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As Harvard welcomes back ROTC, other elite schools may follow

At a ceremony with the secretary of the Navy, Harvard welcomes ROTC back to its campus, ending a Vietnam-era ban. Columbia, Brown, and other top schools may soon do the same.

By Aaron CouchContributor / March 4, 2011

Demonstrators hold signs on Harvard University's campus in Cambridge, Mass., Friday, March 4, protesting the agreement signed between Harvard University President Drew Gilpin Faust and Navy Secretary Ray Mabus that will recognize the Naval ROTC's formal presence at Harvard.

Elise Amendola/AP

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Elite universities like to compete, and Harvard Friday crossed the finish line as the first elite school to welcome back ROTC to its campus since Congress ended the “don’t ask, don’t tell” ban on gays serving openly in the military in December.

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But watch out Harvard: others may not be far behind.

The bans on the Reserve Officers Training Corps at Harvard and other elite schools date back to the Vietnam era. Most of the schools that still ban ROTC – including Brown, Columbia, Stanford, Yale, and the University of Chicago – have flirted with the idea of getting rid of these policies for years. But with the repeal of DADT, several have shown a reinvigorated willingness to reconsider their policies.

At Columbia in New York Friday, a student-faculty task force recommended that the Columbia University Senate consider bringing back ROTC.

“Columbia has periodically revisited ROTC over the years,” says Ron Mazor, a Columbia Law School student and student co-chair of the task force charged by the Senate with examining the issue.

The Senate, a university-wide legislature that represents Columbia faculty, students, and administrators and makes policy on a range of university-wide issues, formed the task force after the DADT repeal.

Around 60 percent of Columbia students surveyed said they support bringing ROTC back to campus, according to a Columbia Senate poll. Mr. Mazor says the Senate is slated to vote sometime in April on whether it is bringing back ROTC.

At Brown University in Providence, R.I., University President Ruth Simmons appointed a similar committee of students and faculty in February to study their own ROTC policy. The committee is expected to make their progress known on March 15, according to the university’s website.

While ROTC does not maintain on offices on campuses from which it is banned, individual students at those universities can be enrolled in ROTC and receive their training at campuses nearby.

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