ROTC on Campus: Past, Present and Future
Written by Bwog Staff
In the wake of the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the issue has resurfaced about the banning of the ROTC (haven’t a clue? everything you need to know about the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps here) on Columbia’s campus. This has been a contentious subject in recent years on campus. Here is a brief history:
- ROTC left Columbia in 1969, due to fallout resulting from ROTC presence on campus after Vietnam War. Some context on how to understand the “myth of the ROTC ban” and what language to use when discussing ROTC.
- Read up on the Solomon Amendment, which allows the Secretary of Defense to deny federal grants, including research grants, to universities that prohibit ROTC on their campuses. Here’s the full text of the Solomon Amendment.
- Since that time, students who want to participate in the program have enrolled at St John’s or Fordham’s sites. Several students take part in ROTC every year, including BC Senior Natalie Lopez-Barnard, who described her experiences in a Spec op-ed last month (as did Izumi Devalier in a 2005 issue of the Blue and White).
- In late 2001, an ROTC advocacy movement started at Columbia, led by Sean Wilkes, a Columbia student enrolled in ROTC, and Eric Chen, a veteran.
- PrezBo issued a statement on military recruitment at the Law School in 2002 here.
- In 2005, the University senate overwhelmingly voted against the restoration of the program on campus, by 51 votes to 13 (not 3!), with 5 abstentions, principally because of objections to the military’s “don’t ask don’t tell” policy.
- The issue resurfaced again in fall of 2008, when it emerged that student councils were organizing a referendum on the Navy ROTC program on campus.
- PrezBo, who had voted against the motion in 2005, issued the following statement in response to the topic being raised by John McCain at ServiceNation in fall 2008:
In 2005, the University Senate voted overwhelmingly against formally inviting ROTC onto campus. Senate members may have had a variety of reasons for their votes, but the record and official reports make it reasonably clear that the predominant reason was one of adhering to a core principle of the University: that we will not have programs on the campus that discriminate against students on the basis of such categories as race, gender, military veteran status, or sexual orientation. Under the current “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy of the Defense Department, openly gay and lesbian students could or would be excluded from participating in ROTC activities. That is inconsistent with the fundamental values of the University. A number of our peer institutions have taken a similar position.
- In the run-up to the student debate, there was a considerable media frenzy from both sides, including professors who published pro and anti statements in the Spectator.
- After contention over the student poll, the issue eventually died down.
- Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, gave a talk on campus in April 2010 addressing the ROTC debate. There’s a video of the helpful Q&A on ROTC here.
- When the renewed debate over DADT gained momentum this fall, there began to be more murmurs about the possibility of reinstating ROTC in the event that the policy was repealed. In his September fireside chat, PrezBo affirmed: “if DADT is repealed, ROTC may be invited back.”
- In October it emerged in student councils that the University Senate was once again thinking of reviving the issue.
- The University Senate recently compiled an overview of ROTC and its Columbia history and supplemental materials.
- In response to yesterday’s repeal of DADT, PrezBo issued the following statement:
This is an historic development for a nation dedicated to fulfilling its core principle of equal rights. It also effectively ends what has been a vexing problem for higher education, including at Columbia — given our desire to be open to our military, but not wanting to violate our own core principle against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. We now have the opportunity for a new era in the relationship between universities and our military
Picture via advocatesforrotc.org