Faculty Senate Opens Door for ROTC’s Return

Stanford’s Faculty Senate recently launched a committee to investigate the possible return of Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC).  ROTC prepares college students for commissioning in the armed forces as officers upon graduation.

At a recent March 4 Faculty Senate meeting, Professors William Perry and David Kennedy presented a report that, according to Senate Chair Andrea Goldsmith, was “meant to start a discussion on how Stanford can best contribute to educating students who choose to prepare for a leadership career in the military.”

Both Kennedy and Perry endorsed the return of ROTC contingent upon on the repeal of the military’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) policy. Perry and President Hennessy decided several years ago that DADT must be overturned before Stanford addresses ROTC again.

The Hill reports that on March 3, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and five colleagues introduced a bill calling for the repeal of DADT. The bill also calls for a report on institutions of higher learning, insinuating that the Secretary of Defense could take action to deny funding to institutions who still, after the repeal of DADT, prohibit ROTC on their campuses.

With Lieberman’s bill in Congress, Perry and Kennedy believed it was time to ask whether or not ROTC should return to campus.

Professor Kennedy, a professor emeritus of history, researched the history of ROTC’s departure from campus in the 1960’s and presented two reasons for its exit.  First, Stanford faculty were concerned about ROTC courses counting toward graduation credits, especially because they were taught by military personnel, rather than Stanford faculty. Second, faculty members disliked the punitive clauses that immediately conscripted students who withdrew from the ROTC program before completion.

The military was willing to compromise on the academic concerns in the 1970’s, so Kennedy assumes a similar compromise can be worked out today. The punitive clauses no longer exist.

Kennedy argued that the current university policy, which requires ROTC students to travel to Berkeley, Santa Clara, or San Jose for training, “imposes an unreasonable burden on them.”

Also of concern to him was evidence of an emerging military caste. He mentioned many armed forces personnel who call the military “the family business.”

Kennedy added, “A bigger presence of ROTC will have implications for Stanford’s financial aid budget.” The Department of Defense provides scholarships and stipends to all ROTC students.

“I think we are in danger of seriously compromising a 200-year-old tradition in this society of the citizen soldier,” he 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….”

Perry took a similar approach, but shared several anecdotes about military and ROTC students. He says he wouldn’t have attended Stanford in the 1950’s if it didn’t have an ROTC program.

When Perry’s grandson, a marine, entered Perry’s classroom, he was greeted by applause from all of the students.

“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,” he concluded.

The formation of the committee drew overwhelming faculty support. Only one senator, Professor Cecilia Ridgeway, voted in opposition to its formation and two abstained.  Prof. Ridgeway declined comment on the issue.

Ridgeway, however, did comment on the return of ROTC to campus in the December 5, 2002 issue of the *Reading Eagle *(Reading, Pa.): “I understand that there are times when society wants militaristic approaches to problems. I don’t think it’s the place of first-rate universities to feed those desires. Universities are about solving problems through discussion, not military approaches.”

International Relations Professor Stephen Krasner is a strong supporter of the return of ROTC. “I think it’s disgraceful that we’re forcing our students to go to Berkeley or Santa Clara, [or] San Jose,” he stated.

While Krasner finds DADT to be a “wrong” and “unfortunate” policy, he thinks that one needs to “weigh it against other considerations.” He stated, “The University has a responsibility to maximize the opportunities available to students that are consistent with the University’s fundamental educational mission.”

Krasner believes it is the student’s right to have ROTC on campus whether or not DADT exists.  Krasner warned about being presumptuous over Stanford’s influence on the military, saying that Stanford alone isn’t “going to transform the military…I don’t think the military needs to be transformed.”

A policy change at Stanford will have the greatest impact on students participating in ROTC. One of those students, Oliver Ennis, calls ROTC “the finest leadership course a university can provide.”

Ennis argues that with no presence on campus, ROTC has no visibility with the student body. This means some students won’t know about the program. Others will opt against participation due to the inconveniences.

“Stanford is committed to both developing leaders in all areas of society and to serving the nation; ROTC provides students the training and opportunity to do both,” stated Ennis.

The new Faculty Senate committee will explore the various issues related to the return of ROTC, including the academic credit and professorial rank issues.

Despite a long-standing division between university faculty and the presence of the military on campus, the faculty senate seemed to be eager to readdress the issue. Krasner stated, “I hope it’s something that the faculty will take seriously.”

Subscribe to the Stanford Review