporary anarchist actions I recommend David Graeber's idiosyncratically-titled "On The Phenomenology Of Giant Puppets: broken windows, imaginary jars of urine, and the cosmological role of the police in American culture".  But for a reader who wants a more complete picture, I will henceforth advise him or her to read a work I just completed, Graeber's Direct Action: An Ethnography, which is far more exhaustive (and, indeed, includes the "Puppets" piece, more or less, as part of the Representation chapter).

In Direct Action, David Graeber immerses the reader in the world of anarchist political practice.  Part of the book is analysis of the phenomenon and part is a personal diary of consensus meetings, events leading up to actions and the actions themselves.  As someone who has been in plenty of long consensus meetings, etc., I found the personal narrative tedious -- I was almost ready to put the book down after the first four chapters of storytelling.  The only thing worse than boring meetings is having to read, in exacting detail, about others' boring meetings!  However, the subsequent chapters pick up, even if Graeber relapses into a first-person history on occasion.  On the other hand, I can see how this painstaking diary might be useful to someone completely unfamiliar with contemporary anarchism.

Chapter five begins Graeber's analysis with discussions of direct action, anarchist principles, Primitivism, violence and nonviolence and ends with a brief history of the American Left since 1960.  Graeber notes, as he has elsewhere, that "Marxism has tended to be a theoretical or analytical discourse about revolutionary strategy; anarchism, an ethical discourse about revolutionary practice." (211)

Chapter six is probably the most interesting section of the book, where Graeber focuses a microscope on "activist culture."  He opens with a critique by an organizer named Ranjanit that anarchism's charmed culture (veganism, dumpster diving, punk/hippie aesthetic, etc.) is preventing anarchists from establishing connections with a more diverse population.  Graeber counters by asking whether it is unreasonable for an anti-capitalist movement to build an anti-capitalist culture that may be somewhat inscrutable to outsiders.  Graeber develops Ranjanit's argument by noting many consider direct action and direct democracy, for various reasons, forms of white privilege.  Graber comments that racial issues are the "bane of all radical politics in North America," but the essential, not necessarily racial, dilemma remains that "Always, those on the bottom, who have the most reason to want to challenge such inequalities, will also tend to have the most restricted range of weapons at their disposal with which to do so." (245)  Stated another way: "In any revolutionary movement, there will tend to be a tension between those who have the most resources with which to carry out acts of rebellion, and those who have the most reason to rebel." (280)

Graeber continues in chapter six to address who the "typical activist" is.  Amidst noting the more minor elements -- crusty-punks as an object of hatred/romanticization, etc. -- Graeber classifies the "activist core" as "post-students" (247): those who may still be students, but who have not entered professional / child-caring life yet.  In regards to class: "Speaking broadly, it seems to me activist milieus can best be seen as a juncture, a kind of meeting place, between downwardly mobile elements of the professional classes and upwardly mobile children of the working class." (252-253)  In the chapter he also muses on the difference between punks and hippies; communist freedom as, in contemporary terms, being a "perpetual adolescent" (256); the activist emphasis on touching, cigarettes and drugs; a culture of weakness attracting those with ailments real or imagined; etc.  The last bit of the chapter is largely guided by conceptualizing the problem of how to synthesize the revolt against alienation and the revolt against oppression as a "dilemma... that leads to the endless tensions and recriminations that haunt activist life." (262)

