Bringing ROTC Back to Top College Campuses

by Vault Education Editors | May 06, 2009

  • My Vault
Last Sunday, The New York Times published an op-ed pieceabout President Obama's call for top colleges to lift their ban on ROTC(Reserve Officers' Training Corps) and military presence on campus andthe potential for a warm reception. The writer, Kenneth Harbaugh, whoteaches as an adjunct professor at Yale University, argued thatstudents are looking for a way to serve their country--evidenced byprograms such as Teach for America that recruit heavily on Ivy Leaguecampuses--and that serving in the military would be a welcome addition."While it is true that few of the students I taught will ever serve inuniform, part of the reason is that no one has bothered to ask themto," Harbaugh writes. "My students were desperate to serve theircountry in some way. We owe it to them to offer the armed forces as arealistic option."

Today, The Brown Daily Herald seconded Harbaugh's call in an editorial piecethat called for the reinstatement of ROTC at Brown University. Theannouncement came as a surprise to some given Brown's "overwhelminglyliberal" campus. "In adopting this stance," the editorial says, "We arebreaking with The Herald's previous position that the 'don'task, don't tell' policy, which forbids gay soldiers from servingopenly, should disqualify the military from recruiting on Brown'scampus. While we agree that DADT is offensive and imprudent, we feelthat the ROTC ban is a counterproductive response." The military's"don't ask, don't tell" policy has long kept ROTC off college campusesbecause students and administrators feel the policy is discriminatory.However, The Herald notes that the policy does not reflect theopinion of today's young officers, and argues that bringing ROTC backto top college campuses where the student body is more liberal couldencourage more like-minded students to join.

President Obama appears to be on the right trackwhen he called top colleges' ban on ROTC on campus a "mistake." On avisit to Columbia University in September, he said: "We should haveeveryone have an opportunity to have every road available to them."Although the moral implications of housing a campus ROTC program maytake years to become outdated, our deteriorating economy provides amore immediate motive to lift the ban. When it comes to paying forcollege, ROTC is a valuable player. Not only is joining the militarythrough a ROTC or other on-campus program an opportunity to serve ourcountry and "give back," it is also an excellent way to pay forcollege. In this economy, students and parents are looking for ways toaccommodate the high price of elite college tuition. ROTC and othercampus programs offer many different scholarships (including fulltuition), room and board, and allowances for books, fees, etc. inexchange for up to five years of service after graduation. Ivy Leagueschools have some of the highest tuitions in the nation (and the numberis only going up as schools are forced to compensate for shrinkingendowments) and many students would welcome the combination of serviceand a subsidized education.

Each division of the military offers different ROTC programs. See below for links to their websites.

Army ROTC

Air Force ROTC

Navy ROTC

Marine Corps Semper Fidelis Society

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