Three months ago, Young America’s Foundation’s team of researchers found that most of our country’s top 25 schools disallow ROTC on campus because of the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) policy that was put in place by the Clinton administration. And since the repeal of DADT earlier this year, several of these schools have found new excuses to disallow cadets on campus (Princeton and Columbia), and still others claim that they are weighing the pros and cons of bringing ROTC back to campus (Stanford).
Last Thursday, Harvard University announced that it will reinstate Navy ROTC back onto campus (currently, Harvard students participate in ROTC at MIT) where students will receive credit for ROTC classes as well as training on site at the University. “Our renewed relationship affirms the vital role that the members of our Armed Forces play in serving the nation and securing our freedoms, while also affirming inclusion and opportunity as powerful American ideals,” says University President, Drew Faust. “It broadens the pathways for students to participate in an honorable and admirable calling and in so doing advances our commitment to both learning and service.”
However, I can’t help but wonder why it took decades to welcome back ROTC? ROTC was first banned because of anti-military sentiments during the Vietnam War, yet Harvard eventually changed their excuse because of the federal government's DADT policy to keep students from participating. Harvard banned students from participating in ROTC on campus even though these students had no control over the federal government's policies.
Moreover, as Young America’s Foundation has argued, there are dozens of different student organizations and clubs on campus that practice exclusion in one way or another. And yet, there was never a ban (or even a discussion about a ban) on any of them. For example, there are several race-based groups like the Asian American Student Association, which only allows for students of Asian decent to join. Fraternities and sororities only allow students who are of a certain sex to join, or the fact that Harvard offers race and gender-based scholarships. No one seems to have an issue with any of these organizations and programs on campus even though they clearly discriminate based on characteristics like race and “gender identity”.
It is pretty clear that the only organization that some students and faculty seemed to have an issue with, on the grounds of “discrimination”, was ROTC. Students wishing to serve their country through ROTC were the real victims of discrimination on campus. Since ROTC was shunned (along with military recruitment on campus), Harvard's ROTC cadets were forced to travel to MIT for training. Harvard has certainly taken a step in the right direction with their latest decision of reinstitution, but let’s not completely pardon their years of banning ROTC so soon.