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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In a class discussion on his campus, for instance, most students said they wouldn't hesitate to use deadly force in self-defense. "They were assuming it was easy to kill somebody," Professor Downs says, but an Iraq veteran in the class pointed out that there's a strong human instinct to avoid killing and said soldiers have to go through extensive training to override that when necessary.Skip to next paragraph
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"A lot of the burden taken on by the military isn't widely understood," says Jared Monnin, an MIT senior in Naval ROTC, "so with other Ivy League schools and schools in general, the more exposure they can have to ROTC and to the military, the better off society as a whole will be."
Every Wednesday, ROTC students wear their uniforms at MIT, which gives Mr. Monnin a chance to explain ROTC and share stories from his summers training on submarines and going to places in recent news headlines – Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya.
Despite the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell," some students and faculty object based on the military's view of transgendered people. Others are concerned about militarism in general.
Columbia math professor Michael Thaddeus says he objects to ROTC because of concern about "the university being co-opted by outside organizations with their own agendas." He continues, "The military is the focal point of a lot of debate and criticism in society, and ... we need to be institutionally separate from it in order to criticize it effectively."
Heated discussions took place on campus as a Columbia task force examined the issue. Its survey of students (primarily undergraduates) found that 60 percent support the idea of ROTC's return. The university's Senate (a policy-setting group of faculty, students, and alumni) is expected to vote as early as April 1.
Even if ROTC expands on elite campuses, it's a model that "has outlived its usefulness," says Richard Kohn, a professor of military history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. More military-oriented students would attend a diverse set of universities, probably at a lower cost, he says, if they could get a scholarship for any school of their choice and do National Guard or Reserve service concurrent with their studies.
IN PICTURES: US soldiers serving in Afghanistan