Trustees | Intellectual Diversity

ROTC faces nationwide campus recognition battle

THE SMITH SOPHIAN   |  October 23, 2008 by Christiana Solano

On Sept. 26, 2008, the American Council of Trustees and Alumni began sending a series of letters to several Ivy League University trustee committees in an attempt to rally support for ROTC campus programs after years of non-recognition. The letters claimed that non-recognition on a select group of campuses including Yale, Brown and Harvard among others, undermines “America’s ideal of self-government” and separates a “moral connection to those Americans we send into harm’s way.”

“It is important to understand that the issue is related to the acceptance of specific federal funds,” said Georgia Yuan, general counsel at Smith College. Under the Solomon Laws and Regulations, unless a university has a “longstanding policy of pacifism based on historical or religious affiliation,” no federal funds will be allocated to a university that denies the ROTC access to its campus.

Although there are no ROTC graduates this year, Smith recognizes ROTC programs. In order to participate Smith students must commute to the UMass base.

The situation is more complicated at universities like Harvard where there is a stronger history of military campus programs. Currently, Harvard does not recognize, endorse or welcome the ROTC on its campus. However, students may choose to become involved in the program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

According to the Harvard student handbook, “The University does not provide any financial or other direct support for the ROTC program at MIT,” due to the “current federal policy of excluding known lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals from admission to ROTC or of discharging them from service.”

“As far as I’m concerned, it’s all a political issue. Some of the more senior members of the faculty, a very vocal minority in the school of arts and sciences, have some sort of veto power within the Harvard Corporation,” stated Captain Paul E. Mawn, chairman of the Advocates of Harvard ROTC, in response to the university’s moral disagreements. Without “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Mawn believes that the corporation would simply choose another reason to avoid funding the program. “It’s basically just anti-military.”

Besides opening the chance for a military career, merit-based scholarships are a primary aspect driving ROTC registration. Before her graduation, Air Force ROTC Smith student Molly Miller ’07 told the Sophian, “College is expensive and colleges should not close the doors to recruiters if it means more students can afford going to that school. It is good to remind Smithies that there is a war going on and that we should support our troops even if we may not agree with the reasoning behind the war.”

Mawn explained the financial implications of non-recognition for ROTC hosts. “The Pentagon pays $40 to 45 thousand of tuition to those who get the merit scholarships. Harvard, like other schools, gives MIT an allocation of what they’re getting from this $45 thousand tuition payment,” he said.

According to Mawn, since Harvard staff has ceased recognizing the ROTC Harvard has also stopped paying the allocation to MIT.

“Harvard gets the full amount of scholarship money from the Pentagon and they cannot pay an allocation. That, in my opinion, is illegal,” said Mawn.

Recently, the ROTC program has been endorsed by Barack Obama, John McCain and Joe Biden. During a recent forum at Columbia University, Obama stated, “I recognize that there are students here who have differences in terms of military policy, but the notion that young people—here at Columbia or anywhere in any university—aren’t offered the choice, the option of participating in military service, I think is a mistake.”

In light of these acknowledgments and increasing support from students and campus administration, Mawn believes campus recognition will be attainable in the near future.


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