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ROTC on Campus: Past, Present and Future

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:

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this fall, there began to be more murmurs about the possibility of reinstating ROTC in the event that the policy was repealed. In his September fireside chat, PrezBo affirmed: “if DADT is repealed, ROTC may be invited back.”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

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  • woooo says:

    @woooo Bring it back baby

  • foolish says:

    @foolish if you actually want to join the military and be an officer, go to OCS or you should have applied to a military academy.

    ROTC is for people who want to talk the talk – all you’ll ever get is a second-rate position and getting passed over.

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous perhaps ROTC is for people who want to serve for a tour and not make a career out of the military? besides, becoming a second lieutenant is not trivial.

      1. Eric Chen says:

        @Eric Chen Actually, most of the military’s officers come from ROTC. I want to say 60%, but I’m too lazy to look up the figure right now. A founding purpose of ROTC, by way of programs partnered with a wide range of universities spread throughout the nation, was to ensure the diversity of officers and that the military refreshed its roots in all of civil society. Of course, that purpose was undermined when Columbia booted ROTC, but today, we’re trying to fix that generational mistake.

        Anyway, I believe the commitment is about the same for ROTC, OCS, and academy graduates and there’s no inherent difference in career path among the three sources.

    2. Sean says:

      @Sean Patently untrue. A large proportion of the military leadership enters the military via ROTC.

      The Chief of Staff of the Army is an ROTC grad (Georgetown). As is the Vice Chief of Staff (Seattle Univ.) The Commandant of the Marine Corps (Idaho) the commander of Central Command (Central Washington) the Commander of Northern Command (Georgia Tech) the Deputy Commander of Southern Command (E. Kentucky). These are all the top Four Star positions. There are countless other examples.

      BTW the current Commander of Strategic Command, General Chilton, received his M.S. in Engineering from Columbia.

  • Pro-ROTC says:

    @Pro-ROTC Unfortunately, I doubt ROTC will be allowed back. This was never about DADT. The students who argued so passionately against ROTC never participated in any gay-rights group on campus. As a participant in those groups, I’ve seen very little overlap between the University Senate and those who truly work towards gay rights. I’ve never seen pro-gay rights activism on campus anywhere near the levels of anti-ROTC sentiment. This will just prove the hypocrisy of the Columbia student body.

    1. sesh says:

      @sesh I’ve never been to an animal rights rally i guess i should just stop being a vegetarian. Shame on me for not being an activist for every cause i believe in.

      Secondary question, if you are pro gay rights then how could you have possibly supported ROTC?

      1. Sean says:

        @Sean I’m pro gay-rights. Anti-DADT. And I support ROTC.

      2. Eric Chen says:

        @Eric Chen See

        6 May 2005 Advocates for Columbia ROTC statement on ROTC at Columbia and “don’t ask, don’t tell”

        EXCERPT: The truth is, before the movement to restore ROTC at Columbia, the “don’t ask don’t tell” federal law was not a topic in Columbia’s campus discourse. Our proposal to restore ROTC on campus has brought to the forefront a strong debate over the policy of “don’t ask don’t tell” (DADT), applicable to military service by homosexuals, currently required by congressional legislation. Because of the ROTC movement, many students have become more aware of this discriminatory policy. We who want to restore ROTC at Columbia want to reform this policy. We believe that it is not enough for us to ignore the issue or push it outside of Columbia’s gated entrances. We must face this gap between military and civil society and fight for change from within the military itself.

        To many, the vote on ROTC has been framed as a choice for or against the non-discrimination policy — but we can and should both oppose discrimination and support ROTC.

      3. Pro-ROTC says:

        @Pro-ROTC I’m gay and pro-ROTC, because I think Ivy Leagues should support our armed forced. DADT was never the Pentagon’s policy, but one imposed by Congress. Keeping ROTC off campus never did a thing to convince people that DADT was wrong, it was just an excuse anti-military students used. I hope I’m wrong and the student body votes do bring ROTC back.

  • Eric Chen says:

    @Eric Chen Thanks for the mention. One correction, though: I was never an ROTC cadet. However, I am a veteran (Go MilVets!); I served as an active-duty enlisted soldier before Columbia.

    Related – Bwog readers may be interested in reading CC Dean Moody-Adams’ statement on Columbia ROTC from Hamilton Society’s Service and Society event in October:

    For Columbia students interested in becoming ROTC advocates, I recommend contacting Learned Foote and/or John McClelland.

