Faculty Senate Launches ROTC Exploration

At the Faculty Senate meeting on March 4th, Professors William Perry and David Kennedy presented a report on the merits of bringing Reserve Officers Training Corp (ROTC) back to Stanford. According to Senate Chair Dr. Andrea Goldsmith:

This report is meant to start a discussion about how Stanford can best contribute to educating students who choose to prepare for a leadership career in the military, including potential relations with ROTC.

Professor Kennedy conducted research on the history of ROTC’s departure from campus in the 1960s. He outlined two reasons for its departure. First, faculty was concerned about ROTC courses counting toward graduation credits. Secondly, they were concerned about punitive clauses that immediately conscripted students if they departed from ROTC before program completion.  The President of Stanford in 1970 bargained with the military and found that they were willing to concede everything except the punitive clause, which was up to the U.S. congress. The faculty initially accepted these terms but then five months later changed its decision after the US invaded Cambodia.

Kennedy believes “it’s time to revisit the question of ROTC relationships with Stanford,” but only on the assumption that the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy “will go away within the next year or two.” He noted that the academic concerns can be dealt with, that the punitive clauses are no longer in existence, and that the current policy of sending students to Berkely or San Jose State to participate in ROTC is very inconvenient for them as reasons for reevaluating Stanford’s position on ROTC. Kennedy also felt that “we are in danger of seriously compromising the 200 year old tradition in this society of the citizen soldier.”

Further concerning Kennedy is the quantifiable evidence of an emerging military caste. Many military personnel with whom he has spoken call the military a “family business.” He also thought that ROTC would impact Stanford’s financial aid budget positively, as the military would pay for the education of ROTC participants. Kennedy stated, “Our present policy makes it close to impossible for Stanford to contribute in any material way to training leaders for a very important institution in our society…”

Professor Perry told his personal story about attending Stanford and joining the ROTC program. If Stanford had not had ROTC, he would not have attended. Among other stories, Perry gave an anecdote about his grandson’s service and the applause his grandson received upon appearing in Professor Perry’s classroom in uniform. According to him, these stories, “inspire me to believe that ROTC should be back at Stanford.”

But Perry and President Hennessy both decided early last decade that an initiative to explore bringing ROTC back to campus shouldn’t be undertaken until the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy is overturned. Perry concluded by saying:

it’s clearly best for our democracy to have among its military officers citizens who have been through a liberal education at the best universities in the country, including Stanford University.

Before voting to initiate an exploratory committee, the floor was opened for discussion. Senator Krasner expressed concern that the reevaluation of ROTC would be held hostage to the overturning of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Senator Drell stated, “For the foreseeable future, the United States will need a military and we want that to be as educated and as enlightened as possible.”

The motion for senate action read:

The senate hereby moves to perform an ad-hoc committee to investigate Stanford’s role in preparing students for leadership in the military including potential relations with ROTC. The committee should explore the logistical, financial and pedagogical implications of any such relationship with Stanford and its wider mission and report back to the senate detailing the range of options the university might pursue and the consequences that can be expected.

All senators except for Professor Cecilia Ridgeway voted in approval of the senate action.

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