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Cook '13: How is ROTC dangerous?

After reading the recent column by Julian Park '12 ("ROTC expansion threatens the integrity of our community," Sept. 19) I was baffled as to the specific point for which he was trying to argue. Park assumes from the start that the Reserve Officers' Training Corps is harmful to Brown, and by the end of his article all he has done is repeated his premise and included several inflammatory arguments that do not back up his conclusion.

Let's start with Park's first sentence. "The Brown Committee on ROTC's recommendation that the University seek an expanded relationship with the U.S. military must be seen for what it really is: a recommendation to fundamentally jeopardize the openness and safety of the Brown community." Park attempts to support his argument that this action affects the openness of Brown, but never elaborates on his claim that safety will be "fundamentally jeopardized." I am curious as to how this recommendation compromises the safety of students at Brown. Does Park imagine that ROTC cadets will suddenly start carrying weapons on campus and engage in the occasional shootout?

But why speculate when we can actually answer the question, "How dangerous is a ROTC cadet to his fellow student?" According to the U.S. Department of Education, from 2006 to 2009 there were 86 murders at four-year universities in the United States. Unfortunately, this is too many for me to research, but I took a look at all the murders where more than one person was killed. And presumably that is what Park is worried about: mass shootings. I discovered that there was a ROTC student involved in the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, one of the deadliest shootings in U.S. history. Air Force ROTC cadet Matthew La Porte died trying to stop the shooter, Seung-Hui Cho. Clearly, the ROTC program "fundamentally jeopardized" the safety of Virginia Tech.

Park informs us that Naval ROTC scholarships would require students to take certain courses. To my knowledge, this is correct. But Park goes on to claim that these requirements undermine the Open Curriculum, and, as with many of his claims, this one is also unsupported. It is up to each student to choose to participate in ROTC. How does this choice, freely made, close off the curriculum? As any premed student will tell you, they have to take certain courses such as English, physics and organic chemistry no matter what their concentration may be. Should we be outraged by this as well?

Also, the last I checked, Brown concentrations have requirements too. The Open Curriculum is about giving you choice. You cannot escape requirements. Many others do not consider their concentration requirements to be a burden, but instead a wonderful opportunity, freely chosen.

Park also states that these ROTC scholarships would be preferentially granted to students with technical concentrations such as math, engineering and the sciences. Park does not actually expand upon this comment, but its inclusion leads me to believe that he is critical of this practice. Like many of Park's opinions, I am confused as to the basis of his criticism. Aren't most scholarships given to some subset of students who possess a desired quality or trait? The National Merit Scholarship Program gives scholarships to those who score high on the PSATs, the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers gives scholarships to gifted writers and the NAACP gives scholarships to promising black students. Each of these programs is targeted at a specific group, so why should ROTC not target their scholarships?

Last but not least, let's look at Park's byline. "Julian Park '12 also opposed ROTC on the grounds that it promotes overt militarism" — OK, fine — "in an already too covertly militarized university." Brown University is covertly militarized? If so, then it is pretty damn covert. Maybe the CIA could learn a few lessons. But seriously, look at almost any other university in the U.S., and I am sure that you will find a student body that is more supportive of the U.S. military. Right now, Brown has only a few ROTC participants, compared to 22 at Princeton and 76 at Cornell last year. But maybe just one is too much for Park.


Adam Cook '13 is currently barricading his room against the insurgent Brown militia and can be contacted at



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