The Problem with Restoring ROTC

The Navy ROTC has been restored at Harvard in the wake of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” ending this week. But don’t expect any major changes, reports the Boston Globe (registration required, alas). The area’s ROTC commanding officer, Captain Curtis Stevens, reported: “It’s really about the numbers. You couldn’t have a viable unit just at Harvard with the students we have now.” And that’s one problem with the new wave of demands to restore ROTC. Unless the Pentagon wants to create a lot of small ROTC programs (and in an era of budget cuts, they don’t), you won’t see many new ones.

The other problem with ROTC, of course, is academic standards. It’s absolutely intolerable for a university to allow an outside entity to dictate curriculum and faculty hiring, and limit academic freedom in the classroom, but that’s what all ROTC programs require.

The solution to both problems is for universities to create independent military studies programs that are open to all students. ROTC students shouldn’t be segregated. They should have real academic experts teaching them about military history, military structure, military ethics, and similar classes. And non-ROTC students should have the opportunity to take more classes about the military. This is a win for everyone: higher quality classes, more faculty experts on the military, more opportunities for all students to learn about the military, and the preservation of academic standards so that faculty, not the Pentagon, decides what happens in college classrooms.

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