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Where’s ROTC at Columbia?

Last year, when elite universities began announcing their intentions to bring back ROTC, Jonathan E. Hillman and I cautioned that if Ivy League ROTC was to succeed, it would require a real commitment from both the schools and the military.

Some progress has been made. Yale has welcomed Air Force and Navy units back to campus while Harvard is hosting its first military-science class since the Vietnam era. Even Brown University, the lone holdout, isbeginning to thaw. But at Columbia University, where the new Naval ROTC unit is located an hour away from campus, the program is suffering from “half-hearted implementation,” according to Columbia ROTC cadet, Ryan Cho.


ROTC returns to the Ivies

Jonathan E. Hillman, with whom the Program’s Cheryl Miller wrote about ROTC and the Ivy League in December, writes this week in the Wall Street Journal about his experience attending the first ROTC class at Harvard this fall.


Ivy League opening its doors to retired military officers

In their Wall Street Journal op-ed, Cheryl Miller and Jonathan E. Hillman argued that the military could strengthen ROTC on Ivy League campuses by creating new coursework and offering classes taught by its top officers. Now, the New York Times reports that Ivy League schools are hiring former military officers to teach, based, in part, on the popularity of Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s  seminar on leadership, which “is nearly as hard to get into as Yale itself: this past semester some 200 students applied for a coveted 20 spots.”


How to Get More Ivy Leaguers into ROTC

From the Wall Street Journal: One year after Congress voted to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” elite universities such as Harvard, Yale and Columbia have ended Vietnam-era bans on the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) with highly publicized signing ceremonies among senior military officers and university leaders. Yet for all the fanfare, Yale is the only university that will have cadets training on campus next fall.


Brown U to ROTC: Not in Our Backyard

ROTC will not be returning to Brown University—if the Corporation, the university’s highest governing body, follows the recommendation just released by President Ruth J. Simmons.

In her report, Simmons recommends that Brown still allow students to cross-enroll in Army ROTC at Providence College. However, as to establishing a program on campus, she writes:

We should proceed to explore the possibilities for Brown students to participate in cross-institutional Naval or Air Force ROTC programs housed on other campuses. In addition, we should commit to helping to arouse greater national attention to the discrimination of the military and others against transgender individuals.

With no Air Force or Navy ROTC program in the state of Rhode Island, Simmons is really recommending that either students drive two hours to MIT or that some other college president—one less cowed by campus radicals, perhaps—establish a program for Brown students to attend. As Jonathan Hillman, an alum and chairman of the Brown Alumni for ROTCwrites in the Providence Journal, “In short, the message is: It’s okay, just not in our backyard.”

If the Corporation accepts Simmons’ recommendation, it will ensure that Brown remains the lone Ivy League holdout on ROTC. It will be going against the recommendations of its own committee, which voted in favor of bringing Naval and Air Force ROTC back to campus—not to mention the 77 percent of Brown students who also favor expanding ROTC. Moreover, it will be evading what even Simmons recognizes as the crucial question at stake: whether the “University understands and acknowledges its role as a national university in participating in the development of leaders for the country, including its military.”

At the moment, it looks like the answer is no. If that’s the case, there’s an easy solution to the halfway house situation Brown is currently in. As Hillman notes:

If the corporation decides that ROTC is incompatible with Brown’s mission, it should sever relations with Providence College’s ROTC program. In doing so, Brown should be prepared to forgo the roughly $10 million in Defense Department funding it receives annually. For too long, the university has pretended that holding ROTC at arm’s length satisfies its obligations under the Solomon Amendment, which lets the defense secretary deny funding if university policies prevent or prohibit ROTC and military recruiting on campus. The only reason why Brown’s funding hasn’t been taken away is because the Defense Department hasn’t enforced the law. Whatever the corporation decides, it’s unacceptable that Brown continue its policy of equivocation.



After ROTC’s return

Jonathan Hillman, a research associate at the Council on Foreign Relations and chairman of Brown Alumni for ROTC, has a terrific op-ed today about how to make ROTC’s return to elite campuses meaningful:

Th[e] trend at America’s top universities confirms that the rift between American citizens and their military is neither preferable nor permanent. The military has been the most trusted institution in America for over a decade, but less than 1 percent of Americans currently serve, and an increasingly disproportionate number of recruits hail from the South. Today, most Americans “support the troops” without actually knowing them. This affliction is especially acute at America’s elite universities, where students have little outside of Hollywood to inform their perceptions of military life.


Fewer places are better than the classroom for building civil-military bonds. When possible, faculty should collaborate with ROTC instructors. Imagine how an East Asian politics class might benefit from the experience of a naval officer who has been deployed throughout the region. Knowing only about the military as a fighting force, many students will be surprised by the intellectual firepower wielded by America’s men and women in uniform. This is not the militarization of education, it is civic engagement 101.

Read the whole thing.



This project considers the question of whether the military has narrowed, to its detriment, the demographic pool from which it draws its young officers and how this affects civil‐military relations over time.

The Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC)—the principal source for the recruitment of military officers—has lost its “national” character, becoming increasingly Southern and rural. Not only have elite colleges and universities kept ROTC programs off their campuses—ignoring their own pre-Vietnam War tradition of providing the military with class after class of military officers—so too has the military virtually dropped out of many major metropolitan areas to the detriment of its ability to recruit from a diverse and talented segment of America’s youth.  ROTC, properly understood, provides a critical link between the professional military and the nation at large—a link that is increasingly tenuous and needs to be maintained if citizens are to understand the military’s role in a democracy and, in turn, the military is properly attuned to the values and principles of the citizenry it serves.

To bring attention to this vital issue, we released a major report on the status of ROTC in America’s largest and most diverse urban center: New York City.  Our goal is to provide research supporting a renewed look at the ROTC’s development and specific policy proposals to university administrators, key members of Congress, and the executive branch.


Cheryl Miller and Jonathan E. Hillman, “How to Get More Ivy Leaguers into ROTC,” Wall Street Journal, December 30, 2011. The chief obstacle to ROTC’s expansion today is not antimilitary sentiment but a Pentagon that prefers to allocate its resources to surer recruiting prospects, primarily in the South and the Midwest.

Cheryl Miller, Underserved: A Case Study of ROTC in New York City, a report of the AEI Program on American Citizenship,  May 2011. With over 8 million residents and the largest university student population of any city in the United States, New York City demonstrates the challenges faced by urban ROTC programs—and their great potential.

Gary Schmitt and Cheryl Miller, “Semper Phi,” The Weekly Standard, December 23, 2010. With the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, elite colleges now have a chance to make good on their promises and bring the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) back to campus.

Cheryl Miller, “The Other ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,'” The Weekly Standard, November 13, 2010. Is the Solomon Amendment a dead letter? The statute, enacted in 1996, forbids federal funding to universities that prohibit military recruiters or Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) units from their campuses. Yet today, nearly 15 years since the amendment’s passage—and despite President Barack Obama’s campaign pledge to “vigorously enforce” the law—ROTC is still absent from some of the nation’s most selective schools.

Gary Schmitt and Cheryl Miller, “The Military Should Mirror the Nation,” Wall Street Journal, August 26, 2010. The nearly three million members of the U.S. Armed Forces have been at war for nearly a decade. While combat troops are being withdrawn from Iraq, surge forces are still deploying in Afghanistan and many soldiers are on their second or third tour of duty. Americans hold this service and sacrifice in high regard–but they do so increasingly from a distance. This is a threat to our country’s civic ethic of equal sacrifice.