Monday, May 13th, 2013
It’s been a year since Columbia University re-established an on-campus Naval ROTC program. In the latest edition of Columbia’s The Blue and White, student Naomi Sharp gives a progress report. Thus far, she notes, the program has flown under the radar, attracting little attention, positive or negative, but “a quiet beginning to the program has its benefits”:
Two years have passed since President Bollinger signed an agreement with the Secretary of the Navy to reinstate the NROTC program at Columbia University. The ROTC, which includes Army, Navy, and Air Force branches, allows students to attend college while training to become officers in the U.S. Armed Forces. Some ROTC participants, cadets, receive a scholarship for their college tuition on the condition that they commit to a period of military service after graduation.
At Columbia, the controversy leading up to the 2011 decision—a whirlwind of op-eds, polarized town hall meetings, faculty petitions, and national media coverage—was heated. Critics of the ROTC perceived a too-cozy relationship between the military and academy. That controversy has all but disappeared.
“It very quickly became a nonissue here, which is wonderful as far as I’m concerned,” explains Vice Provost Rittenberg, who continues to manage the implementation of the agreement. “Sometimes lack of interest is a good sign.”
Whether or not outsiders are paying attention, Columbia’s decision has made the ROTC a part of campus life. On the first floor of Lerner Hall, vending machines were replaced with the new NROTC office. “We purposely spend a lot of time here because we want to be available to the campus community,” says Captain Matthew Loughlin, the commanding officer of the NROTC in New York City. His reception from Columbia faculty and students has been “almost universally positive, and at a minimum cordial,” Captain Loughlin affirms. “There may be people who perhaps were opposed to us being here, but they’ve been respectful and polite, and we very much appreciate that.”