ROTC plus global studies

Columbia University’s faculty senate passed a pro-ROTC resolution Friday. The Army is interested in restoring ties with Columbia. A Navy unit also is a possibility.

Navy ROTC is returning to Harvard.

Stanford’s faculty is reviewing the issue. A student group is rallying opposition to bringing ROTC back on campus on grounds the military discriminates against transgendered people.

Dickinson College in Pennsylvania may expand its ROTC curriculum, if the Army agrees, to include four years of foreign language, cultural immersion, a semester or year’s worth of study abroad and a concentration in global security studies, reports Inside Higher Ed.

The move was inspired by an e-mail from a Dickinson ROTC graduate who majored in Middle Eastern history and now leads an infantry platoon in the Kandahar province of Afghanistan. Talking with village elders, he recited the first chapter of the Koran, which he’d learned in a class.

Soon after, one of the men handed over five small papers which appeared to be “night letters,” or notes left by the Taliban on local mosques or the doors of homes. Typically, such letters urge resistance or threaten violence to those who cooperate with American forces. These, however, were asking for help. “The three letters this man gave to me thus signaled a major shift in Taliban morale in our area of operations, and at the end of the day became very valuable intelligence information,” the unnamed lieutenant wrote.

University president William Durden, a 1971 graduate of Dickinson’s ROTC program,  believes officers need more than training in operations and tactics. “We have young lieutenants running cities.”

The Mellon Foundation is funding partnerships between liberal arts colleges and military institutions of higher education. Dickinson will collaborate with the nearby U.S. Army War College, Bard, Union and Vassar colleges with the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, St. John’s College with the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, and Colorado College with the U.S. Air Force Academy.

Bard and West Point have shared an “odd-couple relationship” for years, said Jonathan Becker, Bard’s vice president for international affairs and civic engagement.

. . . students sometimes attend classes at each other’s institutions, faculty travel to deliver guest lectures, and students and professors from both colleges mix sides to debate political issues.

West Pointers and Bard students have no trouble getting along, Becker said. “Twenty-year-olds enjoy meeting and learning with other 20-year-olds.”

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  1. Richard Aubrey says:

    I considered ROTC as having a sore toe for four years when I should be having a great time. So I decided to go to OCS instead. But I had a lot of friends who did the ROTC thing.
    IMO, ROTC is unnecessary. You can get a college graduate commissioned through OCS, as I was, along with a couple of hundred guys a week (1969).
    OCS at the time seemed like a combination of Hell Week at a very tough fraternity, pre-season football practice, and finals week and it went on for six months. We were both trained as officers and trained in the Infantry. ROTC guys already commissioned got their Infantry Officers Basic Course under considerably less pressure.
    Today, iirc, they get a shorter course to be commissioned as officers and then the Infantry Officers Basic Course.
    If there is any benefit to ROTC, it’s exposing the academic community to the military culture. Presuming the academic community thinks this is a benefit, I suppose. Considering that fewer and fewer Americans have parents, or even grandparents, who are veterans, know soldiers, or even lay eyes on one, having some exposure to the phenomenon at college would be a good idea. They aren’t going to get it elsewhere. See Frank Shaffer’s book (Keeping Faith) about his reactions and those of his precious friends when the younger Shaffer decided to join the Marines.
    The military doesn’t need ROTC. The civilian world needs ROTC.

  2. Allowing ROTC students to spend a semester abroad would be a great thing. My DH did Army ROTC and he tried to get permission to do a semester abroad program in Germany and just drill at one of the bases there. But the Army turned him down flat. I always thought that was stupid as there wasn’t anything he was doing in ROTC that couldn’t have easily been done with some unit in Germany.

  3. Walter E. Wallis says:

    How many transgender students play football?

  4. Richard Aubrey says:


  5. SuperSub says:

    One big benefit of ROTC is the attraction of high achievers through scholarships. I did Naval ROTC and of the twenty four in my class, only one was not on a full ride. Few of them would have entered the military without the scholarships…and eight years after being commissioned, I know of five still serving.

