Despite "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Repeal

For years, elite schools have found excuses to keep the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) programs off their campuses.
 First, it was Vietnam-related tensions, and then it was the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy, which school administrators claimed violated their own anti-discrimination policies. Now, both those excuses have been wiped out.

That may lead one to believe that ROTC programs will be welcomed back to all these elite schools. Not so fast, says Princeton University. “The only change I anticipate is the opportunity for gay students to join ROTC,” Princeton President Shirley Tilghman said in an email, offhandedly defending their backward ROTC policy.

During the Vietnam War, Princeton forced ROTC to operate as an “outside organization.” University Vice President Robert K. Durkee said ROTC’s status on campus had nothing to do with DADT.

According to The Daily Princetonian, the last time there was an official review of the school’s ROTC policy was in 1989. They concluded that the school could continue to “aid” the program as long as it “distance[d] itself from the unit’s discriminatory practices to avoid complicity in them.”

Most schools used DADT as a replacement for Vietnam tensions as their excuse to keep ROTC off their campuses. However, Princeton continues to treat ROTC students like second-class citizens because of the school’s outdated anti-Vietnam policy.

Princeton is the first school to deny ROTC reinstatement rights on their campus after DADT was repealed. It is apparently safe to label the popular “DADT excuse” as just that: an excuse. This isn’t about Vietnam, and it isn’t about DADT. It is and always has been about an anti-military bias.

Why else would a school hamper the right of students to serve their country? It should be in every school’s interest, especially our most elite campuses, to do everything possible to secure students’ rights to participate in ROTC. The schools must go beyond “providing classroom space and administrative offices,” as Princeton does.

A recent Young America’s Foundation study found that, while many schools keep ROTC programs off their campuses, and force the students to enroll elsewhere, they do not even offer academic credit to those students commuting off campus daily to serve their country. This injustice should not be tolerated by anyone.

The good news is that other elite schools, including Harvard and Yale, are seeking to reinstate ROTC on their campuses, but there is no guarantee either of those schools will follow through. Quite the contrary, any one of these schools could just be buying time until another excuse can be used justify treating ROTC participants as second-class citizens. Some students have even started mentioning that the military “discriminates” against transgender persons and the disabled, and that should be the next reason to keep ROTC off campus.

Young America’s Foundation will continue to monitor campus changes as they progress. In the meantime, everyone can do their due diligence by ensuring their alma maters recognize and support ROTC programs on their campuses. If your school does not, make your voice heard and contact your school’s administrators and Board of Trustees.

The more we bring this issue to the forefront, the more likely ROTC bans will be “repealed” and our nation’s students can serve “openly” on their campus of choice.