Chapter seven deals with the topic of consensus meetings which, Graeber writes, "unlike voting, is not just a way of making decisions.  It's a process." (318)  Consensus means, in part, "not acting like one does at work, not acting like a member of a sectarian Marxist group, and not engaging in the sort of debate that dominates the Internet." (321)  However, it has its weaknesses: "Where it falls short is precisely where it encounters what activists would call deeply internalized forms of oppression.  Racism, sexism, class bias, homophobia." (287)  Graeber provides a helpful framing for thinking about this problem:
There are other techniques for getting around [the problem of internalized oppression in meetings], even if none are entirely reliable.  One is to encourage constant introspection.  Hence, the insistence in the meeting that we should all be doing vibes work all the time.  The danger of dealing with deeply internalized forms of privilege is that one can fall into endless psychologism -- "touchy-feely race discourse," some activists would call it -- that everything becomes profoundly personalized.  In the absence of any authoritative, overarching ideology, one ends up with a kind of endless encounter group of personal narratives and subjectivities.  To avoid this, some anarchists insisted on constantly bringing matters back to practical, action terms.  Some for example, preferred not to use the terms "racism or "sexism" at all.  Rather than trying to combat abstractions like racism, they reframed the problem as one of "white supremacy," as an immediate practical problem: how do we ensure that white people don't dominate this group?  Like male dominance, white supremacy was not an ideology that comes to shape consciousness, but an outcome.  The assumption is that by working in groups that do not operate on principles of white supremacy, racism itself can be unlearned.  This seems the solution most in keeping with the overall principles of the movement, but it does sometimes seem to present one with the problem of the chicken and the egg. (353-354)
The next chapter, "Actions," provides the "rules of the game" for various actions that anarchists are wont to undertake.  Graeber covers protest marches, picket lines, street parties, classic civil disobedience, and black bloc actions.  He concludes with noting how state power is likely to, and does, react to these events.  The following chapter, "Representation," focuses on the corporate media, how unfair it is to protesters and anarchists, and efforts to set up independent media to provide an alternative media voice.

In the final chapter, Graeber declares "We are, effectively, already in a situation of permanent revolution.  Freedom becomes the struggle itself." (527)  In one of the terminal passages, he opines: "The anarchist problem remains how to bring [a liberated] experience, and the imaginative power that lies behind it, into the daily lives of those outside the small autonomous bubbles they have already been able to create." (537)  The last chapter is the one (aside from the personal-narrative chapters) I enjoyed the least, as Jodi Dean's critiques of anarchism kept ringing in my head throughout it.

Graeber's work is an excellent freeze-frame of activism and anarchism as it exists today.  Even if it is redundant and even taxing at times, it does so in order to ensure comprehensiveness.  Unfortunately, there is little in the book to suggest how to transcend the quagmires that plague anarchist practice.  But Graeber might be forgiven here as his primary intention is description, not prescription.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

A History of Stanford's Reinstatement of ROTC, 2010-2011


This essay addresses the history of the controversy that took place in 2010 to 2011 at Stanford University over ROTC's return to the Stanford campus.  I had a role in these events as a partisan of the anti-ROTC-return side.  A student group called Stanford Says No to War (SSNW) was one party that objected to the return; I was a member of that group and its president during my last academic quarter at Stanford, the fall quarter of the 2010-2011 school year.

I do not want to detail the myriad arguments of all sides here.  Instead, I will stick to briefly noting the most consequential positions and concentrate on detailing the events surrounding ROTC's return. If one is interested in the back-and-forth argumentation, one can follow the links provided for further reading. [1]


During the domestic uproar over the Vietnam War, the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) program was kicked off of Stanford University campus.  The rationale was the following (quoting from the 2010-1 Ad Hoc Committee on ROTC's notes): "The majority [of the 1968-9 Ad Hoc Committee on ROTC] felt that the personal conduct standards of the three services 'can seriously limit the student's free participation in all facets of intellectual inquiry and legal political activity.' It concluded that a formal, on-campus ROTC program was inconsistent with the definition of Stanford University as 'a community whose members ... have a primary commitment to the creation and dissemination of knowledge, in an environment of free intellectual activity.'"

This statement, rooted in concern for freedom of inquiry and antimilitarism, seems to be an appropriate position for a serious educational institution, in my estimation.  However, as time progressed, military supporters kept trying to reverse the ROTC bans across the nation.  The more contemporary objection that administrators offered against reinstating ROTC was the military's discriminatory policy towards minorities, especially that towards gays embodied in the policy known as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT). [2]

ROTC boosters reasoned, correctly, that if DADT were to be repealed, the anti-discrimination objection would largely fall away and therefore open up universities to reconsideration of ROTC on campus.  With the freedom of inquiry and antimilitarism objections largely forgotten, this was the strategy they eventually rode to victory at Stanford and elsewhere.

