YAF ColumbiaBy Jiesi Zhao

For nine long months, Stanford has barely made any headway on figuring out whether ROTC has a place on campus – until this week. Maybe. 

In a referendum vote, as part of this year’s student government elections, Stanford undergrads expressed their support of establishing ROTC back on campus. However, when we break down the votes, it becomes clear that administrators could potentially interpret the results in various ways.  

Specifically, students were asked to select from the following options (I have also included the percentage and number of students who voted for each option):

  • I support the return of ROTC to Stanford University – 44.1 percent (2406 votes)
  • I oppose the return of ROTC to Stanford University – 17 percent (929)
  • I choose to abstain – 38.8 percent (2117)

Meanwhile, Brown University has also come out with voting results on the return of ROTC this week, and the numbers are similar to Stanford’s. In particular, it is clear that the number of students at Brown who disapprove of ROTC’s return are in the minority, with only 9.7% who strongly disapprove and 14% who somewhat disapprove. Moreover, around 43% of students support the return of ROTC’s presence on campus and the remaining 33% were “not familiar enough with the issue” or had “no opinion”. 

While the good news is that clearly the number of students who are adamantly against the return of ROTC are in the minority, I have to wonder what choices like “I choose to abstain” really means; and more importantly, how administrators are going to treat the abstain and “not familiar enough with the issue” positions as they continue to weigh the arguments on both sides.

I hope that administrators take the votes at face value and recognize that the large majority of students want ROTC on campus. The fact is, in both cases, the votes pan out in favor of the reinstitution.

Jiesi Zhao is a Sarah T. Hermann Intern Scholar at Young America’s Foundation

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