Senior Texas A&M University Corps of Cadets member Noel Freeman has announced plans to raise funds to permanently endow scholarships for gay and lesbian cadets. In December 2000 Freeman, the only openly gay cadet serving in the Corps of Cadets, became the first person in Texas A&M history to be discharged from the Air Force ROTC under the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, which bars out-of-the-closet gays and lesbians from serving in the military. "I felt the immediate financial impact of losing a scholarship solely because of my orientation," Freeman said. "I could stay in the corps, but I wasn't allowed to participate in ROTC programs or receive any ROTC money."
In addition to replacing scholarships revoked by ROTC programs, Freeman said his initiative is intended to coincide with the spirit of efforts by Texas A&M University president Robert M. Gates to expand the diversity of the student population through the "Vision 2020" program. "When people talk about diversity, gays and lesbians don't always come to mind, but I want people to know that there are efforts to establish programs for them here at A&M," Freeman said. "There have always been gay people in the Corps of Cadets, and my goal is to give those gay and lesbian cadets who will follow in my footsteps a greater opportunity to be successful."
Freeman also went on to say that cadets who apply for or receive scholarship funds will not be required to acknowledge their sexual orientation. "I want to be able to work with the university to preserve confidentiality for this scholarship, but I have not yet ruled out the possibility of it being privately administered to protect the students," he said. The scholarship will be $500 per semester for two to four years, similar to other corps scholarships, and may be offered as early as fall 2003.