Bringing ROTC Back?

Apparently following the lead of Stanford University, which last month decided to consider bringing the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program back to campus, more schools are willing to consider hosting ROTC programs. ROTC is a college-based program in which students undergo officer training during their four years in college, often in exchange for free tuition. Upon graduation they receive commissions into branches of the U.S. military. An article by Bryan Bender in the Boston Globe reports that:

Administrators at Harvard, Brown, and other elite universities are softening their resistance to the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps more than four decades after the military scholarship programs were driven from campus in the face of fierce antiwar sentiment.

Many professors, students, and administrators say the more welcoming climate is a result of growing support for the military since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. But they contend it has become pronounced since February, when Pentagon leaders for the first time advocated overturning the law that bans gays and lesbians from serving openly in the ranks.

The article only mentions Harvard, Brown, Columbia, and Stanford as schools with growing support for ROTC on campus. All of these schools had active ROTC programs until the 1970s, when many of America’s most selective schools banned ROTC programs from campus. The reason for the ROTC ban was because, explicitly, ROTC courses weren’t academically rigorous. The implicit reason, however, was that the presence of ROTC cadets created turmoil on many campuses during the Vietnam War.

Many colleges with ROTC bans later maintained that their opposition had to do with the military’s 1992 Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. According to the article, “these universities maintained that the military’s stance on gays conflicted with their own antidiscrimination policies, justifying a continued refusal to recognize ROTC.”

There’s no indication that the ROTC courses have gotten any better.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer