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Editorial: Expanding ROTC options

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

We applaud the University for expanding ROTC options by forming two new partnerships that will let students participate in the Naval and Air Force Reserve Officers’ Training Corps next semester. Before this expansion, Brown students only had the option of participating in an Army ROTC partnership with Providence College, and Brown and Dartmouth were the only Ivy League schools to not give students an option for participating in Navy and Air Force ROTC programs .

By increasing the number and types of such programs available to students, Brown has found a way to honor its 1969 resolution to not have its own program while augmenting partnerships with other institutions. Hopefully, the two new partnerships will attract more ROTC students — there are currently only four. Joining ROTC programs is a great way for students who want enter the military to prepare for this career path without sacrificing a good college education.

This expansion is also beneficial for the student body as a whole. An increase in students interested in the ROTC would likely diversify the student body politically. Members of the United States military tend to be more conservative than average Americans. In a 2013 poll conducted by Military Times, approximately 41 percent of military personnel identified as “conservative” or “very conservative.” Furthermore, a 2009 survey of 4,000 Army officers found that between 1976 and 1996, the percentage of senior military officers identifying as Republican increased from one-third to two-thirds, while the percentage of those identifying as moderates decreased from 46 percent to 22 percent.

Therefore, students who enter ROTC programs could be more likely to hold conservative viewpoints than other students. There is no denying that Brown is a liberal campus: According to The Herald’s spring 2015 poll, 58.5 percent of students consider themselves somewhat to very liberal on fiscal issues, and 83.9 percent consider themselves liberal on social issues. While Brown’s progressive history is a point of pride for many students, increasing the number of students with more conservative leanings would only diversify the discourse on campus. Students would gain more opportunities to learn from each other’s differences.

Additionally, more students participating in ROTC programs would healthily challenge the way many Brown students think of the military. In left-leaning intellectual spaces like our campus, it is easy to conceptualize the military in theoretical terms. But outside of the bubble that encapsulates liberal institutions like Brown, the military is an important entity: 7.3 percent of all Americans have served in the military at some point in their lives. As Karen McNeil, program director of the Office of Student Veterans and Commissioning Programs at Brown, told The Herald, interaction with ROTC students could remind Brown students that people who choose to go into the military are just “normal people,” which would in turn help the ROTC students who already attend Brown feel less “singled out.”

Brown’s expansion of ROTC options is not a drastic move. The University is not bringing an ROTC program to campus — it is simply providing more opportunities for students who want to get involved. Hopefully, this will attract more military-minded students to pursue an education at Brown and create a more supportive environment for the few who already are.

Editorials are written by The Herald’s editorial page board: Emma Axelrod ’18, Eben Blake ’17 and Aranshi Kumar ’17. Send comments to

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  1. Thank you for your coverage of the expanded ROTC program. I’m very glad the Herald is behind us in offering these expanded opportunities to students.
    However, I did want to clarify something you mentioned about the political leanings of veterans and servicemembers. It’s a stereotype that all or most military servicemembers are Republicans/conservative, and not a very accurate one. The sources that you’ve used to substantiate this are somewhat flawed: a survey citing attitudes in 1996 is unlikely to be very relevant today, and the Military Times surveys are problematic for two reasons: 1) It’s a voluntary, self-selecting poll of their readership, and so not scientific; and 2) The readership of Military Times is disproportionately high-level officers; as officers get higher rank they are older (and much whiter) than the officers who are entering service today, and so likely are very different, politically.
    Also, it’s worth pointing out that even the Military Times numbers (of 41% identifying as conservative) is not significantly different than that of the general population (36%). So while it’s possible that servicemembers lean a bit more right than the general population, it’s not nearly as drastic as what is generally portrayed in the media. While they will definitely add diversity to the campus, the people who chose to serve their country in the military are, themselves, a very diverse group who (as anyone who knows the cadets and veterans we have on campus know) are all over the political spectrum.

    • How do you come to the conclusion that the Military Times is some kind of higher echelon newspaper read only by flag officers? What kind of business model would they be operating under which would target “high-level officers” (a rather small population)? It is sold at the PX/BX as aisle caps (and class VI stores) and is not an official DoD newspaper.

      • The demographics of Military Times survey respondents tend toward “white, older, and more senior in rank –that is, they were hardly a representative sampling of the armed services,” according to LTCOL Jason Dempsey in his book, “Our Army: Soldiers, Politics and American Civil-Military Relations.”

        But, this also makes sense to me from personal experience. Military Times *is* sold in all those places, and a lot of people may read it occasionally, but it’s really career personnel who subscribe to it or are engaged enough with the publication to bother responding to a survey. Personally, I was in the Navy for 8 years, and I only ever bought Navy Times when it published the new payrate and BAH levels. 🙂

        • I think that there may be a difference between Navy and Army Times. I was in the Army for 21 years and currently teach at an Army school as a GS civilian, and I’m looking at the Dec issue of Army Times. While I don’t know about survey participation, the majority of respondents to editorials are CPT and below (most are actually SFC or MSG). Most career officers I work(ed) treated the Army Times like Tea Party conservatives treat the NYT.

  2. "Separate but equal", eh? says:

    Only at Brown could forcing service-minded students to travel 40 miles from campus several days per week be seen as an improvement.

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