Phi Beta Cons

Least Surprising Article of the Year

Inside Higher Ed reports that — surprise, surprise — ROTC is facing roadblocks in its effort to return to “elite” college campuses:

Opponents generally fall into two camps — one opposing ROTC because of whom it excludes, the other because of what the military does (a third line of criticism arises from faculty concerns over the academic quality of ROTC programs). At Columbia, these opponents look with hope to the last vote, in 2005, of the University Senate, when that body opted overwhelmingly to continue barring ROTC from campus. But some on this side also acknowledge that the climate has, in fact, changed.

“I believe ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ was the main polarizing issue,” said Daniela Garcia, a senior who opposed ROTC then and now. “The anti-war argument was pushed to the side.” But that argument — which focuses on a disdain for militarism in general and faults the service branches for what opponents see as aggressive recruiting of the poor — is one that she and others want to resurrect.

“It’s about what the military does as a whole,” said Garcia. “The structured violence of the military is not compatible with educational institutions.” A coalition of student groups — primarily Lucha, an immigrants’ and workers’ rights organization, Students for Justice in Palestine, and the International Socialist Organization — has emerged.

I tend to think that ROTC will eventually make it back — at least to some campuses — but in many cases the damage will have been done. It will take decades to repair the damage caused by decades of exclusion, and the gap between the military and those who purport to represent our academic best and brightest will only widen.

My next assignment in the Army Reserves will be with the ROTC program, and I look forward to getting in the classroom with young cadets. Based on my own experience with ROTC-educated officers in Iraq, I know that I’ll be dealing with students who combine intellectual curiosity with an enormous amount of personal courage — two qualities in relatively short supply in the Ivy League.

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