Starting with protests over the war in Vietnam and continuing through protests over the discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, many of the nation’s most exclusive colleges and universities barred ROTC from their campuses. (You may recall that some conservatives held that against Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan during her confirmation hearings; as the dean of Harvard’s law school, she had argued in favor of the policy.)
It’s time for Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Columbia and those other elite universities to bring back ROTC. Some college presidents — and military officials — have argued that too few students at those top universities would be interested in military careers to make opening an ROTC office cost-effective. From The NYT:
Eileen M. Lainez, a Defense Department spokeswoman, said Monday that it would be “premature to speculate” on plans for new R.O.T.C. units.
Diane H. Mazur, a law professor at the University of Florida and a former Air Force officer, said she doubted whether the military would reinstate the R.O.T.C. at Ivy League colleges because it is expensive to operate there, particularly for the relatively few number of students the services are likely to recruit.
“I think the military is much more persuaded by output, is much more persuaded by economic efficiency,” Ms. Mazur said.
Drew Faust, the president of Harvard, said over the weekend that she was looking forward to “pursuing discussions with military officials and others to achieve Harvard’s full and formal recognition of R.O.T.C..” . .
The Student Affairs Committee of the Columbia University Senate, a policy-making body of students, faculty members, administrators, alumni and others, said Monday that it had formed a Task Force on Military Engagement to consider whether the university should formally participate in the R.O.T.C.
Before making any decision, the committee said, it would conduct an opinion survey and hold hearings on the issue. The committee’s chairman, Tao Tan, said the process would be driven by students, rather than faculty members.
Several Columbia students said this week that while they would not object to the return of the R.O.T.C., they did not expect their classmates to show much interest in military careers.
“Most people come here to have a specific career,” said Alex Gaspard, 18, who hopes to go to law school. “Investment bankers or lawyers.”
Regardless, it is in the nation’s best interest to include among its military officers as many of the best-educated leaders as it can find. And some of those can be harvested from colleges such as Harvard and Yale.
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. (I’m not so sure that’s true, given the Pentagon’s survey on “Don’t Ask,” which showed that most troops were quite comfortable with having gays and lesbians serve openly.) 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.
— by Cynthia Tucker