School of War

Friday, September 12, 2008

Scott Jaschik, the editor of Inside Higher Ed, and Robert McCaughey, professor of history at Barnard College and a former naval officer, talk about the history of ROTC programs on college campuses--and the status of ROTC at Columbia University.


Scott Jaschik and Robert McCaughey

Comments [28]

Sean from Washington

I want to see Columbia actively engage Congress. Tell them "we want ROTC, our students want to serve, but your discriminatory law is making that all but impossible for us!" I have not heard such an utterance once. They stick to opposing ROTC and calling the military a homophobic institution. They see it as an US VS THEM scenario. And this is the heart of the problem. They feel no connection to, nor empathy for the military or the soldiers sailors marines and airmen that serve within it. There is nothing to connect Columbia students and faculty to those who protect and defend them every day.

Columbia needs to regain its sense of civic duty. This is our military. We should be proud to contribute our best and brightest to it.

Sep. 15 2008 06:06 PM
Sean from Washington

Columbia students must care about the state of the Armed Forces. This is their military. They should want people from their community to be represented in the military.

And that brings me back to Senator Obama's point about supporting ROTC. He said "it's also important that a president speaks to military service as an obligation not just of some, but of many."

Military service should not be the burden of only a bunch of state school graduates. While it may not be Columbia's intent to create de facto class separation where only the less well off serve, that is how it appears to many. And appearances speak louder than words.

Columbia should seek out and actively engage the military. At the very least, in opposing DADT Columbia should loudly and publicly lament that the policy is preventing its students from having an accessible opportunity to serve as military officers (particularly in the Navy which is available to no one at Columbia). This should be a PROBLEM for Columbia.

Sep. 15 2008 06:06 PM
Sean from Washington

What I find troubling is that Columbia and the anti-ROTC folks don't feel any sense of responsibility. This is their military. Our military. Maintained to protect and defend us. I don't believe Columbia should be forced to host ROTC. But it should feel OBLIGATED to host ROTC, to play its part in ensuring that our soldiers wherever they are serving have the best educated officers available to lead them.

I absolutely agree that DADT is discriminatory. It should be scrapped completely. It has no place in a 21st century professional fighting force.

But Columbia also has an mission to serve the public good. Its printed right there above Low Library. Right now there are soldiers sailors marines and airmen deployed all over the world. Don't they deserve to have leaders like those that Columbia supposedly produces?

Sep. 15 2008 06:06 PM
Sean from Washington

One note I'd like to make: Don't Ask Don't Tell is not simply a policy that the military decided one day to enact on its own accord. It is, in fact, a federal statute that was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Clinton in 1993 (10 U.S.C. § 654). As such, ending this policy requires that a decision be made not by the President or Secretary of Defense but rather that the law be repealed by our representatives in the U.S. House and Senate. Now, granted at the time of the law's enactment there was broad support for it among the military leadership that was then in place, including the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. While many among the military still support the policy, there is increasing support for its repeal within the ranks (I point to the recent hearing congress held on the matter [ external link to ] , at which prominent military service members testified in opposition to the policy).

Sep. 15 2008 06:05 PM
Eric Chen

The restoration of ROTC at Columbia will open many positive benefits. The return of ROTC will infuse military perspectives and help the student body learn a balanced view of the military and soldiers, and their role in society. New academic options and career choices will be made available to students. Military perspectives and values will enhance Columbia’s marketplace of ideas. ROTC scholarships will be a viable option to finance students’ educations. A native cadet population will diversify and enrich the Columbia community. Class disparities will diminish both in the military, as more privileged citizens embrace military service, and at Columbia, as more underprivileged students will have the means to attend the university. The American people will rebuild their faith in Columbia as a leadership institution that embodies the civic values of nation building, service, duty and the greater good.

For critics of DADT, the return of ROTC and the closure of Columbia’s anti-military reputation will restore a realistic platform for Columbia to address the law. Columbia will be able to lobby for change in the political arena while working directly with the military to teach its future leaders.

