ROTC Debate: In Their Own Words

Over the past year, the debate surrounding the Reserve Officer Training Corps’s (ROTC) potential reinstatement on Stanford’s campus has evolved significantly.

Though the vigor of the debate has increased in recent months, the story of ROTC’s rough relationship with Stanford is older than just our generation. In the midst of the Vietnam war, the Stanford’s Faculty Senate voted to bar ROTC from campus in 1970.

Leading up to the program’s ejection from campus, in 1969 a Faculty Senate Ad Hoc Committee on ROTC explored the role of ROTC on Campus.

In 1993, President Clinton signed an Executive Order that initiated the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy (DADT). The measure allowed homosexuals and bisexuals to serve in the military with the guarantee that superiors would not ask about or investigate into an individual’s sexuality so long as the individual did not disclose his or her sexuality.

In the debate surrounding DADT, ROTC’s potential return to Stanford and other college campuses became a source of leverage for those who opposed the policy and argued that it was discriminatory because homosexuals and bisexuals could serve in the military but could not be open about their sexuality.

DADT’s existence clearly became a political issue when the university began signaling that ROTC’s possible return could not be considered if DADT remained in place.

While campaigning for the Presidency, Barack Obama advocated for the repeal of DADT. On December 22, 2010, President Obama signed into law the repeal of DADT.

Following DADT’s repeal, the debate at Stanford took a turn as it suddenly considered transgendered individuals and how ROTC factored into their relationship with the military.

Below you will find the words of active members of the debate surrounding ROTC over the years.

Stanford and ROTC in 1969

**“**The conclusion of the Majority, after weighing the evidence, is that as a formal, on-campus program, sponsored, sanctioned, and partially supported by Stanford University, the ROTC program is not compatible with the University.” – Ad Hoc Senate Committee on ROTC, Majority (1969)

“While it is possible to conceive that under certain circumstances the the presence of ROTC could be inimical to Stanford, we do not find that presence, in actuality, to be a threat to the integrity of the University.” – Ad Hoc Senate Committee on ROTC, Minority (1969)

The Vietnam Factor

**“**The Majority also consciously sought to exclude personal feelings about the war in Vietnam from its deliberations.” – Ad Hoc Senate Committee on ROTC, Majority (1969)

“We believe that much of the current anxiety about and opposition to ROTC is rooted in the profound disagreements with the conduct of our policy in Southeast Asia and our involvement in the Vietnam War.” – Ad Hoc Senate Committee on ROTC, Minority (1969)

“In 1968 and ’69, there was a complete metamorphosis in the way ROTC was viewed….In 1966, the Armed Services were given time during orientation to pitch the merits of ROTC. Two years later, antiwar protesters burned down the Navy ROTC building, and we were being physically attacked on campus.” – Barry Hennings ’70, MBA ’72; ROTC cadet from 1966 to 1970 (2002)

Academic Rigor

…the Committee heard public testimony that ROTC courses were of very high calibre. We do not wish to contest this, though members of the Committee have also heard informally and confidentially that the contrary is also sometimes the case.” – Ad Hoc Senate Committee on ROTC, Majority (1969)

“…The minority members are firmly convinced that a number of important improvements should and can be made in ROTC to meet the legitimate criticisms of its present form and to place ROTC in an appropriate relationship to the academic structure of the University.” – Ad Hoc Senate Committee on ROTC, Minority (1969)

“Basically the curriculum [in 1969] was awful….It was on the level of mediocre coursework in high school. The readings were sophomoric. The ROTC faculty were not PhDs. I think it was the case that some [opponents to ROTC] had deeper political purposes, but everybody could agree that it was an intellectual embarrassment.” – Prof. Barton Bernstein, Stanford Magazine (2002)

Freedom of Thought

[I have] every reason to believe, without any additional proof, that students in ROTC are not politically free to criticize their program or U.S. policy,” – Prof. Baron Bernstein, The Stanford Daily (2003)