National events played into their hands.  The Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010 was signed into law by President Obama on December 22nd, 2010.  Obama's 2011 state of the union speech included a pointed request to schools to bring back ROTC: "Our troops come from every corner of this country...  And, yes, we know that some of them are gay. Starting this year, no American will be forbidden from serving the country they love because of who they love. (Applause.) And with that change, I call on all our college campuses to open their doors to our military recruiters and ROTC. It is time to leave behind the divisive battles of the past. It is time to move forward as one nation. (Applause.)"

With the anti-gay discrimination argument for keeping ROTC off campus erased, many turned to another discrimination argument: the military's stance on transgender individuals.  (Although some, contrariwise, argued in favor of ROTC's return in the name of queer rights.)  Others, including myself, argued against ROTC's return on academic freedom grounds.  But neither strategy, in the end, would be convincing to the Faculty Senate, the body that ultimately held the keys to ROTC's return.

The Battle

At the March 4th, 2010 Faculty Senate meeting, Professors William Perry (former Secretary of Defense) and David Kennedy (who had written about the US military previously and continues to do so) gave a presentation about ROTC's relationship with Stanford.  Kennedy stated that the relationship should be reconsidered on the assumption that DADT would be repealed within a couple years.  Perry noted that his grandson, currently in the military, received an "instant standing ovation" from Stanford students when he want to a class (foreboding!).  The Senate agreed to create a committee to study the question of ROTC and Stanford.

The Ad Hoc Committee on ROTC was formed with Professor Ewart Thomas as its chair.  Its members also included one administrator, five other professors and two students, one of which was a current ROTC cadet.  Unfortunately, we neglected to appeal this conflict of interest at the time.  The Committee was also notable for who it excluded: anyone who had strong anti-militaristic views.  Professor Bart Bernstein, for instance, who indeed had participated in ROTC as a student, was a notable omission.  The materials the Committee announced it was using to educate itself on the issue seemed to ominously skew towards a pro-military position.

The media, both Stanford-based, local and national, was all but unanimous in calling for ROTC to return to elite campuses where it had been kicked off in decades past.  The conservative Stanford Review continually advocated for ROTC's return to Stanford.  The centrist Stanford Daily's pro-return positions were more intermittent, but equally vehement (if not more so).  Both publications had been taking similar positions for years.  However, both the Daily and the Review did occasionally run op-eds against ROTC's return (with some difficulty -- see below), but the number taking the con position were unquestionably far less than those taking the pro-return side.

I wrote the first opinion in several years to appear in any Stanford publication to take the anti-ROTC-return position: "Our School, Not Your Army Base" ran in the Daily early in the school year on October 4th, 2010.  The Daily, true to form, also included two pro-military pieces in the paper on the same day to "balance" my essay.  A continual back-and-forth of editorials, letters to the editor and op-eds followed throughout the year, mainly in the Daily.

Recognizing that we would need allies in the struggle to prevent ROTC from returning, SSNW embarked on a campaign to mobilize sympathetic opinion.  I visited several student organizations making presentations urging students to rally to our cause.  Mostly my attempts were unsuccessful.  (In a revealing incident, my presentation to the Stanford NAACP was cut short after a couple minutes to save time for the meeting's exclusive purpose, discussing how to better support Obama.)  My speech to an audience of queer students, however, prompted Stanford Students for Queer Liberation (SSQL), a radical queer group, to support our cause.

The fall quarter of the 2010-2011 school year was my last academic quarter at Stanford.  Since I was no longer going to be a student, I turned over the President position at SSNW to Samuel Windley, an Australian LLM student.  From that point forward, I mostly followed events from afar since I was traveling through South America and then working and living in San Francisco, but I showed up at Stanford when I could.

