Is the Reserve Officers' Training Corps about to make a comeback at elite universities? Some top schools kicked ROTC off campuses during the Vietnam War, and have kept it off since, citing the military's policy on gays. Now that Congress has repealed "Don't Ask Don't Tell," the Ivy League is considering participating once again. But is the military even interested?
It doesn't make a lot of sense to set up an ROTC program where few students will join up, The New York Times' Tamar Lewin and Anemona Hartocollis report. Right now, Harvard has only 19 students participating in ROTC programs at nearby schools. Columbia has six. Yale has four. Brown has just one. Yale's president said his university is interested in offering more opportunities for students interested in the military, but it's not "a foregone conclusion," the Times reports, that ROTC will come back.
- One Small Step Bringing ROTC to the Ivy League, Commentary's Max Boot notes, "will not make much of a change in either the Ivy League or the military, but it is a small, welcome step toward bridging the chasm that separates the armed forces from society's elites."
- The View from a Real Harvard-Educated Army Officer Raphael Cohen
writes at American Enterprise Institute of his experiences while in college:
Most of my classmates regarded ROTC as something of a novelty ('Oh, that's interesting…') and occasionally, with the more unctuous eye to self-advancement ('Well, you should know that's not the way into politics anymore'). Similarly, as an active duty officer, my soldiers wondered why anyone with a Harvard diploma would ever join the military in the first place. For many of them, Harvard grads were the people who sent them half-way around the world to some forgotten hell-hole, not the ones who went there with them. ... Even if ROTC is brought back to these campuses tomorrow and it stays there, it will take time to solve the problem of America's civil-military divide.
- The Military Should Look More Like the Country, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Cynthia Tucker argues. "There has been much concern, over recent decades, that the all-volunteer Armed Forces is increasingly different from the civilian nation that it serves--more religious, more conservative. ... One of the ways to ameliorate that trend is to be sure that the officer corps is recruited broadly, including recruitment from the elite universities."
- Blending These Cultures Will Be Hard, But Necessary, Eliot A. Cohen writes at The Washington Post. University culture and military culture are like oil and water, and many officers don't want to expend the resources to get a few recruits from the Ivies. Nevertheless, "the symbolism as well as the substance of having ROTC on elite campuses matters. Reaching the pinnacle of our educational system is in itself a privilege; morally healthy schools, and the society they serve, tell young people that privilege implies obligation and responsibility. There is no deeper or nobler discharge of that responsibility than putting your life on the line for your country."
- Colleges Will Find Some Way to Keep the Military Out, Eric insists at Classical Values.
I have never believed that DADT was the reason for the ROTC ban. It was simply a convenient excuse--and a dishonest one at that, because DADT was not the military's own policy, but an act of Congress. Congress told the military to discriminate against gays. Which means that had these universities wanted to be consistent, they should have also banned Congressional recruiting on campus. ... And if I am right in my speculation and they were using DADT as a convenient excuse to kick ROTC off campus, they'll find another excuse. Who knows what it will be? Maybe some 'terrorist training camp' they don't like in Fort Benning, maybe 'human rights abuses' at Guantanamo.
- Will New ROTC Programs Be Worth the Cost? Outside the Beltway's James Joyner wonders. "Because of culturally and economically driven demand, the state of Alabama has 10 ROTC programs while New York City, with double the population, has only one. Chicago and Detroit have one apiece. ... Harvard students who have a desire to serve as officers can now train at MIT’s ROTC program. Will the demand be such that it makes sense to create a second program? ... One thing might help is to reach an accommodation on cost, where the schools waive tuition in excess of the limit of ROTC scholarships. It’s rather much to expect aspiring young officers to take on a sizable debt on a second lieutenant’s pay."
- Obama Should Call on Colleges to Follow Through, The Wall Street Journal's William McGurn says. The president should use the State of the Union address to push those colleges to take real steps to bring back ROTC. "[T]he measure for success cannot be a ROTC branch on every campus. ... The real issue is respect, public and institutional, for the choice of young men and women who step forward... At a minimum, that means ensuring that ROTC is an officially recognized student organization." Schools should also "provide ROTC students with a room on campus 'where they can hang their hats and hear from officers who can talk to the students about service.'"
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.