After Coming Out as a Lesbian, a Student May Owe $80,000 to Army ROTC

Chopstick

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As a civilian, I find her timing interesting to say the least. Thoughts?

http://chronicle.com/article/After-...=Gj93dVg8MidPZSRjfyBIeCJROn1xKR4rbCdOYigaZV5U

By Don Troop

Four years ago, Sara Isaacson had a full-ride ROTC scholarship at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a dream of becoming an Army doctor like her grandfather. Today she may owe nearly $80,000 for the cost of books and out-of-state tuition that the Army paid the university on her behalf.

Ms. Isaacson, who identified as a straight woman when she started college, says she acknowledged to herself last November that she was lesbian. After consulting with trusted friends and advisers on the campus, she revealed her orientation in a formal memorandum to Lt. Col. Monte Yoder, head of the university's Army ROTC program. That put her in violation of Defense Directive 1304.26, better known as Don't Ask, Don't Tell, the 1993 Clinton administration compromise that allows gay people to serve in the military as long as they do not divulge their sexual orientation.

She was notified in March that she was being discharged and told that a recommendation had been made that she repay $79,265.14 to the government.

The chemistry major from Port Washington, Wis., says the policy places people at odds with one the Army's key virtues: "I didn't feel like I could be a good officer if I didn't have integrity."

Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Ms. Isaacson says, forces her and other gay and lesbian cadets to behave dishonestly to themselves and others. "On a college campus, where so much identity development takes place," she says, the policy "puts people in a really difficult position."

Colonel Yoder, who acknowledges that the integrity argument is a strong one, nonetheless maintains that Ms. Isaacson could have saved herself a good deal of money and hassle if she'd simply adhered to the rule. "If you were to serve as a gay person," he says, "nobody's going to ask, and nobody's going to tell."

Ms. Isaacson, however, describes campus ROTC and the larger military as environments where hiding one's sexual orientation is difficult if not impossible. Cadets are expected to bring dates to social events, pictures of spouses and partners are visible on desktops, and service members are obliged to identify their next of kin.

Colonel Yoder responds that while he is married to a woman, no one is allowed to ask him about it. If he showed up at a military ball with a man, he says, no one could ask him about it. "I was very clear with Miss Isaacson about that," he says. "I told her I won't ask."

But Ms. Isaacson, who says she still wishes she could fulfill her scholarship obligation, says that she was unwilling to lie about who she is. "My core beliefs and my values are more important to me than the money," she says.

Recent court decisions over the recovery of tuition costs side with the military, according to the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, an advocacy group that serves people affected by Don't Ask, Don't Tell. "If service members are deemed to be coming out as gay or lesbian 'voluntarily,' they can expect the military to recoup against them on a prorated basis," says Aaron Tax, the organization's legal director.

January 25 was the date that Ms. Isaacson had delivered her letter to Colonel Yoder. Two days later, President Obama made a promise during his State of the Union Address: "This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are. It's the right thing to do."

That effort continues, although Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates wrote a letter to the chairman of the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee two weeks ago asking that the repeal effort be delayed until a Pentagon study on Don't Ask, Don't Tell is completed in December.

Nonetheless, opponents of the policy are hopeful that change could be afoot later this year. The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network says that a "delayed implementation" effort to repeal the language of Don't Ask, Don't Tell in the new Defense Authorization Bill (S 3280) is within two votes of passage in a vote coming this month in the Senate Armed Services Committee. Repeal advocates are hoping to offer a similar amendment in coming weeks on the House floor.

Ms. Isaacson, who visited Capitol Hill this week to speak to North Carolina's Congressional delegation about overturning the rule, says that while she has been told that her battalion has recommended that she repay the money, Army officials have yet to issue a final decision.

"I wonder," she says, "if some of that is that, with the discussion of the repeal, they don't know what to do with me."
 

Totentanz

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And what exactly did she think was going to happen? Assuming she's not trying to play any kind of system, good on the integrity thing, but really... how did you see this playing out?
 

AWP

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I wonder who is behind this (who prodded her).

I think she should have to pay back the 80k just for being stupid. I'll bet she doesn't pay a dime (or at best a vastly reduced sum) since doing anythig to her will be a "hate crime" or something.

I have a hard time believing that she suddenly had an attack of her conscience and marched into her commander's office with this announcment. Who/ what is behind this?
 

AMRUSMCR

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She may not have known her orientation going in, but she understood the consequences of disclosing it. She could have waited it out until DADT eventually got lifted.

I agree with Free.... Who and why? Martyr for a cause.
 

pardus

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I wonder who is behind this (who prodded her).

I think she should have to pay back the 80k just for being stupid. I'll bet she doesn't pay a dime (or at best a vastly reduced sum) since doing anythig to her will be a "hate crime" or something.

I have a hard time believing that she suddenly had an attack of her conscience and marched into her commander's office with this announcment. Who/ what is behind this?

Agreed.

She is either stupid or has an agenda.

I wouldn't be surprised to hear she has ties/friends/mentors in a liberal group etc...

I think I'm going to vomit the next time someone brings up the Army values It's a corporate slogan, nothing else (IMO). :2c:
 

LibraryLady

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... I agree with Free.... Who and why? Martyr for a cause.

Or she could be realizing what's in store for her, ie. the reality she's gonna have to give back to the military in return for that nice little scholarship. AND that if she tried to get out at the end, she'd be owing a wee bit more. A full-ride scholarship for a wannabe doc is big dinero - the $80k for the first 4 years is chump change. These scholarships can include med school.

