As a student leader at Harvard University during the Vietnam War, President Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court advocated for a referendum on the school’s ban of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps from the campus.
Merrick Garland asked a student-faculty steering committee in October 1973 to formally initiate debate on a campus-wide referendum on whether the university should allow a ROTC chapter to return to campus, or keep its policy that effectively banned the group, the Boston Globe reported Saturday.
An article in the Harvard Crimson, the student newspaper, said at the time that he believed the “chances are pretty good” that a larger student committee would sponsor the referendum.
The Globe said that at a time of anti-Vietnam War protests and student activism, such a vote likely would have shown students at the Ivy League school overwhelmingly in favor of keeping the ROTC ban in place. Facing calls for the referendum, the school’s administration signaled it had no intention of lifting the ban.
Harvard finally rescinded its ban on the ROTC in 2012.
Judge Garland, who was nominated by Mr. Obama on Wednesday to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court, did not comment on the report. Nominees for the high court typically don’t talk to the media while Senate action on their confirmation is pending.
Senate Republicans are vowing not to hold hearings on Judge Garland’s nomination, saying voters should weigh in on the decision by electing a new president in November to choose a nominee.
The Globe said a person “familiar with the judge’s thinking” said he never passed judgment on the underlying question of the ROTC referendum, only whether the question should be asked. But it said “any whiff of an antimilitary record will raise red flags for Republicans.”
Days after the steering committee approved a larger debate on the referendum at his suggestion, Judge Garland voted to prevent a vote from occurring that could have inflamed the campus, the newspaper said.