    1. Eliza says:

      @Eliza Updated, thanks so much!

    2. Eric Chen says:

      @Eric Chen You’re welcome, Eliza. Bwog does good work. Just so you know, alumni who should be studying for finals in law school enjoy procrastinating on Bwog as much as students on campus.

      I should have mentioned previously that Learned Foote attends CC and John McClelland attends GS, so students interested in joining the advocacy ought to be able to look them up easily enough. For Columbia professors interested in the advocacy, you can contact Learned and John, too, but I recommend contacting Astronomy Professor Jim Applegate.

  • Yeeehaaaaw! says:

    @Yeeehaaaaw! Ready to put my knowledge skillz to work on bombing people!! :)

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous Sorry to burst your bubble but chances are, you were already destined to be doing that in some direct/indirect way, shape or form, the minute you accepted an ivy league admission offer.

      1. MHM says:

        @MHM Exactly what I was going to say. Stop being so self righteous and hypocritical. Go put on your sweat-shop American Apparel, or your sweatshop AE or your sweatshop Target or your sweat shop J-Crew.

        1. because says:

          @because sweat shop labor has a lot to do with war?

          1. anonymous says:

            @anonymous Your cellphone probably does.

      2. Anonymous says:

        @Anonymous ivy league or not, your tax dollars are already going towards that so just suck it up.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous Alex Frouman ftw. He works so hard for us on issues, ROTC being one of them. And he’s not fat, regardless of what people say.

  • the repeal of DADT says:

    @the repeal of DADT is a horrible policy decision. Not to mention over 2/3 of active combat members don’t support its repeal, also we are going to have to spend over 40 million to implement sensitivity training, benefits, etc.

    This is ridiculous.

    1. Where on earth says:

      @Where on earth do you get that 2/3 number? The poll of active servicemen and servicewomen revealed 70% who had no problem serving with openly gay troops.

      I suspect your figure of $40million is just as bogus but, even if it weren’t, that’s a drop in the bucket of the defense budget.

      If you are so concerned with military policy, maybe you should think about a service based on honor that’s been asking large numbers of its troops to live a lie.

      1. White Guy Meme says:

        @White Guy Meme 2/3 are opposed to the repeal if they fall under combat orientated jobs. The 70% that are for it come from the support roles i.e. cooks, nurses, office administration and the likes.

        1. that's nice, but says:

          @that's nice, but jim crow laws in the south were pretty popular, too. sometimes the will of the people is wrong. in fact, a lot of the time it is. fortunately, sometimes we can fix mistakes. the 2/3 of the military who see direct combat will get over it. did you expect DADT to go on forever?

          1. Anonymous says:

            @Anonymous Just saying where the 70% comes from, and to be honest I’m not taking any definite side on this issue, I walked right past several military recruiters right to college admissions tables during a college fair in high school, so basically I walked right past my opportunity to serve in the wars to keep my ivy league life perfect, point is somebody else went and not me. I didn’t serve when the opportunity presented itself and my opinion that follows may be irrelevant or valid, I don’t know, but if there are some vets in this blog what do you think?

            But to take a side, I don’t see how coming out in the workplace or talking about sexual behavior in anyway, in a workplace environment is remotely appropriate and I thought that DADT was a protection for gays to be allowed to serve in the military already. I don’t see how its repeal is going to change things anyway for the gays, it’s an alpha male environment, I can’t fathom a gay getting the courage to come out in that situation, it’s like pro sports, that’s an alpha male environment and how many of those athletes do you see coming out of the closet? They just don’t do it, if there are even gays in moneyball sports. So really, the only thing I can think of that this repeal does, is it gets rid of the only guaranteed way of getting out of the military for men, where as, you used to be able to lie about being gay and could be home, out of the military in two weeks. As I understand it, now there is no easy way out after you join if you find your incompatible after you signed up, your 100% stuck. Not to be dark about this, but the sociologist in me wants to say, military suicides are going to spike after this repeal, due to no back-door alternative to getting out of the military.

