ROTC Struggles to Return to Top Universities

Since the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) by the Obama administration earlier this year, many of our nation’s top universities, as ranked by U.S. News & World Report, have revisited the possibility of reinstating ROTC on their campuses.  This follows a decades-long ROTC ban initially prompted by anti-military sentiments during the Vietnam War.

Stanford University is considering reinstatement and has engaged in a nine-month-long (and counting) “comprehensive” approach to resolving the matter by learning the history of ROTC and reading letters from students and faculty members who both support and oppose ROTC.

Stanford has barely made any headway after almost a year of exploration by the school’s ad hoc committee on ROTC, because officials are considering arguments such as the fact that transgendered individuals are still excluded from military service.

However, the existence of three branches of ROTC at Stanford’s arch-rival from across the bay, UC Berkeley, proves that there are no legitimate reasons to keep ROTC off campus.  Stanford’s “concerns” about transgendered people’s rights and anti-war sentiments seem trivial and unfounded when you take into account the fact that Berkeley has not wavered in its support of ROTC on campus.  Specifically, Berkeley has defended the rights of students who wish to participate in ROTC and the right of all branches of the military to recruit on campus.  And ROTC has existed peacefully on campus despite the fact that Berkeley is probably the most “gender-aware” and “antiwar” campus in the country.  Cadets regularly walk among their non-uniformed peers at Berkeley .

So what is Stanford’s real excuse for not allowing ROTC back onto campus?  According to former student body president and antiwar activist, David Harris, Stanford can make a “tremendous statement” by deciding to forbid ROTC’s return.  Stanford is “responsible for the end product of all these ROTC officers,” Harris said at an event on campus recently.  “We need less military … we can’t keep dealing with the rest of the world through our armies.

Echoing the opinion of some of the anti-ROTC voices on campus, Harris seems to think that it’s Stanford’s job to decide the size and role of the U.S. military, and that denying students the right to join this law-abiding and nationally recognized organization on campus is the correct way to make an antiwar statement.  Furthermore, to add to the second-class treatment of ROTC at Stanford, pro-ROTC posters were torn down and vandalized the same day they were put up on campus recently.

Meanwhile, other top-ranked schools have made bold moves, but we should not be too hopeful just yet.

A month ago, Harvard University announced that it will reinstate Navy ROTC on campus, making Harvard the first Ivy League institution to welcome ROTC back.  Although Harvard’s actions reflect a positive step toward restoring the rights of students to participate in lawful student activities and organizations on campus, one can’t help but wonder why it took so long for them to make this move.

As mentioned, ROTC was removed at Harvard because of anti-military sentiments during the Vietnam War and then prevented from returning because of DADT.  Harvard banned students from participating in ROTC even though these students had no control over the federal governments’ policies.  Students wishing to serve their country through ROTC were shunned for decades and forced to travel to MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) for training.

Elsewhere in the Ivy League, Columbia University has made a splash, as a veteran and current student of the college was heckled at a public hearing intended to facilitate a constructive debate surrounding ROTC re-institution.  The hecklers, who knew nothing about veteran Anthony Maschek, harassed him solely because of his personal decision to serve in the military.  This unreasonable and irrational behavior, fortunately, seems to be in the minority.  In fact, this week, Columbia students and faculty leaders have made a decisive statement, as the university senate members voted 51 to 17 in favor of re-institution.  However, this does not necessarily mean the return of ROTC to campus, because the university may simply turn a blind eye to the results.

Other schools, including Yale and Brown, are still debating the possibility of allowing ROTC back on campus.  But one thing’s for sure:  The idea of allowing students to participate in ROTC has prompted the anti-military Left on many campuses to show its true colors.