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University News

Twenty-four apply to ROTC committee

Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Twenty-four undergraduates have applied for the two student seats on the University committee formed to consider the return of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps to campus. According to Diane Mokoro ’11, president of the Undergraduate Council of Students, the two undergraduate committee members will be chosen by Friday morning.

While all the details of the process by which the committee will reach its recommendation have yet to be announced, undergraduate committee members can expect to attend 10 90-minute meetings, Mokoro wrote in an e-mail to the student body announcing the application process.

The committee was announced in the wake of Congress’ vote to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the policy under which gays could only serve in the military if they did not reveal their sexual orientation.

Since the vote, Brown and other Ivy League schools have announced intentions to reconsider their bans on campus chapters of ROTC.

In early January, the University announced plans for the formation of a committee to consider its response to the policy’s repeal. Dean of the College Katherine Bergeron will lead the committee, which will submit recommendations to the faculty and administration on future ROTC and military recruitment on campus.  

Brown, along with many other universities, banned ROTC in the 1970s in the midst of anti-Vietnam War protests and allegations that ROTC students were not held to the same high academic standards as others. Since then, the 1993 passage of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has resulted in resistance to re-implementing ROTC on many campuses.

According to a University statement, the original decision to end Air Force and Naval ROTC in 1971 and 1972, respectively, stemmed from academic concerns, such as whether the program should have its own department and whether or not its courses should carry academic credit.

“It will be an open and rigorous process in line with Brown’s academic goals and policies, as well as its responsibility to serve the nation’s needs for outstanding leadership,” the statement said.

Many other schools, including Harvard, are considering allowing the program to return.

“The repeal of (“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”) is a historic step,” wrote Harvard President Drew Faust in a statement. “I look forward to pursuing discussions with military officials and others to achieve Harvard’s full and formal recognition of ROTC.”

But obstacles to the reintroduction of ROTC still exist on many campuses. At some schools, it is not clear whether there is strong enough interest on the part of students, faculty or the military to justify ROTC’s return.

Currently, Brown students may participate in ROTC training through a unit at Providence College. As of last Spring, only one student — Joy Joung ’11 — was participating in the program, according to an Apr. 29 article in The Herald.

But Lynn Della Grotta ’13, who is currently spearheading efforts to bring ROTC back to Brown through a group called Students for ROTC, wrote in an e-mail to The Herald that it was never fair to hold the military responsible for a policy imposed by civilian elected representatives, noting that the armed services take their orders from Congress, which originally passed the policy.

“The absence of ROTC may have been a reflection of students’ sentiments in the sixties and seventies, but now I believe Brown students, along with the entire nation, are aware of and thankful for the sacrifice these courageous men and women in uniform make in order to keep our country safe,” she wrote. “Therefore, it only seems right to have in this decade the return of ROTC, in order to reflect students’ sentiments today.”

“Having a greater presence of Brown students in leadership positions in the military would allow for input into how the military would evolve in the future,” she added.

Abbott Gleason, professor emeritus of history and slavic studies, began teaching at Brown in the fall of 1968, shortly before ROTC was banned on campus.

He said that the program was wildly unpopular at the time due to student attitudes about U.S. foreign military involvements.

“At almost all of what you would call liberal colleges in the United States,” he said, “attitudes flung wildly against ROTC because of the Vietnam War.”

— With additional reporting by Nicole Boucher

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