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10-13-08, 05:38 AM #1
Groups support return of ROTC to Ivy League
Groups support return of ROTC to Ivy League
By Vera Bergengruen, The Dartmouth Staff
Monday, October 13, 2008
In the most recent incarnation of a controversy that has reappeared in various forms since the Vietnam War, advocacy groups continue their battle to reinstate the Reserve Officers Training Corps at the multiple Ivy League institutions where they are currently banned. Recent years have seen opponents of the ROTC raise objections on the grounds that the program, through its ties to the U.S. Armed Forces, legitimizes the military’s policies regarding homosexuality.
The issue of the ban was most recently raised by presidential candidates Senator John McCain and Senator Barack Obama in speeches at Columbia University last month. Both candidates agreed that Columbia is making a mistake by banning the ROTC from its campus.
“I don’t think that’s right,” McCain said. “Shouldn’t the students here be exposed to the attractiveness of serving in the military, particularly as an officer?”
Obama agreed, saying that, some students’ disagreement with military policy should not preclude others who wish to participate in ROTC programs from doing so.
“The notion that young people here at Columbia or anywhere, in any university, aren’t offered the choice, the option of participating in military service, I think is a mistake,” Obama said.
According to the Wall Street Journal, audience members booed in disagreement.
The ROTC program, which was once common at most colleges and universities across the country, has met renewed opposition in Ivy League institutions.
At Harvard, for example, around 25 percent of the students in the mid-1960s served in the military through the ROTC, according to Paul Mawn, a 1963 Harvard graduate and chairman of the Harvard Advocates for ROTC. The numbers were higher in the preceding decades — during the Korean War, around 60 percent of students served in the program, and participation was as high as 80 percent during World War II, Mawn said.
The ROTC is a 140-year-old military officer-commissioning program that prepares college students to enter military service. The program includes the study of ethics and military history, physical fitness training and provides full scholarships for students who are contracting with the ROTC.
In the 1960s, most Ivy League campuses banned the ROTC due to protests by students and faculty who objected to a program that, in their opinion, brought the military onto campuses and into the curriculum.
Today Dartmouth, Cornell University, Princeton University and the University of Pennsylvania operate ROTC programs on their campuses. Students at the other four Ivy League institutions have the option of participating in the ROTC through other nearby universities.
Campus opposition to the ROTC in more recent years has been centered on the U.S. military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which prohibits any homosexual or bisexual person from disclosing his or her sexual orientation while serving.
Advocates of the ROTC’s return to college campuses say that future military officers should not be punished for a statute that originated in Congress and not in the military itself.
Sean Wilkes, a 2006 Columbia graduate and chairman of Columbia Advocates for ROTC, said that ROTC is completely unrelated to the DADT policy.
“I absolutely agree that DADT is discriminatory and that it challenges both the policies and the social norms of Ivy League universities,” Wilkes said. “But DADT is not simply a policy that the military decided one day to enact on its own accord.”
David Bookstaber, a 1999 graduate of Yale University who attended the university on an ROTC scholarship, said that opposition to ROTC has been ongoing since the 1960s but has manifested itself in different ways over the years.
“In my opinion, banning the ROTC at the Ivies has just been a tool of academic politics,” Bookstaber said. “The liberal majority [of the faculty at certain Ivy League schools] has despised the U.S. military since Vietnam, and the rationale for ongoing opposition has changed over the years. The Clinton administration gave them a new excuse for opposing the ROTC by passing the DADT law.”
Mawn agreed, saying that opponents unjustly blame the military and ROTC for what is fundamentally a policy of the federal government.
“Either they’re stupid or na´ve, because most of them don’t recognize that the DADT law has zero to do with the ROTC or the Pentagon. It’s all a political decision based on U.S. code,” he said. “Up to two years ago, the ROTC couldn’t even have a place in the yearbooks [at Harvard] or post notices on bulletin boards.”
The ongoing hostility towards the ROTC, especially at Harvard, does not come from the undergraduates, Mawn added, but from older faculty members.
“The opposition comes from a strongly vocal and powerful minority in the faculty of arts and sciences who want to relive their youth — the barricades and red flags in 1969 — when they revolted against the values of their parents,” he said. “Unlike in the 1960s, however, most undergraduates are now apathetic.”
ROTC supporters affiliated with Ivy League schools without ROTC programs have organized “Advocates for ROTC” groups to raise awareness and clear up misunderstandings. The 2,200 members of Harvard Advocates for ROTC consist primarily of veterans connected to the university, graduate students and faculty members, according to Mawn. Their goal is to get official recognition for the ROTC at Harvard. Harvard students can participate in the ROTC program at nearby Massachusetts Institute of Technology but have to pay for the program.
Similarly, Yale students can participate in a program at the University of Connecticut at Storrs. However, only three students are currently participating in the program due to the distance between the two institutions, according to Bookstaber.
“A Yale student has to be very determined to participate in ROTC,” he said. “For every training they have to travel for an hour to the other side of the state.”
Wilkes said that Ivy League schools should host ROTC programs because of the leadership qualities the students could bring to the military.
“I don’t believe Columbia should be in any way forced to host ROTC,” he said. “But it should feel obligated to play its part in ensuring that our soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen, wherever they are serving, have the best educated officers available to lead them. Don’t they deserve to have the best and the brightest, to have leaders like those that Columbia purportedly produces?”
IN LOVING MEMORY OF MY LATE HUSBAND, SSgt Roger A. Alfano, USMC
ONE PROUD MARINE
Once a Marine...Always a Marine
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