Trustees | Intellectual Diversity

National group wants trustees to reinstate ROTC

THE BROWN DAILY HERALD   |  October 15, 2008 by Nicole Friedman

The American Council of Trustees and Alumni has sent a letter to, among others, the Brown Corporation, urging it to consider reinstating the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program on campus.

The letter was also sent to trustees at Columbia, Harvard and Yale as well as Stanford and Tufts universities and the University of Chicago, which the council determined to be the most notable universities without on-campus ROTC programs, ACTA Program Director Charles Mitchell said.

In the letter, which is dated Sept. 26, ACTA President Anne Neal argues that both major presidential candidates support on-campus ROTC programs as an “indispensable” way for students to explore a military career “as they do any other career path.”

“The argument that we’re really making is less about ROTC than it is about the right of students at Brown to explore whatever type of careers that they would like,” Mitchell said. “We also agree with some prominent experts who have pointed out that it’s really not good for our country to have a military that has so few graduates of elite universities in it.”

Though Brown does not have a ROTC program on campus, Brown students can participate in ROTC by taking the required military science classes at Providence College.

“We do support students who are interested in pursuing ROTC at Brown,” Dean of the College Katherine Bergeron said. “We have a fairly positive relationship with (Maj. Matthew McKinley, chairman of the military science department at Providence College) at the moment and we’re doing a lot to try to connect his program with (Brown) students.”

Reinstating ROTC has been recently debated at other Ivies – the Yale Political Union passed a resolution on Oct. 6 in favor of bringing ROTC back to Yale’s campus – more so than at Brown.

“There haven’t been discussions about reinstating (ROTC) on campus,” Bergeron said.

Harvard also has no plans to “change the current arrangements that are in place,” in which Harvard students can participate in ROTC at MIT, said John Longbrake, senior director of communications at Harvard, in an e-mail to The Herald. Tufts students will continue to use the training facilities at MIT as well because it is “more cost-effective for the armed services to have one training location that can serve multiple schools,” Tufts’ Assistant Public Relations Director Suzanne Miller wrote in an e-mail to The Herald.

The faculty voted to remove the ROTC program from Brown campus in 1972 as a protest against the Vietnam War.

An “Advocates for Brown ROTC” student group was created last year, but co-founder Jason Carr ’09 wrote in an e-mail to The Herald that it is currently inactive as far as he knows.

Reinstating ROTC now would devote University resources to something that is not “in our mission,” Professor of Anthropology Catherine Lutz said. “Our mission is to pursue knowledge.”

Choosing to have ROTC on campus and choosing not to are both “politically-charged decisions,” said Rick Ahl ’09, a member of Operation Iraqi Freedom: Brown’s Anti-War Group. “Allowing ROTC to be at Brown is not a neutral decision. It’s an implicit endorsement of the ROTC program.”

Ahl also said that Brown has a right to demand transparency, especially in hiring practices, from any business that recruits on campus. The military’s manipulation of soldier contracts is a dishonest hiring practice and Brown should not allow them to do business on campus, he said.

In recent years, schools have defended not having on-campus ROTC program by pointing out the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which requires homosexual members of the military to be closeted. This policy “violates the University code of non-discrimination,” Lutz said.

Homosexuality in the military is a legislative issue, Mitchell said.

“If (universities) want to send a message to Congress about ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ they can call their lobbyists. There’s no reason to punish their students to send a message,” he said.

Mitchell added that students can both participate in ROTC and protest the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.

“You can probably do mental gymnastics and say you’re supporting part of the institution and not the part that’s still homophobic and discriminatory, but I don’t think that works,” Lutz said.

Mitchell said that the ACTA addressed the letter to the Corporation because “the buck stops with the trustees. It is their role because nobody else makes sure that students’ rights are guaranteed,” he said.

Bergeron noted that any curriculum change, such as the addition of a military science department, would have to be approved by a faculty vote.

The ACTA is a nonpartisan organization “committed to academic freedom, excellence and accountability at America’s colleges and universities,” according to its Web site. It counts Lynne Cheney, first lady and former chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities, and Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., among its founding members.

“I don’t think we should deem the ACTA to be a legitimate voice on education policy,” Ahl said, citing the council’s commitment to encouraging schools to adopt core curricula. “I don’t see why we should listen to their opinions on the ROTC any more than we should listen to their opinions on the core curriculum.”

The ACTA’s and Brown’s disagreements on curricular philosophy do not exclude the possibility of their agreeing on the issue of on-campus ROTC, Mitchell said.

“We’ve followed the Brown Curriculum pretty closely and one of the ideas that seems to be at the heart of it is student choice. And it seems to me that if you agree with student choice, then you should agree with our letter,” Mitchell said.


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