Nearly half of students approve of lifting the campus ban on the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, according to last month’s Herald poll. Around 43 percent of students strongly or somewhat approve lifting the ban, about 24 percent strongly or somewhat disapprove, and the remaining 33 percent answered “no opinion” or indicated they did not know enough about the issue.
“I think it serves to sort of disprove the idea that a lot of Brown students are against (ROTC),” said Andrew Sia ’12, a member of Students for ROTC. The Brown Committee on ROTC should “look at the numbers and realize that while there are a lot of vocalists against ROTC, that it’s just a minority of students,” Sia said.
Kevin Casto ’13, a member of the Coalition Against Special Privileges for ROTC, questioned whether the findings actually reflect student opinion. “There isn’t a ‘ban’ on ROTC actually. Students are allowed to participate in ROTC. Brown just doesn’t provide institutional support,” he said, adding that the word “ban” has strong negative connotations.
Students noted the lack of majority consensus on the issue as an indication that the debate may drag on.
“I can’t imagine that if any decision is made any time soon that the opposition would give up a fight,” Scott Friedlander ’12 said. “There’s still a big minority that won’t get their way.”
Dean of the College Katherine Bergeron, chair of the committee on ROTC, said she is concerned that 33 percent of students either had no opinion or were not familiar enough to answer on the issue.
Bergeron said she plans to work with the Undergraduate Council of Students to “present some of the basic facts in a quick, digestible form,” and may post questions on the committee’s website or send an explanatory email to undergraduates.
The committee will work with UCS to gather more student feedback in the next couple of weeks before making its decision, she added.
Students also voiced concern over the number of people who did not take a decisive stance on the issue.
Casto said his job on the coalition is to better inform the student population, particularly first-years, who were most likely to answer “no opinion” or “not familiar enough to answer”, according to the poll.
Amanda Kozar ’12 said it made sense that many people may not be informed about ROTC because the program has not been a presence on the University’s campus since 1969. She also said the University should provide more information on the issue, especially the fact that transgender discrimination still exists in the military despite the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
Kelly Garrett, director of the LGBTQ Resource Center, said it is important for students to consider all the factors affecting the ROTC issue.
“Some students are speaking out against it because of discrimination against transgender people, which I think is a valid point, and I just think it’s a valid point among many that need to be debated,” Garrett said.
Other universities have used student surveys as a guide in making decisions about the future of ROTC on their campuses. At Columbia, a student survey heavily influenced the Columbia University Senate’s decision to repeal the ban, according to James Applegate, professor of astronomy at Columbia and a member of its Taskforce on Military Engagement. More than 60 percent of respondents at Columbia supported bringing ROTC back.
Stanford University and Yale have also created committees to re-examine their policies on ROTC. Yale conducted a survey before “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was repealed in which 68 percent of students supported bringing back ROTC, with 38 percent supporting it regardless of whether “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” remained law.
Bergeron said she is also looking to conduct more comprehensive and detailed surveys to guide the committee’s decision.
Casto said he hopes more students weigh in on the issue. “Whether they support (ROTC) or not, it’s better to have them express their opinion than not say anything,” he said. “We really need to have students democratically participating in this.”
Written questionnaires were administered to 972 undergraduates March 14–16 in the lobby of J. Walter Wilson and the Stephen Robert ’62 Campus Center during the day and the Sciences Library at night. The poll has a 2.9 percent margin of error with 95 percent confidence. The margin of error is 4.4 percent for the subset of males, 3.8 percent for females, 12.9 percent for transfer students, 3.0 percent for non-transfers, 6.1 percent for seniors, 3.4 percent for non-seniors, 5.6 percent for first-year students and 3.4 percent for non-first-years.
The sample polled was demographically similar to the Brown undergraduate population as a whole. The sample was 44.3 percent male and 55.7 percent female. First-years made up 26.6 percent of the sample, 26.2 percent were sophomores, 24.1 percent were juniors and 23.1 percent were seniors. Of those polled, 5.2 percent of respondents identified themselves as being transfer students. Statistical significance was established at the 0.05 level.
Senior Editor Julien Ouellet ’12, News Editors Alex Bell ’13 and Nicole Boucher ’13 and Senior Staff Writers Greg Jordan-Detamore ’14 and Lindor Qunaj ’13 coordinated the poll. Herald section editors, senior staff writers and other staff members conducted the poll.