  6. Richard Aubrey says:

    My brother and a lot of my friends went through ROTC and some got their scholarship. It was a long time ago and I don’t recall if my brother did. He probably did; he was cadet commandant of the AFROTC detachment his senior year.
    (It used to be said that if you want a guy to figure out a way around a wall, get a ROTC grad. If you need a guy to go head first through a wall without a helmet, get an OCS grad. Need both.)
    However, it could be arranged that you get a scholarship without ROTC but with a commitment to service afterward.
    I remain of the opinion that the benefit of ROTC is to expose the precious, oh-so-superior, back-patting academic world to the military world. I don’t see the benefit to the military.

  7. SuperSub says:

    The best comparison for ROTC is not OCS but the academies. ROTC pretty much acts as academy-lite for those who want to try out the military lifestyle or have other reasons for not attending the academies.
    while I agree that one of the ‘benefits’ of ROTC is the exposure of academics and future government leaders to the military, I think it’s safe to say that the number of incoming officers would go down significantly without it. Assuming that there isn’t a glut of officers, ROTC serves as a necessary recruiting tool.

  8. Richard Aubrey says:

    Super. You may be right, but we wouldn’t know until the ROTC avenue was closed. So it’s a supposition.
    I am told that OCS is far easier than when I was in. And, once commissioned, you get the Officer’s Basic Course like gentleman, same as the ROTC guys.
    It was tough to get into OCS back then and they flunked half, same as my father’s class in ’43.
    What interested me was the guys who, though doing well, decided to quit. Some of them said the idea of being responsible for three dozen American mothers’ sons, to be used and used up in aid of the national interest, was too much. I don’t know if that happened in ROTC, but the connection between continuing toward graduation/commissioning and continuing scholarship money might have kept some in who should have dropped out and become SP5 company clerks someplace.

  9. SuperSub says:

    “After World War II it became apparent that the United States would always have to be ready for rapid military expansion, and ROTC became the Army’s primary source of officers-for both the Regular Army and the Army’s reserve components.”

    “The largest proportion of FY 2004 officer accessions (36 percent) came through ROTC programs”

    I’d say its safe to say that the primary purpose of the ROTC programs is to prevent a shortage of commissioned officers.

    Can’t talk about other schools, but the CO’s and their staffs at the various ROTCs at my alma mater kept a tight ship and seemed to do a decent job at weeding out the unqualified (that being said, it is VERY difficult to get a ROTC scholarship). Each year we had a few drop out, even those on scholarship and who would have to repay it as a loan instead.

  10. Richard Aubrey says:

    I see the data. But if there were no ROTC, the ability of officers to get commissions through ROTC would be reduced, if not eliminated altogether.
    We would see more guys graduating, with or without a scholarship requiring further service, and going to OCS.
    Figure that ROTC takes four years plus the Basic Course.
    Graduating from college takes four years and then you go to OCS, which, given the structure from time to time, would be the OCS and the basic course, possibly a couple of additional months.
    I’m not against ROTC. I wouldn’t have done it for a pension. Too many Avalon Hill freaks for my taste. OCS was sort of like the guys from the varsity club at a college without athletic scholarships or PE majors.
    But I do question its utility. Still, given the rest of the things the government is doing, the downside, if any, is small change.

  11. SuperSub says:

    Again, I can’t talk about other schools, but the cadets and midshipmen at my school (especially those on scholarship) were not the Avalon Hill type. A handful from each unit competed on the college sports teams and most others were varsity athletes in high school. Each unit had NCO’s that managed the PT programs that ranged from 3-5 days a week. The AROTC especially had a bunch of non-scholarship cadets drop the first year because they couldn’t hack it.
    Perhaps ROTC, like OCS, has changed since your time?

    Regarding your suggested elimination of ROTC, OCS would then have to supply an overwhelming number of officers to make up for the loss. True, there would be some that either applied and failed to enter the academies or some that would see it as a way to pay off their college loans, but a significant portion of officers would be lost. Whether or not the military could cope with that loss, I don’t know (but many NCO’s would probably be a lot happier).

    Either way, we’re discussing too many hypotheticals and are both too limited in our experiences to be experts in this discussion, so I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree and I’ll concede that I may be wrong.