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University News

Committee on ROTC updates community

Senior Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Dean of the College Katherine Bergeron presented on behalf of the committee examining the University’s policy on the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps at yesterday’s Brown University Community Council meeting. Following her presentation, other representatives of the committee and various student groups discussed arguments for and against reinstating the program.

Bergeron presented an update on the committee’s activity since early last month, when it was established by President Ruth Simmons. So far, the committee has discussed possible pros and cons of reestablishing an ROTC program at the University. “We have been educating ourselves,” Bergeron said.

She noted that the University will not need to offer academic credit for ROTC classes. When the University initially eliminated the program in 1969, one of the main concerns was that ROTC classes could bypass the University accreditation process.

If the University were to reinstate ROTC, it would probably be a Navy-specific program, Bergeron said. The University would maintain its current exchange program with Providence College, which offers an Army-specific program.

The University’s ROTC committee, which consists of Bergeron, seven faculty members, two undergraduates, one graduate student and one staff member, is charged with four tasks. It aims to review the initial resolutions that removed ROTC, gauge student interest in the program, examine what would need to be done to reinstate it and determine what specific steps the University would have to take to change its ROTC policy.

The committee has discussed the possibility of reinstating ROTC with various student groups, including the Queer Alliance, Students for ROTC, the Coalition Against Special Privileges for ROTC and the Graduate Student Council. The committee will also present at tonight’s meeting of the Undergraduate Council of Students and at an April 13 faculty forum. UCS will host a lunch forum March 22 for students to discuss reinstating ROTC.

Bergeron also discussed her attendance at the Ivy Plus conference — a consortium of universities, including members of the Ivy League as well as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Chicago and Stanford — where deans from the universities discussed their respective plans to offer or not offer ROTC programs.

Of those universities, MIT, Cornell, Dartmouth, Princeton and Penn already offer ROTC programs. Harvard announced its intention to reinstate its ROTC program earlier this month, and Bergeron said it looks likely that Columbia, Yale and Stanford will do the same. If this were the case, Brown would be the only Ivy League university not to have a ROTC program on campus.

Bergeron also said she has been impressed with the “community engagement” in the University’s ROTC discussion. Students can access information from the committee on ROTC on a campus-wide website using a tab on their Brown Gmail accounts.

Gabriel Schwartz ’13, co-director of the Queer Political Action Committee, spoke after Bergeron’s presentation, calling the idea of reinstating ROTC “potentially very problematic.”

Students are “insured protection by Brown’s anti-discrimination policy,” Schwartz said. He specifically cited military discrimination against transgenders as a reason to oppose bringing ROTC to the University.

But Martin Bell ‘11.5, who was discharged from the military under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” recommended reinstating ROTC, though he questioned if there would be enough student interest in the program. “The leadership training they do offer you is relevant across the board,” he said.

Students can currently participate in Officer Candidate School, a program that tracks students to join the Marines. But Bell said participation in ROTC has advantages over Officer Candidate School, like increasing opportunities to get advanced officer positions.

Students from the Coalition Against Special Privileges for ROTC also spoke at the meeting, critiquing military discrimination against transgenders and potential lack of academic merit to ROTC classes.

Several arguments have been presented to the committee on ROTC in favor of reinstating the program, said Ken Miller ’70 P’02, professor of biology and a member of the committee. Specifically, ROTC creates an opportunity for students to pursue a military career, and prospective students might not consider Brown because of the lack of an ROTC program on campus, especially if more peer institutions reinstate the program. Some argue the University risks “insulating itself” from military realities in America if there is no ROTC program, Miller said. He called attention to the financial scholarship associated with the program and the potential benefit the military could derive from Brown students’ involvement.

The ROTC scholarship is not a “moot point” even in the context of need-blind admissions, Miller said. Such scholarships could give the Office of Financial Aid more flexibility.

Bergeron will present an updated report at the April 26 BUCC meeting. The faculty is also scheduled to address the question of reinstating ROTC at its May 3 meeting, she said.

The meeting also included a presentation on LGBTQ resources at the University. Students from the Queer Alliance spoke about trying to increase transgender resources, including trying to partner with the admissions office in reaching out to prospective and admitted LGBTQ students. 

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