The blog of Academe Magazine. Opinions published here do not necessarily represent the policies of the AAUP.
Last week, an InsideHigherEd article about ROTC at Brown University contained an unfortunate but all too common error: “Like many of their counterparts, Brown professors voted in 1969 to remove ROTC from campus…” This never happened, at Brown or (as far as I’m aware) any other university. As the Brown committee’s report makes clear, it was the military, not Brown, that banned ROTC: “The Brown faculty passed a set of resolutions in 1969 that would permanently limit the authority of the military in matters of instruction. The Air Force responded by immediately removing its ROTC detachment from the Brown campus.” Diane Mazur wrote about this in “The Myth of the ROTC Ban,” noting that “I have found no universities that ban R.O.T.C.,” but the myth is seemingly immortal.
The same myth pops up in nearly every single article about ROTC, and even made an appearance in a Democratic primary debate in 2008. Plans to restore ROTC deserve serious consideration, but the debate should be based upon historical reality, not a widespread delusion. So let’s be clear: the military banned ROTC from elite universities, not the professors. And the professors were right, then and now: academics, not military bureaucrats, should decide who gets appointed to be professors and what classes receive college credit.