          2. Army vet says:

            @Army vet Your sort of right. I’m straight and while I was in, in the back of my mind there was always an out by going to my commander and telling him I was gay. There is also the consciousness objector route, but I heard that process was so hard to achieve that it is almost impossible to get. For men, that basically was the only way out of your service contract before it expires, without basically being black listed for the rest of your life. For women it is also an out, but if they were to get pregnant they were given a choice to stay in or get out. Getting booted for being gay or being pregnant, doesn’t have adverse effects on your permanent record, like being dishonorably discharged for felonies would have. Nobody I knew, ever came out to me while I was in, so I had no idea who was gay or not, but sometimes people would mysteriously disappear, probably because the gay separation remains a private matter between the soldier and the command from the moment he comes out till he is discharged, and it was a very quick way to become a civilian again. About the suicides your prediction could be right, but we’ll never know, because sucides are tied with the length we are at war, not a person’s ability to leave the military which could be a legitimate variable.

          3. hits track says:

            @hits track talking to yourself is the first sign of mental illness

        2. statistics says:

          @statistics “Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, cited findings in the survey that experience with gay troops mitigated most concerns; 92 percent of troops who believed they had served with a gay person did not believe that person’s sexual orientation negatively affected unit morale or effectiveness. That number stayed high even among Marine combat arms units, at 84 percent.”

          1. Anonymous says:

            @Anonymous yeah but they wouldn’t necessarily know for sure

        3. Eric Chen says:

          @Eric Chen If a service chief deems that ‘too much, too soon’ will cause too much harm to a particular mission-essential part of his branch at this time, the legislative repeal allows the possibility that the practice and pace of the transition won’t be uniform throughout the military. Retaining this power is the main reason that Gates and Mullen wanted a legislative repeal that would allow the military a deliberate nuanced transition rather than a slapped on one-size-fits-all judicial injunction. That said, the service chiefs may prefer a uniform transition to get the hard part over with as soon as possible rather than draw it out. In the end, what decisions the bosses make, it’ll come down to rank-and-file soldiers – gay and straight – figuring out what’s most important are the uniform and mission they share and the nation and People they serve together.

          1. Michael Segal says:

            @Michael Segal There is a detailed analysis of the underlying data used in the Pentagon report at This includes the data on the combat arms in which there was opposition. The study data make clear that the primary concern in all services was over gender privacy, and both the data and the Pentagon report argue for mitigation via increased individual privacy, not through group identification and creation of “gay barracks”.

        4. uhm... says:

          @uhm... hence the “active combat members” get the facts straight before you sound like an ignorant liberal ok?

          Also it doesn’t matter whether it is $40 million or 400 billion how do you quantify unnecessary casualties and loss of life? Look here before you accuse me of making stuff up:

          You’re just like Nancy Pelosi, doesn’t know the facts so she passes bills in order for us to know what’s in them

          1. Combat Soldier and Columbia/Harvard Grad says:

            @Combat Soldier and Columbia/Harvard Grad Opposition is higher here, sure. But in my extensive, though anecdotal, experience that opposition is based misunderstandings about what it means to “serve openly,” as well as a lack of familiarity with individuals who are indeed gay.

            My inclination is that the opposition and negative attitudes will die down significantly once people get to know servicemembers who are gay (indeed they probably already know many, they just don’t know that they are gay).

            Moreover, even if the opposition continues at these levels I see no evidence that this will in any way result in unnecessary casualties or loss of life. Its simply a ridiculous, baseless argument.

            My Soldiers and Marines are smart, adaptable, and tough, and will continue to do what they do best. If they can handle the discomfort of 120 degree heat and the constant threat of an IED attack, they can handle serving next to a gay servicemember without liking the idea.


          2. Eric Chen says:

            @Eric Chen Mission first. Soldiers always.

            If you’re not already aboard, I invite you to join the ROTC advocacy movement and the (extended) Columbia veterans community.

    2. Eric Chen says:

      @Eric Chen When I was soldier these many years ago, we did regular ‘Respect for Others’ and ‘Equal Opportunity’ training. (I couldn’t really tell the classes apart, either.) The Army almost certainly will reconfigure existing socialization training, but I haven’t heard any recommendations about adding another tier of socialization training to what’s already does rigorously. The military’s top echelon is looking to leadership, training, and the military’s culture of teamwork and self-discipline to absorb the change. Just as importantly, the military’s leadership expects gay soldiers to boost the transition by honoring the uniform with their soldierly conduct. While we don’t know yet how each service chief plans to implement, we do know the DoD report recommends removing prohibitions on being an openly gay soldier without adding new policies or classifications for gay soldiers that could turn into new conflicts.