Two strange and unfortunate events transpired immediately before a "town hall" meeting called for the putative purpose of providing a forum for Stanford students to discuss ROTC.  The first was the withdrawal of ROTC cadets from a debate and the second was Stanford's revocation of the subdomain.

The ASSU (Stanford student government) spent some of fall quarter planning a panel discussion on ROTC, eventually scheduling it for January 13th, at the start of winter quarter.  The panel was to consist of members of the Ad Hoc Committee, SSNW, SSQL and ROTC.  However, on January 10th we received notice that the ROTC cadets had abruptly withdrawn from the panel the previous day.  We would have been fine with holding the event anyway (perhaps with modified participants), but the ASSU decided to cancel the event without consulting us.  The reasons for the cadets' backing out remain unclear, but some in SSNW speculated that military officers had ordered the cadets not to participate at the last minute, fearing an open discussion of the issues.

A more bizarre incident concerned the subdomain.  Stanford allows student groups to register subdomains under the domain and SSNW had reserved to promote its website (which groups and individuals besides SSNW had contributed to) on the topic.  After building up the content on the website for several days and promoting the subdomain, Stanford revoked the subdomain on the morning of January 11th, making point to nowhere.  We attempted to discover why this had been done, especially on arguably the most important day for it to be up, and never got a straight answer.  We received multiple mutually contradictory and illogical explanations over the course of the next ten days from two different Stanford bureaucrats.  An attempt by SSNW to register was denied.  We were forced to scrap some propaganda materials we had prepared for the town hall.  Eventually we reserved, a domain which the Stanford IT department couldn't turn off, since it was purchased from a private domain registrar, to point to the website. [3]

On January 11th, the actual town hall was held.  Military supporters and some members (with the ROTC cadets in uniform) packed the room; I estimated above 50 people attending with 75% being pro-ROTC-return.  Ewart Thomas moderated and attempted to call on different people throughout the night.  As such, many opinions were voiced -- most pro-ROTC return, some ludicrous -- that were impossible for us to respond to.  The low point of the evening came when one ROTC supporter, in an effort to cloak himself in the legitimacy of the queer struggle, said "When Harvey Milk famously said 'I want to recruit you,' he was endorsing the spirit of the military."  Even though SSNW distributed pamphlets and many War is a Lie books, we left the meeting with a bitter taste in our mouths.  Ewart Thomas called the event "beautiful."

One event that had less significance than some in SSNW thought it might was ROTC's prohibition on cadets reading the United States diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks.  Stephen Zunes, a professor at nearby University of San Francisco, pointed out that the military's determination, in effect, of what he could teach in the classroom limited academic freedom.  Despite Ewart Thomas' assertion that such complications could be "problematic" for ROTC's return, this academic freedom made about as much impact on the ultimate outcome as other academic freedom arguments -- namely, little to none.

An issue that was strangely absent from the debate on ROTC was the Solomon Amendment.  The Solomon Amendment allows federal funding for a university to be revoked if the university prohibits ROTC on its campus.   Therefore, if the Pentagon wanted to, it could presumably force Stanford University to reestablish ROTC.  SSNW members speculated that the reasons the military had not done this were both to prevent upsetting the Stanford administration and to avoid a public relations disaster -- an image the Pentagon definitely does not want to cultivate is that of a military forcibly invading domestic academic institutions.  However, SSNW members further speculated that the Solomon Amendment could have been branded around as a threat in backchannels to nudge administrators in the direction of a more face-saving (for both the administration and the military) reintroduction of ROTC.

During the 2010-11 schoolyear and continuing after that, a number of Stanford departments joined together to produce the Ethics and War series.  Allegedly, the purpose of this series was to consider the "ethical considerations involved in the decision to go to war, the conduct of war and the aftermath of war."  The first event was a movie showing of War Photographer.  Discussion after the movie focused on whether it was ethical for media to un-objectively involve themselves in conflict.  Personally I thought the discussion dodged the more meaningful questions of war and ethics.

