University News

ROTC committee issues final report

Fate of program’s 40-year ban from campus remains unclear

By
Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, September 8, 2011

Correction appended.

The committee charged with reexamining the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps’ ban from campus offered little in the way of strong recommendations in its findings released yesterday.

The findings, shared in a campus-wide email from President Ruth Simmons, establish parameters for future discussion and action on the status of ROTC at Brown, without recommending either a continuation or an end to its long-standing ban. “We did not, as a committee, reach consensus on every point; nor did we seek to,” the report states in its conclusion.

The first two of the report’s three conclusions are from the 1969 resolutions by the University that led to the end of both the Naval and Air Force ROTC programs on campus. The first states that ROTC is not considered by the University to be a curricular program but rather an extracurricular program, and the second states that faculty members retain control over how courses should be convened on campus, according to Dean of the College Katherine Bergeron.

The third conclusion states that “a majority, but not all members, of the committee recommends that the president engage in conversations with the Department of Defense to learn how Brown students might participate in Naval or Air Force ROTC programs currently unavailable to them and to bring any proposal she might make regarding the expansion of ROTC opportunities back to the Faculty.”

Bergeron, the committee’s chair, said that even if such discussions were to occur, it is not clear what form Naval or Air Force ROTC programs would take on campus, and that they could be part of a consortium of programs run by other institutions.

Bergeron said the committee reached a general consensus on the first two conclusions, but only a relatively small majority supported the third.

In addition to explaining the history of the University’s relationship with the military and the committee’s conclusions, the report includes polling data from alums and students showing mixed support for ROTC’s reinstatement. While alumni polling data suggests strong support for ROTC’s return, student responses showed far more variation.

Stephen Brinn ’66, who supports the program’s return to campus, participated in the Naval ROTC program as an undergraduate before the ban’s imposition. “I was very disappointed when it was thrown off campus during the Vietnam period,” he said. “It was a travesty.”

Joshua Posner ’71 also supports the return of ROTC to campus, though for different reasons. Posner was a student activist on campus during the Vietnam era and supported the effort to remove ROTC in protest of the war. He said the movement to end ROTC programs on campus in the late 1960s was largely a symbolic gesture in protest of the war rather than a strict opposition to the ROTC program specifically. “We opposed ROTC and effectively campaigned to have it thrown off campus as a protest during the anti-war period,” he said.

Posner said that today, Brown needs to be “fully engaged with the rest of the nation,” and that not allowing ROTC on campus “contributes to the extreme stratification that is so much at the core of what’s wrong with this country,” citing the military’s cultural and socioeconomic diversity.

Julie Pittman ’12, a member of the Coalition Against Special Privileges for ROTC, leveled criticisms at the report. She said she would like to see more details about the process by which ROTC could return, and whether faculty members would be afforded a formal vote on any policy changes.

She also said the report failed to properly address the military’s discrimination towards transgender people, a policy she said contradicts the University’s code of conduct. The military considers transgender identity a mental disorder, barring transgender people from serving.

David Rattner ’13, who serves as the vice president of the Undergraduate Council of Students, wrote in an email to The Herald that UCS “appreciates the work of the committee in dealing with this polarizing issue that elicits a range of opinions.

“They’ve done a great job in being able to reach what we think is a fair decision despite the outcry surrounding the matter, and we look forward to seeing how the school’s position evolves as discussions with the Department of Defense progress and the culture and policies of the military change,” he added.

Bergeron said she expects the University to reach a more binding conclusion regarding ROTC’s presence on campus later this year. “I think this issue will remain under a discussion phase for a bit longer, but there should be closure by the October Corporation meeting,” she said. “You want to give people time to consider things.”

A previous version of this article incorrectly asserted that the report of the Committee on the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps “states that (President Ruth) Simmons can discuss possibilities for ROTC programs with the Department of Defense when she receives input from the Brown community in support of such programs.” In fact, the report does not mention input from the Brown community as a prerequisite to such discussions. The Herald regrets the error.