      The military doesn’t have to manage the post-DADT transition without help. As I said, training and leadership will be key for the transition. Columbia ROTC on campus could be Columbia’s vehicle to directly help train the military’s leaders to manage the transition at the “boots on the ground” level. Columbia could even fund this help from university and other private sources. In addition to top-tier university resources, Columbia owns a uniquely large, dynamic, and young veterans population on campus that includes gay veterans, and NYC has a large gay veterans community. Columbia even has gay veteran faculty ROTC advocates like Prof Tanya Domi. The benefit would be immediate because ROTC graduates soon become platoon leaders and company commanders, the young lieutenants and captains who are the moral compass of the Army. Columbia ROTC graduates would become the 1st line leaders who set the moral standard for the gay and straight troops under their direct care.

      Here’s the DoD page on DADT:

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous This just reveals how this campus is slowly becoming more conservative. Its sad to see the Left diminish in size (and effect) here.

    1. Campus Conservative says:

      @Campus Conservative HURRAY for the quick (but overdue) death of the left!

      1. Eric Chen says:

        @Eric Chen Many Columbia ROTC advocates are Democrats and/or liberals, though I don’t know that you mean to say Left is synonymous with Democrat/liberal. Supporting ROTC at Columbia shouldn’t be a partisan stance. The cause is pre-political, to borrow a term from Kathy Roth-Douquet.

        You can even be a leftist and support our military, eg, . Our military is one of the few special things that bonds our diverse nation.

    2. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous I consider myself Left/Liberal/Democrat because I believe in personal freedom, meaning I support the rights of both homosexuals and Columbia students to serve their country. I may be opposed to the current wars, but I would never stand in the way of someone who feels the call of duty.

      The presence of ROTC on campus does not affect your life. You don’t have to join. You don’t have to support it. You don’t have to like it. When you see men and women in uniform, you can walk the other direction. (I’m purposefully using the same rhetoric on you that I use on someone who opposes Gay marriage to try to show you the hypocrisy.)

      1. Anonymous says:

        @Anonymous Yeah you believe in freedom, until it comes to taxing my bank account and stealing my time. You have no idea how awesome life would be if we lived in a pure free market society, the possibilities would be endless and real freedom would exist.

        1. And you forgot says:

          @And you forgot to mention healthcare reform…luckily the Courts are realizing that such legislation is unconsttuonal

  • Eric Chen says:

    @Eric Chen See the 1969 Mansfield committee report on Columbia ROTC:

    Diane Mazur supports ROTC at Columbia. That said, her New York Times article “The ROTC Myth”, while not entirely inaccurate, is somewhat of a revisionist telling of Ivy ROTC history, at least as applied to Columbia. The Mansfield committee report states, “It is obvious that the war in Viet Nam is a factor in causing the current criticism of NROTC. The role of the war has been to weaken, in the minds of many people at the university, the justifications which were given in the past for granting the NROTC exceptions from normal academic practices. Those exceptions – irregularities in faculty appointments, external control over curriculum, unusual student rules – were justified in earlier years by the widely-held opinion that there was a congruence between the best interests of the nation and the current military policies of the nation. That opinion has now weakened to the point that many members of the academic community believe that granting exceptions to the Navy from normal academic practices is no longer justified.”

    The reasonable interpretation of the Mansfield committee report is that the political climate of the period was both catalyst and facilitator of a strict, narrow, and uncompromising reconsideration of Columbia’s long partnership with ROTC. Columbia Sociology professor (emeritus) Allan Silver, a contemporary eyewitness and participant, characterizes the university actions against ROTC as “an effective bar” of ROTC. Columbia took specific measures against ROTC fully knowing that, under the ROTC Revitalization Act of 1964, those measures made it legally impossible for ROTC to stay at Columbia.

    For a more balanced historical account, I recommend (Columbia MD/PhD) Dr. Michael Segal’s response to Mazur at

  • Sean says:

    @Sean Patently untrue. A large proportion of the military leadership enters the military via ROTC.

    The Chief of Staff of the Army is an ROTC grad (Georgetown). As is the Vice Chief of Staff (Seattle Univ.) The Commandant of the Marine Corps (Idaho) the commander of Central Command (Central Washington) the Commander of Northern Command (Georgia Tech) the Deputy Commander of Southern Command (E. Kentucky). These are all the top Four Star positions. There are countless other examples.

    BTW the current Commander of Strategic Command, General Chilton, received his M.S. in Engineering from Columbia.

  • anti prepackaged liberal activist pedagogy says:

    @anti prepackaged liberal activist pedagogy ben fiebelman

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