The second Ethics and War event, however, was truly a pro-ROTC-return propaganda spectacle.  The Who Should Fight?  The Ethics of the Draft panel featured three members, including David Kennedy, who were in complete agreement about the US military being awesome; that the draft would never be reinstated (fair enough); that ROTC should return to campuses where it had been banned and that Stanford students should really consider joining ROTC.  Bart Bernstein sounded one of the only notes of dissent in a lengthy critique of Kennedy's interpretation of history during the Q+A session.  Another audience member who asserted that Stanford students were ready and willing to embrace ROTC was interrupted by the yelling of some students who were appalled by his representation of the situation.

I never went to another Ethics and War event after being disappointed with their first two offerings.  Others told me that the subsequent ones were better, however.

The campaign to reinstate ROTC got some predictable support from some of Stanford's more notorious militarists.  Former Secretaries of State Condoleezza Rice and George Shultz co-authored a letter to the Ad Hoc Committee encouraging "the Faculty Senate to support ROTC's full reinstatement."

A bombshell dropped in January when it came to light that ROTC classes were already being taught on Stanford campus.  Crucially, however, these classes were not being taught for Stanford credit or by instructors with Stanford teaching positions, both the core of the main ROTC battle (although the classes were listed in the Stanford Bulletin).  Strangely, the faculty did not seem to have been alerted to this issue, even though the classes had been started in 1997!  Even more inexplicably, when confronted about the matter, Ewart Thomas maintained that the classes were "no issue."  Mention of these classes never showed up in any of the Ad Hoc Committee's materials.

In an effort to measure student opinion on the ROTC issue, ASSU President Angelina Cardona included a referenda on the April student elections ballot.  SSQL objected, believing the military's anti-transgender stance made the referenda in part about whether Stanford should enforce anti-discrimination policy.  Their objection was overruled, and the vote proceeded.  In response to this decision, SSQL and allies mounted a "Campaign to Abstain" to encourage students to abstain from voting Yes or No on the question of whether ROTC should return to Stanford (one could choose three options on the ballot: Yes, No, or Abstain; of course, one could choose not to cast a ballot).  The strategy resulted in a tactical victory for the anti-ROTC-return side, with No and Abstain votes outnumbering Yes votes.  The result was more favorable, arguably, than the 60 pro / 40 con split that Stanford students voted in 1969 on a similar issue.

The war of words in the Daily heated up as the student vote approached, but SSNW seemed to have difficulty getting heard in its pages.  In late March I submitted an op-ed to the Daily about the so-called "civilian-military divide."  The Daily editor responded, saying that the op-ed was "not relevant to the discussion of ROTC reintroduction on campus."  Two days after receiving this response, I was surprised to open the Daily to find an op-ed on that topic -- advocating ROTC's return (not to mention making other farcical claims, such as the insistence that those that "seek to keep ROTC out of Stanford" are plagued by "intolerance, xenophobia and isolationism" -- this intellectual standard was typical of many pro-ROTC-return arguments)!  I reworked the op-ed and, after a lot of complaining by me to the editor, it eventually got published a few days before the vote.  But the Daily was polite enough to run three pro-ROTC-return pieces alongside it (along with Cardona's anodyne, technically anti-ROTC-return piece that revealed she was considering joining the military!).

SSNW organized several events leading up to the student vote.  One was an April 5th talk from Veterans for Peace featuring an audio message from antiwar activist David Swanson.  The following day SSNW hosted a discussion with former Stanford student body president and war resister David Harris.  The day after that SSNW provided a free screening of John Pilger's new film The War You Don't See.  Unfortunately, these events were sparsely attended.

On the day of the vote, the Daily unexpectedly shut down the commenting system on its website, replacing it with a new Facebook-based system.  This also had the effect of deleting many comments that had been made previously, from March 30, 2011 to April 11th 2011, the day of the vote.  Various SSNW members speculated that this policy change was an attempt to silence criticisms of the pro-ROTC-return op-eds, etc. that we abundantly contributed to the Daily's website.  Notably, this dramatic step had not been taken when far more "libelous, aggressive and disrespectful comments" (the Daily EIC's words) had been left on the site previously (any article about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, for instance, regularly brings out comments of this kind on the Daily's site).

