University News

Campus ROTC office gains favor

By
Senior Staff Writer
Monday, December 5, 2011
This article is part of the series Fall 2011 Student Poll

Correction appended.

While faculty and students remain divided over the University’s policy on the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, many community members said they are in favor of the formation of the office for ROTC called for by the Corporation at its October meeting. The on-campus resource, whose name and exact mission are still uncertain, would support student veterans and may direct prospective cadets to ROTC programs at nearby institutions.

Dean of the College Katherine Bergeron said supporting student veterans is a priority for the University that the ROTC office will hopefully institutionalize. The office, which is likely to begin operating next year, will “make visible the support the University is already giving,” she said.

“I’m not totally against it,” said Bradley Silverman ’13, an economics, political science and public policy concentrator. “I guess it is a good thing that we try to accommodate (students interested in ROTC) somehow.”

Despite support for the ROTC office, recent poll results indicate strong polarization on whether the University should allow ROTC on campus.

In an October Herald poll of the faculty, 44 percent of respondents  indicated they would somewhat disapprove or strongly disapprove of lifting the University’s campus ban on ROTC, with only 38.3 percent indicating they would somewhat or strongly approve. In a separate student poll, 81.5 percent of respondents indicated no interest in joining an on-campus ROTC program.

Many community members said they want to keep ROTC out of Brown because they see a history of discrimination in the military that goes against the University’s anti-discrimination policy. Despite the recent overturn of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the military still openly discriminates against transgender individuals, said Lynne Joyrich, associate professor of modern culture and media and a member of the Gender and Sexuality Studies Board. Paired with the military’s history of discrimination against women and gays, this policy was Joyrich’s “main reason” for opposing the revision of the University’s ROTC policy.

“I’m not necessarily a huge fan of the military, but if it weren’t for that, I wouldn’t be against (ROTC at Brown),” Joyrich said. She added that she thinks many other faculty and students are against bringing the program back to campus for similar reasons.

Silverman, a former Herald staff writer, said some students likely do not support ROTC at Brown because they do not support U.S. involvement in the conflicts in the Middle East and want to discourage the University’s association with the military.

But Silverman also said he thought the military’s transgender exclusion policy is the “main issue” for the University in considering an on-campus ROTC program. He added that he supported the University’s decision to preserve its current policy, but he “would love to bring ROTC back to campus” if only the military would accept transgender people.

Matt Miller ’15 said he was “kind of disappointed” when the University announced its decision not to change its ROTC policy. “There’s a club for everyone and everything — except you can’t do ROTC,” he said. Miller, an engineering student, said he indicated on the Herald poll that he would be interested in joining ROTC, but only if there were a battalion on campus. About 7 percent of respondents showed the same interest, while less than 1 percent said they would be interested in joining ROTC at another school’s campus.

Cade Howard ’14, a development studies and anthropology concentrator and member of the Committee on ROTC, said allowing a battalion at Brown would be a way of “expanding our offerings” as a liberal arts institution. But while he considers himself pro-ROTC, he said inviting the program back to Brown at this time would be “moving too quickly.”

Chaney Harrison ‘11.5, a public policy concentrator, president of the Student Veterans Society and the other undergraduate member of the Committee on ROTC, said he agrees with the University’s steadfast anti-discrimination policy. But when considering its relationship with the military, he said it is essential that the University acknowledge other values held on campus as well — including the value of supporting those who serve. He added that establishing which values the University will uphold above others is difficult but vital.

“We should be able to have a sort of a standard process regarding which organizations and institutions we should be able to have a relationship with,” Harrison said, adding that it is “incredibly hypocritical” of the University to disallow student participation in ROTC on campus, but to simultaneously support it at other institutions.

Faculty members may have political reasons for opposing changing ROTC policy, too. According to Catherine Lutz, chair of the department of anthropology, the faculty’s explicit reasoning behind its 1969 recommendation to remove ROTC from campus had more to do with academic governance than moral ideology.

The faculty voted to “take back the right to faculty appointments and curricular credits from an outside agency … from the Department of Defense,” Lutz said — not to distance the University from an institution waging an unjust war in Vietnam. Similarly, faculty members likely entertained political considerations as well as ideological ones when the question of whether to revise ROTC policy was raised recently.

But regardless of their opinions on ROTC as an institution, students and faculty mostly voiced support for the nebulous on-campus office.

Bergeron said the new office will work toward “centralizing some services that are now delivered in a variety of different places” for student veterans. “There are academic support services that are already delivered, there are probably other kinds of services” that other officers are already offering for student veterans, she said.

Though Bergeron said there was not yet a plan for the space, she said one of its functions might be to facilitate student participation in ROTC at other institutions.

William Keach, professor of English, said  he dislikes the prospect of facilitating student involvement in other ROTC programs through the new office, because he does not “approve of ROTC on any college or university campuses,” he said. But he added that he approves of supporting student veterans, calling that “a different question.”

Most students and faculty — even those who are against having a battalion here at Brown — said they are behind the idea of a creating a ROTC office, either because they are not universally against ROTC or because they believe the University should institutionalize its support for student veterans.

But Joyrich said student interest in ROTC may not necessitate “a full office” for channeling prospective cadets to other programs. A lower-scale advising program might suffice, she said. Despite her views on the military and its record of discrimination, she said, “If there are students interested, I’m in favor of student choice.”

Howard said the new office will be “entirely necessary” if the University plans to support students’ interested in joining ROTC.

John Gayton ’12, an international relations concentrator, said he hopes the new office will “get the information out there on the military,” as well as direct interested students to appropriate ROTC programs. Students are currently poorly informed about military careers and opportunities, he said.

“Right now, there’s very little information” about the new office, Bergeron said. “I don’t know what it’s going to be called,” she added. “It shoul
d be some kind of space. We don’t know exactly where that would be. … But it may find itself in a place where we’re also supporting other kinds of student services.”

A previous graphic accompanying this article incorrectly showed the results of the Herald student poll. In fact, 81.5 percent of respondents indicated they did not want to join an on-campus ROTC program, and 5.7 percent indicated they are not familiar enough with the issue to answer. The Herald regrets the error.

 

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