In light of fluctuations in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps and student veteran enrollment numbers in recent years, University administrators said they are looking for new ways to increase the visibility of opportunities to serve for current and prospective students.
The Office of Student Veterans and Commissioning Programs plays the primary role in this advocacy. The office, established in spring 2012 at the Corporation’s instruction, focuses on supporting students who are involved or would like to become involved with the military. The office is also charged with facilitating student participation in ROTC at other schools in Rhode Island.
The University originally banned Navy and Air Force ROTC on campus in 1972 during the Vietnam War. Since then, there have been several unsuccessful attempts to revive the program. Most recently, after a push by a group of students to reinstate ROTC, former President Ruth Simmons recommended in October 2011 that the University maintain its ROTC ban on campus. Students are able to participate in nearby ROTC programs through cross-institutional partnerships. Army ROTC is available at Providence College and Bryant University, and the closest Navy and Air Force ROTC programs are in the Boston area.
Though there are currently no Brown students participating in Navy and Air Force ROTC, the number of students enrolled in Army ROTC has ranged from one to eight in the past few years, according to ROTC records. Six student veterans currently attend the University.
Former Herald senior staff writer Izzy Rattner ’15, a student coordinator for the office’s commissioning programs and a current Army ROTC participant, completes a rigorous schedule that includes weekly classes at either Bryant or Providence College that cover topics such as land navigation, leadership and platoon movements. While at Bryant, Rattner and his peers practice platoon movements in the woods. Rattner said his participation in ROTC has given him a sense of focus in his life goals, as he plans to serve in the military after graduation.
Major Tucker Shosh, a leader of the Providence College Patriot Battalion and an assistant professor of military science, said ROTC’s participants benefit from its “holistic approach to the individual.”
Students gain valuable characteristics like leadership and discipline through the program, Shosh said, also adding that the Providence College program has a “great relationship with Brown.”
Ricky Gresh, senior director for student engagement at Brown, partly attributed the recent difficulty in recruiting to reductions in military funding nationwide as two wars draw to a close.
He said the office is working to expand visibility and availability of information about student participation in ROTC programs. ROTC members and leaders appear at the activities fair, the resource fair, A Day on College Hill and several other school-wide events to distribute information about the program.
Gresh added that students should have an opportunity to learn about ROTC options before deciding if they would like to participate. By evaluating their opportunities and choosing their own paths, Gresh said, students are following the “Brown philosophy.”
While a large portion of its mission is dedicated to working with students in ROTC, the new office also devotes its efforts to supporting students who served in the U.S. military before coming to Brown. Personnel in the office provide “advice, advocacy and support” to student veterans, Gresh said.
David Salsone ‘12.5, president of the Student Veterans Society, said that though the number of student veterans attending the University has risen significantly in recent years, he is still not satisfied with the number of veterans on campus.
“Our numbers have almost doubled since last year when we only had about four vets,” Salsone said. “But our current number is still nominal compared to the total student population.”
Ideally, Brown’s enrollment of veterans would be proportional to the number of veterans in the entire country, Salsone said.
Salsone said he hopes for increased efforts by the administration to recruit veterans to Brown. Gestures such as sending informational packets, as well as personal, handwritten letters, to prospective student veterans could have a remarkable impact on the number of veterans applying to Brown, Salsone said.
Though Salsone does not expect any dramatic changes in veteran enrollment in the near future, he said he believes everyone could benefit if the campus further embraced military culture.
“The military trains its men and women to excel and succeed,” he said. “This frame of mind can apply to all Brown students.”
Correction appended: An earlier version of the article incorrectly stated that veterans make up 0.75 percent of the United States population. In fact, 0.75 percent of the population is currently serving in the military, according to the 2010 census. The article also did not distinguish between Army, Navy and Air Force Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. Navy and Air Force ROTC were banned from campus during the Vietnam War, but Army ROTC never existed on Brown’s campus. The Herald regrets the errors.