Meanwhile, the university made a little-noticed change to its nondiscrimination policy.  After meeting with SSQL students concerned about whether ROTC's potential reinstatement would violate its nondiscrimination policy, administrators changed the phrase "prohibits discrimination" to "prohibits unlawful discrimination."  Given that this move was reported to almost no one, had potentially great significance to the ROTC issue and occurred before ROTC's presumed reinstatement and after SSQL pointed out a potential problem, it is no surprise that this move struck many anti-ROTC-return activists as incredibly suspicious.  (The Daily also ran a cryptic admonishment of the writer of the policy change story.)

The Ad Hoc Committee eventually handed down its decision on April 22nd, 2011: it recommended a return of ROTC to Stanford.  Its report is remarkable in its shallowness.  Not only did it make no attempt to deal with the reversal of the 1968-9 Committee's decision that ROTC is "inconsistent with the definition of Stanford University," but also smeared critics of ROTC as having arguments "marred by naive and derogatory stereotypes of the American military" and attributed that to the "little contact between the military and our students, faculty and staff."  Many of our points were collected in Appendix 1: "A sample of arguments that were not extensively discussed in the Ad Hoc Committee's Report," and some didn't even make that cut.  The Mercury News quoted me as calling the committee a "farce, from beginning to end."  Personally, remembering that the Committee members ensured us that they would take our letters to them seriously, I felt like they lied to me.  But hurt feelings don't count for much in politics.

One member of SSNW provided a cogent analysis of the decision: "ROTC has not changed very much as a program, and neither have Stanford's professed goals. So my conclusion is that the professed reasons [for the Committee's decision in 1969] and now are really just rationalizations for following the political winds. The real determiner is the level of antiwar and antimilitarist sentiment on campus. In 1969, most faculty on the Senate were either antiwar themselves or respected the power of the movement on campus. Today, that situation has reversed, so that even a solid anti-discrimination argument [the considerations about transgender people] that was not present in 1969-70 lacks real power. I had hoped (though did not expect) that the same kind of broad-based appeal to liberal educational values that worked in 1970 would be effective this time around. I think we can reject the possibility that the faculty has a stable set of attitudes about what constitutes a good education."  Windley also had an op-ed in the Daily about the report: "the report and recommendations of the ad hoc committee on ROTC constitute a cowardly and superficial appeal to patriotism."

Given the Committee's recommendations, the decision of the Faculty Senate was all but inevitable.  On April 28th, 2011, the Senate voted to reinstate ROTC.  There was a protest outside of the building in which the Senate was convening and SSQL-organized march two days later, no doubt made smaller by the implicit and explicit suggestions of various administrators that protest (or, perhaps, more extreme action) at that time would not be welcome.


The Faculty Senate's decision made basically zero material change in conditions at Stanford.  The Pentagon did not want to establish a costly military base at Stanford for less than a dozen students when they could commute to other schools (Berkeley, SJSU, Santa Clara) for far less cost.  There is no reason to expect this status quo to change anytime soon.  In this light, the battle over ROTC policy was simply a symbolic fight about how Stanford felt about the military.

Most other schools that had kicked off ROTC in the past and were considering reinstating it at the same time as Stanford came to the same conclusion as Stanford, with exceptions.  Harvard and Columbia, for instance, opted to reinstate ROTC while Brown did not.

SSNW and other organizations and individuals at Stanford continue to object to the military's influence over campus and society.  When Stanford assigned three books about the military to its incoming freshmen the following school year, for instance, SSNW tabled outside the Three Books panel discussion event, providing free antimilitarist books to students.

