Anti-Military Sentiments Persist on Elite Campus

Article excerpt

The battle over ROTC is exemplified by the controversy at Columbia University.

"Joining the military is flushing your education down the toilet," Nick Rosenthal wrote in a column for the Columbia Spectator, Columbia University's daily newspaper. "Anyone in uniform is just as guilty of enforcing the will of the United States via the use of force as the soldier who actually pulls the trigger."

If you think these beliefs are uncommon on elite college campuses, think again.

Students Against War led 300 University of California-Santa Cruz students in protest last April to a job fair where armed forces booths were set up. Protestors surrounded recruiting tables, chanting "Whose Campus? Our Campus!" and waving signs that read " [expletive deleted] the Army."

Also that month, the Air Force ROTC at the University of Wisconsin-Madison canceled its information day after the student organization Stop the War made threats against representatives. Two hundred students and community members then camped out near the chancellor's office, demanding a meeting to kick the military off campus. The chancellor said "there's not a chance" he would remove them.

Indeed, campus protests are making it hard for the Army to increase ROTC enrollment. In the past two school years, it has fallen 16%, according to the Washington Post, causing the program to have the smallest participation in nearly a decade.

ROTC allows students to participate in weekend and summer military training and commit to post-graduation service in return for college scholarships. It also produces more than 60% of all armed forces officers.

Advocates at several elite schools-Columbia, Harvard, Stanford, Brown and Yale-are urging ROTC's return. Dartmouth, the University of Pennsylvania and Princeton have small Army ROTC programs; Cornell has all branches represented.

Harvard's President Lawrence Summers called military service "noble" in October 2001 during an Undergraduate Council meeting. He also told the Harvard Crimson, the student newspaper, that the university and the surrounding community needed to start supporting military efforts.

"We need to be careful about adopting any policy on campus of non-support for those involved in defending the country," Summers said. "[The university] should be proud that we have in our midst students who make the commitment to ROTC."

Hypocrisy at Columbia

Schools opposed to ROTC on campus, such as Columbia, cite the "Don't Ask, Don't TeU" (DADT) policy as their No. 1 reason. DADT prevents homosexuals in the military from being public about their sexual preferences.

In a city directly affected by the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, you would think the Columbia administration would favor ROTC's return, but President Lee Bollinger told the New York Daily News that he allows recruitment "with regret."

Columbia's 14 current ROTC students must travel to nearby Fordham University or Manhattan College for training. But unlike other ROTC students who receive regular course credit for ROTC classes, Columbia refuses to grant credits.

Although an ROTC Task Force suggested "boycotting" ROTC, co-chairman and astronomy professor Jim Applegate disagreed. "You cannot affect change without engaging an issue," he said. "Shunning the military is a choice that a private university is free to make. It is not a choice that Americans collectively are free to make. It is a choice that Columbia should not make."

The majority of students agree: 65% of those polled in 2003 favored ROTC's return to Columbia.

Bollinger reportedly was concerned that the government would "force institutions to compromise their principles."

But according to a New York Daily News article, "Columbia accepted $200,000 toward endowing a chair in the Mideast studies" from the United Arab Emirates, and "according to the State Department... [UAE] condemns homosexual activity as a crime. …