Sep. 14 2008 11:21 PM
Eric Chen

Read the Case for ROTC at Columbia:

Also, check out the 18 REASONS FOR ROTC TO RETURN:

Sep. 14 2008 05:03 AM
Sean from Columbia

Hosting an ROTC program on campus does not necessarily require that its courses be granted academic credit, nor that its instructors receive appointments as Professors. I point to Columbia's sister institution Princeton University as a prime example. Princeton hosts Army ROTC. However students there do not receive credit for their participation. Its instructors are not appointed to academic positions (Professor, Asst. Professor, etc.).

Sep. 13 2008 01:59 PM

Is this the special comment page?

The problems are bigger and more important than suggested on air.

First and foremost, can the ROTC unit compel the university to grant academic credit for courses in "military science" which are not subject to the normal faculty approval, oversight, monitoring? That was the deal at Columbia in 1968.

And some money came with it--so it may not have been a free and voluntary decision.

Why can't those who wish to do so do so on their own?

Also, the discusion of the military on campus at the Obama-McCain discussion Thursday evening did not, I think, involve ROTC. It was about "military recruiting on campus", which means offering job interviews, as many corporate employers do, in a room lent by the school, with advance sign-up lists maintained by the school, and various other forms of assistance.

The maintenance of an ROTC unit, marching around the campus in uniform, with rifles (functioning or not) and granting of some of the credits required for the school's degree, is quite another thing. You have conflated the two questions.

Sep. 13 2008 01:57 AM
Ellen Sackstein from Long Beach, NY

I understand that ROTC can require high school guidance counselors to provide phone numbers of high school students 16 and older, and that the ROTC can speak directly to the child without the parent/guardian's knowledge.

Sep. 12 2008 11:53 AM
Evin Watson

This relates to a caller Brian had last week or the week before who admitted to the fear soccer moms claim about voting for Obama. Progressive baby boomers are willing to donate to public institutions, but when it comes to making a personal commitment, they choose to hedge their bets and follow in line with the more conservative, fear driven mentality.

Sep. 12 2008 11:41 AM
anonymous from Brooklyn, NY

I graduated from Smith and my sister from Barnard. I doubt we would have attended these schools if the ROTC was present as an accredited course of study. Academic studies that accredit military training sound to me like something from a Fascist state, very far from the concept of the great centers of learning dating back to the Middle Ages. Shame on you, Barack, though I am a strong supporter otherwise.

Sep. 12 2008 11:25 AM
nanohistory from NYC

Does anyone ever question why we have such a militarized culture in the first place? Both Afghanistan and Iraq are wars of choice. As military analysts now admit it would have been better to have gone after Bin Laden as a police-type operation, with secret service organizations, and special forces involved, not regular soldiers and not bombs.
Do Americans never consider how they would react if they were invaded and had bombs dropped on their cities? Why didn't 9/11 sensitize Americans to the horror of bombing instead of revving them up to kill more innocent people?
Do people realize that at least 4 million Iraqis are dead, maimed or displaced because of our invasion? That's equivalent to about 50 million Americans!
Our government acts in as barbaric a way as any dictator and we barely protest. And now we're about to escalate our war on Afghanistan -- if you read the history of that country you'll see why that no power, however mighty, has ever succeeded in conquering them.
Our current invasions across the border of Pakistan are only going to make things much worse, many Pakistanis will start to support the Taliban or any faction that's opposing us. And the Americans who will pay first will be the unfortunate recruits who in some cases enlisted so they could help out after hurricanes or to pay for college, not so they could be blown to bits in yet another grotesquely mismanaged foreign adventure.

Sep. 12 2008 11:16 AM
Mike from Brooklyn

Although I'm an Obama supporter, I disagree with him on this one -- no ROTC at Columbia or, for that matter, on ANY college campus. We already have far too much military/industrial influence in our society.

I also think Obama (and McCain too, of course) is wrong when he says we need to increase the size of the US Army and Marines. The more we have bombs, tanks, guns, soldiers, etc., the more our leaders will be tempted to use them.

We must work toward a world of interdependent security, instead of building the US into a world bully.

Sep. 12 2008 10:54 AM
Aly from New York

Why should ROTC be exempt from the university's non-discrimination policy? A company that had an official and explicit written policy only to recruit male students or White students would certainly not be allowed on campus. So why should Columbia enable or support the government's discriminatory practices? The real question is why doesn't the military change its policy? Once it does, I'm sure Columbia would welcome them.

