Is the ROTC Exile Drawing to a Close?

It has been over 30 years since some of the nation’s top campuses banished the Reserve Officer Training Corps programs from their protester-strewn walkways. It seems the once-vilified military-officer mill may soon return with hero status.

Recent reports have centered on Palo Alto, California’s Stanford University, which tossed ROTC in 1973 as Vietnam was drawing to a close. School officials maintain that the Defense Department’s actions regarding its policy governing homosexuality in the armed forces will make or break the deal.

Though Stanford, Harvard, Columbia, Yale, Brown and others exiled ROTC units from their fabled campuses, these schools continued to admit ROTC students and accept their ROTC tuition dollars. ROTC cadets and midshipmen attending these schools have had to fulfill their military training obligations at nearby institutions with an active-duty cadre offering required elements. Stanford drills at Santa Clara University. Harvard students head to the nearby Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Brown takes refuge at Providence College.

Debate has continued over the money. Some professors have publicly admonished the schools for blatant hypocrisy (we call it capitalism) charging they happily accept the money of ROTC but decry defense policies. While the decades-old arrangement may have proved inconvenient for ROTC students, it seemed a Ralph-Sam deal to keep up the acrimonious charade while keeping all sides happy and doing little harm to young students.

As schools discuss readmitting ROTC, reactions are mixed, though there appears to be support for the change. Some professors have stated universities must expose students to all future options (even ROTC). Others say since many students at these schools choose careers in foreign policy, military exposure at the school makes sense. (Do they know it’s ROTC and not the Joint Staff? Do they think all military people are David Petraeus?)

One Stanford prof reportedly said, “There’s something wrong with [the] picture where a privileged, I daresay, elite institution like this one doesn’t make room for training people for that walk of life.” (That walk of life as opposed to the acceptable ones at Stanford?)

So why now and what’s in it for them? Our guess is it may be the perceived prominence of the military on today’s diplomatic front. Academia approves. It will be difficult to embrace DoD’s role while it remains in exile.

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