Rejecting ROTC to Cost Colleges Defense Funds: Yale Student's Complaint Sparked Campus Access Act

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A rider to the defense authorization bill signed Feb. 10 by President Clinton says colleges and universities that prohibit ROTC units from being maintained or established cannot receive grants and contracts from the Defense Department.

Jubilant conservatives tomorrow will honor Yale ROTC cadet Flagg Youngblood as the impetus behind the Campus Access Act, which they expect to affect hundreds of colleges and universities that have displayed hostility to ROTC on the one hand while accepting Defense Department grants with the other.

Mr. Youngblood, a junior history major from Nashville, Tenn., didn't realize until he arrived at Yale as a freshman with an ROTC scholarship that he would have to drive to the University of Connecticut - an hour and a half from New Haven - to take his ROTC classes and other sessions.

"There's no policy at Yale that prohibits ROTC," said university spokesman Gary Fryer. "There are, however, student groups that have rejected requests to create an ROTC program. Youngblood went to the Yale College Council seeking creation of an ROTC program and they declined, citing lack of general interest or need." The council also "raised concerns regarding the discriminatory issues," he said.

Mr. Fryer said ROTC students have complained about the inconvenience of traveling to the University of Connecticut, but he noted that Yale provides the transportation.

Yale got $8 million in Defense Department research funds last year and is not concerned that the new law will affect the institution, he said. The Defense Department withdrew its program from Yale during the Vietnam War protests.

The Defense Department expects the Campus Access Act to have a limited effect - and none at Yale in the near future - because it is not "productive" for the Pentagon to start up programs on campuses unlikely to produce fewer than a dozen commissioned officers a year, said Bill Carr, the department's assistant director of accession policy.

Yale's ROTC program has five participants.

They've complained about the time consumed traveling to classes and training sessions, but because of the low numbers involved, "we'll probably just leave it at that," he said. "It's an unfortunate arrangement for students, but the fix would be more expensive than we could justify. …