ROTC at BerkeleyBy Sarah T. Hermann Intern Scholar Jiesi Zhao

In the aftermath of the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT), many elite schools are revisiting the idea of having ROTC brought back to their campuses. One of those schools, Stanford University, has decided to take a “comprehensive” approach to deciding whether or not ROTC has a place in the school’s community. Specifically, the school’s Ad Hoc Committee on ROTC has been researching and discussing the ROTC question for the past six months, and they do not intend to present a report to the Faculty Senate until at least May of this year. Apparently, they have been learning up on the history of ROTC at the school, reviewing why it was banned in the 1970s (Vietnam War brought about anti-military sentiments), and reading letters from students and faculty members of both sides of the debate.

One of the objections to reinstituting ROTC that the Committee is seriously considering is that transgendered people are still excluded from service. Stating that he was “struck by the depth of intellectualism” in the letters received from students and faculty voicing their concerns, a professor of psychology on the Committee noted that they are still in its “information-gathering stage of its investigation” six months in.  

Well, it is your lucky day, Stanford, because I’m here to give you a very simple solution to this “complicated” problem. There is no reason why students who wish to participate in ROTC should not be allowed to on campus. There are dozens of different student organizations and clubs on campus – some that are considered offensive or practice exclusion in one way or another to someone on campus, and yet, there’s no 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 that only allow students who are of a certain sex to join, or the fact that Stanford 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 seem to have an issue with, on the grounds of “discrimination”, is ROTC.

Moreover, even one of the most “gender-aware” campuses in the country, UC Berkeley, understands this idea. In fact, Chancellor Robert J. Birgeneau of UC Berkeley, who is not shy about publicly advocating his leftist agenda, has always been a staunch supporter of the ROTC program at Berkeley, which boasts all branches of the military on campus. Even when the City of Berkeley decided to ban Marine recruiting in 2008, he maintained that the University was separate from the City and was proud to have men and women of service on campus.

In a letter to Congressman John Campbell, Chancellor Birgeneau wrote:

            “The Berkeley campus has a long standing ROTC program, dating back to 1870 [two years after it was founded], of which we are very proud. All branches of the Armed Forces, including the Marines, are welcome to recruit on the Berkeley campus and I have defended vigorously our policy when various groups have objected to it. The Berkeley campus also offers financial aid and other preferences to veterans and the dependents of soldiers deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan… I join the chorus of voices who find [the resolutions to ban Marine recruitment from the City] ill advised, intemperate, and hurtful, particularly to the young men and women and their families who are sacrificing so much for our country.” (Letter to Congressman Campbell, dated February 8, 2008)

Furthermore, as a graduate of Berkeley, I can attest to the civility and acceptance, as a whole, of the existence of ROTC on campus by the student body (one that is at least just as leftist and aware of transgender and other under-represented groups as the student body is at Stanford) – which further indicates that the so-called concern that Stanford’s administrators have for students and faculty who oppose ROTC’s return to campus is unfounded.

A sharp contrast to Stanford’s current Committee activities of indecisiveness and cowardly giving in to excuse after excuse, under the guise of “research and information-gathering”, Berkeley has never waivered in supporting the simple belief that its students should have the right to participate in safe and lawful activities on campus and that this certainly includes participating in ROTC.

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