I'm proud of the role SSNW played in opposing the ROTC's return to Stanford.  We accomplished quite a bit on the issue with only around five students.  This was in addition to our normal activity holding vigils, movie screenings, speaker events, distributing antiwar literature and protesting Condoleezza Rice wherever she went -- not to mention our regular coursework.  For the level of member commitment, I don't think SSNW had many equals, if any, among Stanford student organizations during the time of the ROTC reinstatement controversy.  Naturally, we failed to have as much impact on the ROTC issue as we would have desired, but with such limited resources one can not be too ambitious.  After all, we were going up against the military, the Democrats, the Republicans, the President, most of the faculty (many of whom are funded by the military in some way) including its most (in)famous members, opportunist elements in the liberal and queer student body, conservative / patriotic / military-aligned students and the school administration.  It is difficult to be critical of our failure in retrospect.

At times it seemed as though there was some administration conspiracy against the anti-ROTC-return forces.  The revocation of the subdomain; the secret change to the nondiscrimination policy; the withdrawal of ROTC cadets from the debate; the stacking of the Ad Hoc Committee and its willful ignorance; etc.  However, I don't have any evidence to make such an extraordinary claim.  Much more likely is that individuals in various positions of power took actions in accord with that they believed to be to their political or professional advantage, and that happened to align with the interests of powerful institutions (the military, etc.) and not the ragtag group looking to keep the military less involved on campus than it already was.

Less than a week after the Faculty Senate decision was handed down, a US special ops team assassinated Osama bin Laden.  Spontaneous celebrations erupted at Stanford, with fireworks, chants of "U-S-A!  U-S-A!" and frat boys jumping from fountain to fountain with American flags.  A blogger at the Stanford Review noted "For the first time in a long time, I saw this student body unified."  If the ROTC ordeal left any lingering doubt about how this liberal institution and its refined community as a whole felt about American militarism, certainly this orgy of jingoist euphoria ended the uncertainty.


A collection of Stanford ROTC related articles (this site is pretty good about keeping track of them, but they do miss things)


[1] SSNW's ROTC page has a catalogue of our (and allies') arguments.

Unfortunately, even though a relatively short time has transpired between the events I describe and now, many website links -- the Stanford-hosted Ad Hoc Committee materials, some Daily materials, some Review materials, etc. -- have been broken.

[2] Some news sources wittingly or unwittingly rewrote history by claiming that discrimination against gays was a reason ROTC was kicked off campuses originally, which to my knowledge it never was (see my letter to the Mercury News). 

[3] The Daily article is misleading: Windley most definitely did dispute aspects of the subdomain policy.  (One always needs to be cautious of being misquoted by the Daily, which is notorious for this -- but local and national media suffer from similar afflictions.)

The subdomain went up and down once on the same day after it had initially been revoked.  The Stanford IT department did not have a policy on subdomain use at the time, but was allegedly formulating a draft policy and decided to justify their actions based on this document.

Windley questioned 1) the merits of the draft policy 2) Lapin's interpretation of the document insofar as it applied to and and 3) the non-transparent and inconsistent manner in which the "subdomain policy" was applied.

Lapin's argument that we already have a subdomain is belied by the fact that student groups do have multiple subdomains that have not been revoked (furthermore, this stipulation was not in the draft policy).  Lapin's argument that it is being reserved for official university use is strange given as of today, several years after the dispute, is still unused.  Windley never questioned the right of the university to regulate its subdomains or revoke misleading subdomains, and the issue of whether or not not pointing to an official ROTC page is misleading is an open question.  Nevertheless, Windley's criticisms focused on whether Stanford IT/Lapin’s objection to our use (and not others) constitutes an arbitrary exercise of the university’s power to create/delete subdomains.

Our suspicions that we were facing a content-based revocation were strengthened with the denial of  (Lapin argued that the norotc subdomain made it appear that Stanford University had taken a stance on this issue -- a standard which would result in the revocation of many student organization domains.)  Suffice to say, there are free speech issues involved in an educational institution essentially censoring a student organization's website without notice.


Thanks to Samuel Windley, Todd Davies, Alok Vaid-Menon and other anonymous SSNW members for their proofreading and input.