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Harvard president says ROTC welcome once gay ban ends

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CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts (Reuters) - Harvard University’s president on Wednesday invited the U.S. military to restore a training program at the college once a ban on gays serving openly is lifted.

“A ROTC program, open to all, ought to be fully and formally present on our campus,” said Harvard President Drew Faust. She made the comment to welcome an evening speech by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen, the top U.S. military officer.

Faust drew applause from the audience of several hundred for the offer to restore the university’s Reserve Officer Training Corps program. A previous version ended at the school in 1969, sending cadets to a similar program at the nearby Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

At the time objections to Harvard’s ROTC program centered on the Vietnam War, but have since shifted to the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy prohibiting openly gay men and women from serving.

The U.S. Supreme Court last week denied a request to lift the ban, sending the issue back to a divided Congress. Mullen has supported ending the ban but wants the change to be made by Congress to show it has political support.

After Faust’s remarks, Mullen said: “I think it is incredibly important to have ROTC units at institutions like this. I would do all in my power to make that happen.”

Faust has made a point of forging closer ties with the U.S. military, which sends many officers to courses at the school.

Reporting by Ross Kerber, Editing by Peter Bohan