Tuesday, May 21st, 2013
After a four decade hiatus, City College of New York is set to reopen its doors to Army ROTC this week. While City College once had a thriving ROTC program, during the Vietnam War anti-military sentiment reached a fever pitch on campus. During this time, ROTC officers were frequently harassed by students and their headquarters vandalized. In an effort to reduce student tensions, administrators prohibited all cadets from wearing or even displaying their military uniform. Finally, in 1971, the faculty senate officially recommended that ROTC be barred from the college. What once was the nation’s largest ROTC program disappeared from campus.
Research from Underserved: A Case Study of ROTC in New York City reveals that this phenomenon was a trend throughout the city. During this same era, ROTC programs dwindled all across New York City, with just four programs covering all five boroughs.
Dan Gomez, in an article in the New York Times, outlined the possible impact of ROTC’s return to City College.
With its return, R.O.T.C. will not only provide interested students the opportunity to seek commissions in the Army. It will also allow non-R.O.T.C. students to enroll in some R.O.T.C. classes, like military science. That interaction could help bridge the much-debated civilian-military divide, which seems to have grown over the last 40 years as fewer Americans have served in the armed forces.
Walking the campus today, those old ghosts have faded. A growing and active student-veteran population flourishes on campus and is welcomed by fellow students. And while City College is still a beacon for tough debate, it is no longer the cauldron of fiery protest it was in the 1960s. Times have changed. And perhaps one legacy of Vietnam is the belief that how we treat those who serve, or wish to serve, in the military need not be tied to our feelings about American foreign policy.