Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Will Harvard Bring Back ROTC?

It depends on what "bring back" means.

Following the repeal of DADT yesterday, President Faust issued a statement that included the following sentence: "I look forward to pursuing discussions with military officials and others to achieve Harvard’s full and formal recognition of ROTC."

"Recognition" is exactly what I figure will happen. In 1993, the Harvard Faculty voted to end recognition of ROTC on the basis that it did not comply with University nondiscrimination policy. With that premise gone now, it seems to me a simple matter to restore the status ROTC had before '93 -- an activity in which Harvard students can be involved with the simple courtesies of postering, meeting in Harvard rooms, and so on that are attendant on recognition.

Today's papers, however, are full of stories about Harvard's intentions. See the Globe, the Herald, and the Wall Street Journal. The Globe raises the possibility of an ROTC unit returning to Harvard, which would be a lot more than "recognition": "A Pentagon spokeswoman said it is too early to say whether the decision could result in a ROTC unit being established on campus, but student interest and the military budget are two potential factors."

This makes sense, as far as the Pentagon goes. During the 1990s units were being consolidated, not subdivided. And let's be serious about student interest: At a lot of universities with large ROTC programs, the "interest" students show in ROTC is not greater patriotism than at Harvard, but less institutional financial aid. It is a great way not only to serve your country but to get a free college education. Since Harvard provides financial aid up to need for all students, a huge incentive to sign up for ROTC here is missing, and that will inevitably hold down the numbers. (In fact, that makes ROTC participation here all the more remarkable: the students who do it are doing it without the financial incentive.)

But DADT was not the only thing keeping ROTC at arm's length from Harvard, and the Pentagon's inclinations are not the only relevant factor with DADT repealed. ROTC was booted from Harvard in 1969 by taking credit away from the "Military Science" courses and teaching credentials away from the "Professors of Military Science" whose appointments Harvard did not control. I have no idea if these are things on which the Pentagon would insist today, or if Harvard could or would want to reach some accommodation with military officials about these matters. But before anyone gets too excited about a ROTC unit returning to Harvard because of the repeal of DADT, it is worth remembering that the vote that ended the ROTC unit at Harvard was not the 1993 vote about gays in the military, but the February 4, 1969 vote, which read as below. It is hard to imagine that #1-3 could easily be reversed.

Whereas, the ROTC (Reserve Officers Training Corps) program is externally controlled, i.e., taught by professors who do not hold regular appointments.
That the Faculty of Arts and Sciences
1. Withhold academic credit from any courses offered by the three branches of ROTC at Harvard in the future. 
2. Request the Harvard Corporation to terminate the Faculty appointments of the present instructors of these courses as soon as possible after the end of the current academic year and to make not further such appointments.
3. Request the Harvard Corporation to withdraw the description of ROTC courses from the course catalogue and to cease the free allocation of space in University buildings to ROTC. 
4. Provide scholarship funds where need is created by this Faculty decision.

1 comment:

  1. Dr. Lewis is right (again)! When sighting ROTC units, the services use Economy of Force to judiciously employ and distribute forces towards the primary objective which in this case is to develop leaders for the military - a tenant of The Principles of War originally proposed by Carl von Clausewitz.

    Given current DOD budget cuts and withdrawal of troops from Iraq, it would be hard to imagine the expansion of ROTC units especially Harvard where “the take” is higher than some “Host Universities” in the area. The services have a fairly extensive net cast in Cambridge, Boston and the surrounding area already.

    Opportunity and support from host universities are key; half of which has been imbued at Harvard for some time – especially during Dr. Lewis’s tenure as Dean of Harvard College. Having military staff “camped out” on campus alone doesn’t get the job done. Commitment, resourcing, stakeholder buy-in, assimilation…etc. are necessary to develop an effective program, not simply overture and “recognition”.

    I’m proud of my service connection with Harvard ROTC as a former Professor of Military Science located on the MIT campus, the host University for the Army program. Harvard ROTC Commissioning Ceremony 2005: Notwithstanding all the rhetoric, “I can imagine a day when Harvard allows us to post a captain and a sergeant in the Yard once again, tied to the MIT program”.