Phi Beta Cons

ROTC Returns to CCNY

ROTC has been a rare source of good news in higher ed lately: the program has been welcomed back at Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Columbia, and now CCNY. AEI’s Cheryl Miller has the story:

Last month, the US Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) returned to the City College of New York after a 41-year absence. At the official signing ceremony last May, former secretary of state and retired general Colin Powell – arguably the college’s most famous alum and a graduate of Army ROTC – noted the significance of the reconciliation. In bringing ROTC back to campus, General Powell said, the college was recognizing that “we may disagree with the politics or the policies of it all but military service is honorable.”

Class sizes at many of these start-up ROTC programs are small – last year, nine students participated in the Army ROTC program at Harvard. But their value to the culture is enormous. Since the Vietnam war, large segments of American society – especially in the Northeast – have become isolated from military service. Often they don’t know soldiers and the only veterans they know are their grandfathers. It rarely occurs to them to consider the military as a career. Robert Gates called this the “narrow sliver” problem: service-members are drawn from only certain parts of the country, and the wider society understands the military less and less.

That’s why this effort is so important. Miller writes:

In short, the renewal of City College ROTC marks a move by the Army toward reengagement with New York City and with other areas currently underserved by military recruiting policy. The City College program is part of a larger effort to make ROTC more accessible to New York City students.

Increasingly, civilian students in New York and elsewhere will take classes with future officers, share dorm space with them, and eat together in the cafeteria. The services will benefit from recruiting opportunities – but the cultural benefits will extend far beyond the military. 

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