Why Is ROTC Different?

It has been nearly 40 years since Stanford’s ROTC students could say that they were full members of the Stanford community. In 1970, amidst the controversy of the Vietnam War, the Faculty Senate voted to bar the then-vibrant ROTC program from campus.

Today, the few Stanford students who participate in ROTC only manage to do so under burdensome requirements. They must travel all the way to Berkeley, Santa Clara University, or San Jose State University regularly throughout the week for training. Unlike students who participate in athletic classes or student initiated courses, ROTC students receive no academic credit for the leadership courses they take through the program. And they receive no support through official University channels.

The Vietnam War is no longer the force driving the anti-ROTC sentiment among the University administration. Instead, the Congressionally mandated Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell military policy is cited as the reason for ROTC’s continued absence from Stanford. The policy prevents openly gay people from serving in the armed forces. The Faculty Senate is unlikely to reinstate ROTC without a repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

But that is the University. Why is it that the University’s official stance of ignoring ROTC drives students’ adoption of that same stance? Why is it that after 40 years, we hear only a few key faculty members and this paper calling for the reinstatement of ROTC on campus—for the reinstatement of our fellow students back into the Stanford community? Why are the students failing to defend their own? Why is the Stanford student body not advocating for the reinstatement of ROTC and support of the very individuals who have pledged to honorably serve this nation, including all of these students?

Students’ failure to support their fellow students may be based on limited knowledge of ROTC’s status on campus. The challenges to participating in ROTC deter some prospective students from ever joining. As a result, ROTC’s profile remains limited among the larger student body. Some students are entirely unaware that there are ROTC cadets on campus. That is a shame.

Stanford prides itself on producing tomorrow’s leaders, and its students work diligently to become those leaders. They balance classes, extracurricular activities, work, and their personal lives. But Stanford students do more than simply balance. They push harder and further and constantly strive to take on as much as possible. And they work to do it all well. That is an identifying characteristic of the Stanford student experience.

And few embody that characteristic more than Stanford ROTC cadets. They are trying to strike the same balance and achieve a high level of excellence. But unlike the rest of the student body, they are confronted with obstacle after obstacle because they try to do so. If the University denied any other group of students academic credit, support, and even acknowledgement, student voices would already have risen with cries of intolerance. If the University punished any other group of students based on the existence of a Congressionally-mandated law, then we would hear those same cries of intolerance.

But all we hear is silence from the students. Nowhere to be heard are the individuals and groups that complain loudly when anyone questions the merit of Special Fees refunds for a dance club or an awareness organization. Will students continue to stand idle as their classmates, future leaders and protectors of this nation, are told that they are unworthy to also claim a place in the Stanford community? Will students be bystanders or partners in the movement to bring ROTC back to Stanford?

Unsigned editorials represent the views of The Stanford Review’s Editorial Board and do not necessarily reflect opinions of The Stanford Review or its staff. The Editorial Board consists of the Opinion Editors, the Executive Editor, and the Editor-in-Chief. To submit a letter to the editor or guest op-ed, please e-mail our Opinion Editors, Autumn Carter at aacarter@stanford.edu and Quinn Slack at sqs@stanford.edu.

Correction: In the previous issue, the photo for the story “Green Dorm Needs Green” was incorrectly attributed to the Lotus 1.0 Proposal. It was instead a photo from The Stanford Daily. We apologize for the incorrect attribution.

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