<< The Body Politic

“No prohibition against U.S. veterans”

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

Princeton University

Over at Via Meadia, Walter Russell Mead points to an op-ed by Princeton professor Uwe Reinhardt on veterans at elite universities. Writing in the Daily Princetonian, Reinhardt notes:

Commenting on Princeton’s remarkably low enrollment of veterans relative to other Ivy League colleges, Theen quotes a University spokesman as responding: “[Princeton] has no prohibition against veterans and we encourage and consider their applications like all others.”


To academics, “diversity” all too often means that people who may have grown up in the same socioeconomic strata, attended the same public or private high schools and have their eyes on the same career in, say, finance, business or law — or perform the same tasks at a university — have different gender, color of skin or ethnicity.

Fair enough. Such a mix probably can bring some diversity of views to their tasks. But just imagine what dramatically different perspectives might be added by someone who has spent a few years in a platoon with high racial, ethnic and economic diversity — in an institution that really knows how to forge harmony from that diversity toward a common national purpose.

Imagine what can be contributed by someone with notions of honor, solidarity and selfless service rarely encountered in the civilian world.

Imagine what insight might be had from someone who has had to work with people of a foreign culture, often under trying conditions.

And imagine what distinct moral perspectives could be offered in a seminar on ethics, on the University’s discipline committee or in a dean’s office by someone who may have had to make profoundly troublesome ethical choices under fire, in split seconds.

As a recent article by Andrew Theen in Bloomberg points out, this lack of veteran diversity isn’t limited to Princeton (which currently has four veterans enrolled). Still, some schools are putting forth more effort than others. Brown University, which has twelve veterans on campus, has started an office for veterans and ROTC in an effort to recruit more former military members. Harvard University (250 veterans) has set aside 325 “Yellow Ribbon” spots for veterans and holds an annual Veterans Day celebration. Yale has 13 of its 50 veteran slots filled. And at Columbia University, veteran enrollment has increased by 87 percent since 2009 and now has 459 enrolled veterans.

We’ve reported on the benefits of having veterans at elite schools before:

By their simple presence, student veterans can help break down stereotypes and remind their fellow students that military service is an honorable calling. A recent Pew study found that while 82 percent of veterans would recommend the military to a young person, fewer than half of Americans would do so. This can be explained, in part, by the well-known burdens placed on servicemembers during two long and increasingly unpopular wars. But much more of it has to do with how little Americans know about the day-to-day life of those in uniform. For the most part, popular culture depicts the military as either superheroes or victims — a job description that, not surprisingly, puts off a lot of young people without other experience of military life.