LL
 

DA SWO

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They'll get their money back, in full. She'll get a free ride from someone to med school (real reason IMO). Then she'll be a spcialist and suddenly decideshe is bi-sexual, which allows her to marry a guy. It's about not going to war, and about private sector $$$.
 

0699

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Or, she knew what she was doing all along, took the scholarship figuring she could get out of repaying it (either by service or money) by "being gay" at the last minute. Has anyone else that "came out" and was discharged for it been forced to pay back the money the government spent feeding, training, housing, and paying them? Why should she be any different?
 

racing_kitty

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I definitely believe that she should be made to pay it back. She most likely wasn't headed to a combat arms unit, and most support units have the attitude of "Don't Ask, Don't Care" instead of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Even the LTC in charge of the ROTC program said he was going to adhere to DADT, and not say a damned thing. Unless she managed to piss off a fundamentalist of some kind (Christian, Jewish, etc) in her rating scheme, her sexual orientation wasn't going to be a problem. She just couldn't be "Out And Proud" about it. Sorry, people don't really care to see someone making out with their date at the dinner table, gay or straight. Fucking deal with it, bitch.

Besides, if she was so worried about adhering to the Army Values, she wouldn't be "Out And Proud" anyway. Nobody wants to see someone flaunting her date, gay OR straight. It's all about Respect..... which is #3 on that list. She'd fulfill her obligation, which would be her Duty..... oops, that's #2 on the list. And by following the letter of the DADT law, she'd be demonstrating not only Integrity, but Loyalty to the Army AND to the rule of law..... #1 on the list, if I'm not mistaken.

It sounds to me like she was looking to dodge her service time now that she's gotten what she wanted (her degree). Can't make all that instant bank as a lowly 2LT, ya know. That's assuming she can find a job outside of the military in today's economy.
 

Totentanz

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Or, she knew what she was doing all along, took the scholarship figuring she could get out of repaying it (either by service or money) by "being gay" at the last minute. Has anyone else that "came out" and was discharged for it been forced to pay back the money the government spent feeding, training, housing, and paying them? Why should she be any different?

I know there was a case of a ROTC graduate who was removed from the Army after commissioning (multiple APFT failures), who was forced to repay the scholarship. I can't say I've heard of it being done for DADT issues, but there is precedent for it.
 

pardus

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I know there was a case of a ROTC graduate who was removed from the Army after commissioning (multiple APFT failures), who was forced to repay the scholarship. I can't say I've heard of it being done for DADT issues, but there is precedent for it.

APFT failures? Wow, what a shameful way to get into major debt. So lazy you earned debt.
 

0699

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I know there was a case of a ROTC graduate who was removed from the Army after commissioning (multiple APFT failures), who was forced to repay the scholarship. I can't say I've heard of it being done for DADT issues, but there is precedent for it.

I'm sure there are many instances like that; I was referring more to the "don't ask, don't tell" people. If the Army actually pursues her to get their (our) money back, the DOD will be villainized as "anti-gay", a road I'm sure they don't want to go down under the current administration/Congress.
 

pardus

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She may actually have a chance at getting away with it in light of the possible lifting of DADT.

I can see the Army rolling over saying it's not worth the trouble/publicity at this time.
 

Ranger Psych

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My indirect knowledge of related stuff to this:

Had a guy in my platoon that was at west point, doing well there but decided he wanted to do enlisted than be an officer. Had an allotment to pay back for his first year there.
My ex-fiance dropped out of Marine ROTC, and had to pay back the tuition that she used... you opt out or quit for whatever reason, you pay the shit back. No exceptions even if you're a homo.
 

Marauder06

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My wife's roommate in college "came out" with asthma the last year of school, IIRC the Army let her out of her contract, although there was evidence that the woman knew she had astma since childhood. Free ride is good and all until people start to realize there may be some personal sacrifice involved, then they want to look at how they can weasel out.

It's irksome that the woman from this thread sucked up a scholarship from someone who could actually be a competent officer, but if she pays back the money without making a fuss about it, I'd have to grant her some modicum of respect.
 

Scotth

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I don't think she should have to be "made" to repay her ROTC funded tuition. I agree with the integrity issue of the DADT policy. If her position is one of integrity, she knew the consequence of her action and she should voluntarily be making arrangements to repay that loan as soon as she was told of her discharge. If she wants the free school and to get out of the service then I have real problem with her.

I don't care about the reasoning behind her annoucement. Be it political statement, integrity or escaping her commitments. If she wants to be a great doctor what better place to learn your craft and get experience then as a deployed doctor? I hope giving up a chance to serve and not being there for the troops when it's life and death is really worth whatever reason she has for her actions.
 

Ranger Psych

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No, there's no choice about being "Made" to pay it back. If you don't fulfill the contractual obligations within your contract as a ROTC student, you pay your shit back. No exceptions. That's the way it is regardless of the reason.

It's like if you don't do your contractual obligations as enlisted.. if you don't do a specific amount of time, they will nick your pay or send you a bill for your enlistment/reenlistment bonuses if it was 'your fault' ie chaptered out for misconduct/etc.
 

Typhoon

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It sounds to me like she was looking to dodge her service time now that she's gotten what she wanted (her degree). Can't make all that instant bank as a lowly 2LT, ya know. That's assuming she can find a job outside of the military in today's economy.
Yes except that if she wanted to go to med school, and has the grades and test scores to do so, she's going to be financially far better off as a med student with a officer's commission. The cost of undergraduate plus medical school education, and the financial hardship of internship and residency is a deep money pit indeed. I'd bet that the cost of an Ivy League education and medical school could leave you upwards of a million dollars in debt by the time you actually start to make an income as a practicing physician.
 
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