[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/05/19/costello.harvard.rotc.art.jpg caption="Some students want the Reserve Officers Training Corps to be recognized at Harvard, forty years after it was banished from campus."]
From CNN's Carol Costello and Ronni Berke
A small group of dedicated Harvard undergraduates could be America's future leaders; not in its boardrooms or briefing rooms, but on the battlefields of Iraq or Afghanistan.
For the moment, these young military cadets are fighting a different kind of battle. They want the Reserve Officers Training Corps, or ROTC, to be recognized at Harvard, forty years after it was banished from campus. One thing standing in their way: the U.S. military's policy of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" on homosexuals.
In April, 1969, student demonstrators set fire to an ROTC classroom and campus sentiment against the Vietnam War led to the Harvard faculty's banning the organization. Forty years later, the ROTC is still banished from Harvard.
Today, neither Vietnam nor the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan keep the ROTC off limits at Harvard. According to the University's student handbook, the military's policy on gays "...is inconsistent with Harvard's values as stated in its policy on discrimination."
The 29 Harvard students enrolled in the ROTC must take their training courses at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Their ROTC courses do not give them academic credit and they are not given financial aid to cover them.
Joe Kristol, a graduating senior and marine cadet, says it's time for Harvard to change.
"I think that what we're looking for is the college to separate the issues and be able to recognize and support ROTC on the one hand; on the other hand do whatever they want to protest policies they may not agree with, but not to punish the students and use them as their tool to make that political statement."
Kristol and three other cadets - Roxanne Bras, Shawna Sinnott and Christi Morrissey - say the policy is not in line with how most Harvard students feel about the ROTC.
Sinnott says most students actually do favor bringing ROTC back to campus. "I think a lot of that does have to do with the presence we've had on campus even though there's less than 30 of us, we're still able to provide that bridge between military and academia."
"For a lot of people you're sort of a novelty," she adds.
But not all students want the ROTC to return without a change in the military's policy on gays. Marco Chan, one of the co-chairs of the Harvard College Queer Students and Allies, acknowledges that the cadets are inconvenienced by the university's ban.
At least, he says, they have the choice to serve in the military. "What's not often covered is the fact that queer students don’t have that choice at all. There’s not a choice of oh, I guess I'll be inconvenienced and participate in this program. They simply can't."