Sep. 12 2008 10:53 AM
Arlo from NYC

A personal note: for reasons with which I did not agree, my father insisted that I go to school under ROTC. I was fortunate to find an Ivy League school (not Columbia) that made that impossible by accepting me but not hosting ROTC. Spending years in the military would not have been good for me, whereas I am very happy with the path that I took. I think this idea that the military always builds character and should be able to exercise itself on any campus is oppressive group-think. We are not all alike, and there should be some haven for the rest of us.

Sep. 12 2008 10:53 AM
David Ezell from NYC

From my iPhone so forgive any errors--I am a gay Columbia alum and proud of both. I object to ROTC at my school for two reasons--prejudice as well as taking an anti-war stance. Don't ask don't tell is prejudice, plain and simple. Supporting ROTC is condoning discrimination. But beyond that, we would be supporting war. War does not work; so we are charged with the duty to make that statement to our your men and women. Do students have a choice? You bet--go to another school.

Sep. 12 2008 10:52 AM
Alex from brooklyn

If a school bans all organizations that discriminate on the grounds sexual orientation, I do not think that the military or ROTC should be exempt.

Of course, if I believed that the military could not function with openly gay men and women serving, I would feel differently.

And so, the issue is not ROTC or military recruiting on campus. It actually is don't-ask/don't-tell. And while I believe that policy is stupid and unnecessary, I must acknowledge that I am quite unqualified to evaluate it.

Sep. 12 2008 10:50 AM
deirdre from bronx

The ROTC is allowed to conduct circus like recruitment at CUNY campuses, complete with tents, music, hot dogs, and giveaways.
If we allow recruitment at the campuses that serve the public university cohort, why not the ivies? Would anyone at Columbia sign up, anyway?

Sep. 12 2008 10:48 AM
mark Brown from AND

OK. This is controversial.

I feel we need a MANDATORY Draft.

either Military OR alternative Service.

The Military would be a natural ROTC system.
The alternative service could also (for college students) be organized as a ROTC like service acadamy..

PS: Look here:

Sep. 12 2008 10:48 AM

The army would greatly benefit from a reverse of the brain drain that's taking place right now.

Imagine what a military would like like, if it had leaders and members with a more nuanced world view, instead of a high school education.

ROTC cadets who join the military could *gasp* lead by example...

Sep. 12 2008 10:47 AM
Kristin Schall from Brooklyn

I am a graduate student at Brooklyn College and did my undergrad work at Pace University. Throughout my college career I have been very involved in anti-war work. I do not that that while there is an extremely unpopular war going on that this topic should even be discussed. Why would we put our best and brightest into a situation to have them sent to war and killed fighting an unjust war?

Sep. 12 2008 10:47 AM
no atlantic yards from brooklyn

I went to Haverford, a Quaker school and the ROTC runs counter to the pacifist principles of Quakerism. We also did not have fraternities or they run counter to the Quaker principles of inclusion. We got along fine.

Sep. 12 2008 10:46 AM
Bill from New York

"We accept all majors (except philosophy majors)"

For real? That's awesome. Did that keep peeps out of the draft, too?

Bring the ROTC back. Who cares? Whom do the people who would never consider the ROTC themselves think they're protecting? At Columbia? An Ivy?

Sep. 12 2008 10:44 AM
Lloyd from Manhattan

Allow everyone to serve in the military and ROTC will be welcome by everyone.

Sep. 12 2008 10:43 AM
Jacqueline from Jersey City

Maybe ROTC should ONLY be at ivy league schools? It seems that the militarization of higher education occurs much more often on working class campuses of campuses with predominantly minority populations. It would make a change for the more privileged among us to be actively recruited.

Sep. 12 2008 10:42 AM
Robert from NYC

Well Christopher (1) I guess that makes sense since they don't want anyone who can think seriously.

Sep. 12 2008 10:41 AM
Robert from NYC

Imagine Rudolf Giuliani sneering at anyone!!! Really. Mr. 9/11. All nerve endings to his brain, other than those dealing with 9/11, have ceased to function.

Sep. 12 2008 10:39 AM
Christopher from NYC

When I was an undergraduate at Columbia in 68, there was ROTC recruting on campus. They had a sign saying "We accept all majors (except philosophy majors)"

Sep. 12 2008 10:38 AM

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