ROTC returns to Harvard: Does officer training program need Ivy League?
Harvard's ROTC re-embrace may herald a more representative military – if such programs multiply in the Ivy League and beyond.
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With ballpark ROTC start-up costs estimated at $1.6 million, "we've got to see whether the juice is worth the squeeze," Hackathorn says. The Army generally considers student interest, whether the campus will recognize ROTC instructors as professors and give credit for courses, and whether a prospective program could produce at least a dozen graduates each year.Skip to next paragraph
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But elite campuses can make themselves attractive to the military, ROTC supporters say. They could offer courses that fit the needs of officers-in-training and also attract nonmilitary students – on subjects like military history or anthropology focused on Afghanistan – says Michael Segal, who runs the Boston-based umbrella group Advocates for ROTC.
Kevin Kit Parker, an engineering professor and Army major who is heading up Harvard's ROTC implementation committee, prefers keeping ROTC classes separate from other courses. "The point is to give them two different perspectives. You can take those courses on military history or geopolitical affairs ... in the [academic] departments," he says, "and then also you need to hear about geopolitics from the vantage point of being a gunslinger."
Under Harvard's plan for a Naval ROTC (which also includes those headed for the Marine Corps), students will continue to do ROTC course work with a consortium based at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which is also in Cambridge, Mass. But Harvard will offer financial support and classroom and office space.
Professor Parker is aware of the budget constraints, but hopes that other military branches will find Harvard an appealing place to set up ROTC programs. The military can gain from exposure to such an influential campus, he and others say.
So many Harvard alumni go on to Congress and other leadership roles, and "it's important that people in the military understand the lens through which the civilian leadership sees" issues, Parker says.
It's just as important the other way around – for students not planning military careers to gain perspectives from ROTC and veteran classmates, says Donald Downs, a professor at the University of Wisconsin at Madison and coauthor of the forthcoming book "Arms and the University: Military Presence and the Civic Education of Non-Military Students."