Will Ivy League embrace R.O.T.C again?
Both McCain and Obama have said the schools should be more open to the military recruitment program.
Even if presidential hopefuls John McCain and Barack Obama succeed in influencing Ivy League schools to accept military recruiting programs, few believe it would yield more than a handful of new officers.Skip to next paragraph
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But the impact on the military, and on the East Coast elite that still struggles with military service, would be enormous, say officers and recruiting experts.
Both presidential candidates said at a forum on national service at Columbia University last week that Ivy League universities that do not embrace military officer training programs should rethink their position. Despite the unpopularity of the current war, Sens. Obama and McCain seem to share the view of many that it's time to bridge the divide between the military and the educated elite that has grown since the Vietnam War.
Five of eight Ivy League schools including Columbia uninvited the military's Reserve Officer Training Corps, or ROTC program, after that war. "I recognize that there are students here who have differences in terms of military policy," Obama said during the forum at his alma mater Sept. 11. "But the notion that young people here at Columbia or anywhere, in any university, aren't offered the choice, the option of participating in military service, I think is a mistake."
"I don't think that's right," McCain said during the same forum.
A political lightning rod
America's 140-year-old military officer commissioning program helps funnel thousands of officers into the services by allowing students to essentially "minor" in military studies, studying ethics and military history, and completing physical fitness training.
But over the years, the program has become a political lightning rod as campuses protested instructors and recruiters, first over the Vietnam War and more recently over the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, which bars homosexuals from serving openly.
Unable to deny access to military recruiters, several Ivy League schools refused to allow students credit for ROTC programs. "There is definitely an irrational fear on these campuses," says Lt. Col. Paul Dulchinos, who has run an ROTC program at Providence College in Rhode Island and has been pushing Brown University to open up its campus, closed to the military since 1972. "They have to realize this is not Vietnam."