“I don’t really feel constrained at all . . . [The ROTC is] not saying you must hold certain beliefs about the state of the world or politics.” – Rory Berry ’03, Battalion Commanding Officer for the Navy ROTC, The Stanford Daily (2003)

“You really see a diverse group of students choosing to do ROTC, and the program doesn’t really mold people into a certain type.” – Ann Thompson ’11, Current ROTC Cadet, Battalion Commander, , The Stanford Review (March 2011)

Educating Military Leaders

**“**The presence of ROTC as an academic program offends some members of the faculty and of the student body who hold that there should be no pre-professional educational programs, at least at the undergraduate level….But in our investigations and inquiries, we have found that there are several other pre-professional academic programs with an accepted place in the Stanford scene.” – Ad Hoc Senate Committee on ROTC, Minority (1969)

“For the foreseeable future, this nation will require armed forces of considerable size, and will require substantial numbers of well-educated an well-trained officers to lead them. The ROTC programs have been for many years the principal means for providing such officers for the permanent forces of for reserve components.” – Ad Hoc Senate Committee on ROTC, Minority (1969)

“Cadets take on more leadership roles in the cadet corps as they get older and demonstrate a high level of motivation and ability….These roles add more time. I have spent at least 20 to 25 hours a week, if not more, on ROTC with some of my leadership positions.” – Melissa Corley ’03, Cadet Wing Commander, Air Force, *The Stanford Daily *(2003)

“A good many of our officers got their education at our military academies, but most of them got their education at ROTC.” – Former Secretary of Defense, Prof. William Perry, Faculty Senate Meeting (March 2010)

“Given the complexities of the threats we face and the missions we demand of our military in the twenty-first century, this is an appropriate and necessary time for the Faculty Senate to restore ROTC to Stanford’s campus. We can think of no better way to prepare future servicemen and women — many of whom will become national leaders — than by enriching them with a Stanford education.” – Former Secretaries of State Condoleezza Rice and George Shultz (February 2011)

“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

**“**As a gay man, it pains me greatly to be prohibited from openly serving my country. However, I do not believe that restricting other prospective soldiers’ pursuit of military careers is in anyway warranted, and it does not help the situation. Complaints and grievances with the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy should be addressed to Congress, since only the country’s legislators have the ability to change the policy.” – Yishai Kabaker ’10, The Stanford Review (2007)

“The premise that underlies our bringing this question to the Senate is the assumption that the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Policy’, which has been a serious impediment to reopening this discussion at all, will probably go away within the next year or two, and the field will be open to have a reasonable discussion.” – Professor David Kennedy, Faculty Senate (March 2010)

“If we go forward with this [ROTC], I would urge the committee to not make it hostage to what happens to ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’” – Professor Stephen Krasner, Faculty Senate (March 2010)

“A few months ago, President Obama announced he was going to work to eliminate [the DADT] policy [and allow] gays to serve in the military. I don’t doubt he’s going to have problems making this happen, but he seems determined, and I’m determined to help him if I can.” – Former Secretary of Defense, Prof. William Perry, Faculty Senate (March 2010)

Being Students Too

**“**For those of you [cadets without ROTC on your campus, participation] can require long commutes several times a week to another campus that does offer ROTC, so you can attend a military class, participate in a drill. Most of all, it means living a split existence – where your life as a cadet or midshipmen is invisible to most of your fellow students.” – President George W. Bush (2007)

“Your typical Stanford student does homework into the late hours of the night and we [cadets] do that as well. It just means that we get less sleep because we wake up earlier but we go to bed around the same time.” Isabel Lopez ’14, Current Stanford ROTC Cadet

A Transgender Issue?

**“**We appreciate and acknowledge the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT), but despite this historic change, transgender, intersex, and disabled people are still systematically excluded from the military.” – SSQL Website (April 2011)

“…These activists are extinguishing the hopes of proud transgender individuals who wish someday to serve their country. If they really wanted to free transgender individuals from military discrimination, they’d want as many Stanford student leaders in the military as possible.” – Editorial Board, The Stanford Review (January 2011)

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