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ROTC's Continued Exile Disgraceful

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ROTC's Continued Exile Disgraceful

by Jake Suyderhoud
Deputy Editor

Over the past forty years there has been a metamorphosis in how the people of the United States have viewed the military. From the days of flag burnings and accusations of soldiers as murderers, America ’s bumpers now read the slogan, “Support our Troops.” Through it all, our troops have done their job, sometimes dying, to protect the right for us to have both of these views and all those in between. Many now recognize the dedication and sacrifices of America ’s sailors, soldiers, marines, airmen, and officers. How- ever, in the anti-military fervor that the Vietnam War created, Stanford eradicated its ROTC program. Now, thirty-two years since the last cadets and midshipmen took military science courses at Stanford, the University still denies the presence of ROTC, forcing those who want to serve their nation by way of the military to commute to UC Berkeley (Navy and Marines), Santa Clara University (Army), or San Jose State (Air Force).

In February of 1969 the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) at Stanford was dealt a lethal blow. Stanford’s Faculty Senate, armed with its own anti-war agenda and a dissatisfaction with the program, outmaneuvered and outflanked the Department of Defense’s efforts to maintain a sys- tem of commissioning officers in the United States Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Army on the Stanford campus. In doing so, the Faculty Senate ended a tradition dating back to 1919 of developing leaders to defend the United States and our allies, a program that commissioned officers who fought under the flag in conflicts from World War II to Vietnam .

Despite a student referendum that favored ROTC, an assistant professor of English, Anne Kostelanetz, and a professor of Philosophy, Joseph Snead, took it upon themselves to sponsor an examination of the ROTC program. Coming out of the assessment, the majority of the committee (consisting of four professors, three graduate students, one undergraduate, and a university vice provost) found that all ROTC departments, are “by their nature incompatible with the university’s primary commitment to unrestricted creation and dissemination of knowl­edge.” However, in forcing the pro­gram off campus, the committee recog­nized that they were limiting academic freedom. Kostelanetz argued that this was justified because no campus offers every topic of study: “You can’t study agriculture and hotel management at Stanford because we don’t offer those courses.”

The question to reinstate the ROTC program on the Stanford Campus is one that has been raised often since the anti-war, anti-soldier movement that led to its removal passed. However, new rea­sons on why to keep it off campus are found with every attempt. Now, how­ever, it is not a student organization that forces the issue back to Stanford, but the United States Supreme Court. The high court will soon decide if the controversial Solomon Amendment, which says that ROTC and military recruiter rights of access can be tied to types of federal funding, is constitu­tional. If the court finds the law, for which the House passed a nonbinding resolution on a 327-84 vote expressing support for earlier this year, Stanford and many other academic institutions could lose out.

Today, the one of the two most com­monly voiced concerns over the rein­statement of the ROTC program stems from the opposition to the “Don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t pursue” policy that President Clinton created. However, one must remember that this is federal law and out of the military’s immediate jurisdiction. The policy was created to prevent discrimination in the close quarters of military life, and while not perfect, is meant to provide for the well-being of the homosexual soldier.

The other commonly voiced concern is the academic rigor of the ROTC classes themselves. However, it is hard for Stanford ROTC students to see their extra-units (which come from classes in things from leadership to engineering), accepted by the schools of their peers in their units, turned down by Stanford, which claims they aren’t academically rigorous enough, as students gain units for posture classes here instead.

The question remains why ROTC is really still segregated off the Stanford campus. ROTC would provide Stan­ford with only more academic diver­sity and would provide anyone who wanted a view of the military with the ability to take ROTC classes. Stanford should seek to produce leaders in all sectors of society, and should not leave out the military. In the chang­ing world when cultural awareness and effective decision making needs to be available to increasingly lower ranking officers and soldiers, Stanford should facilitate the way for future military officers to be among the best and the brightest, ensuring that the military is in the best hands it could be. The ques­tion remains: has Stanford yet joined the call that many others have started? Does Stanford “Support our Troops”?


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