With national attention focused on the American military in Iraq, a group of professors and a retired air force officer examined the ties between Yale and the armed services during a panel discussion Wednesday night.
Panelists, including history professor Donald Kagan, diplomat-in-residence Charles Hill and retired United States Air Force Lt. General Tad Oelstrom, emphasized Yale’s traditional commitment to public service, but urged the University to develop closer connections with the military. Panelists particularly focused on the Reserve Officers Training Corps program, which trains students to be military officers but is not currently affiliated with Yale.
About 60 students attended the talk, which was sponsored by the Yale Student Military Organization.
Political science professor Paul Kennedy, who moderated the discussion, said connections with the military were much stronger in the past, particularly during World War II.
“During World War II everybody at Yale was in uniform,” Kennedy said. “We were a military camp.”
During the Vietnam War, however, student and faculty sentiment turned against the military. As a result of student efforts, and with the support of the Yale faculty, the Yale Corporation ended the University’s official affiliation with ROTC and denied ROTC the use of University facilities.
Since then, students participating in ROTC have not received University credit. The eight current students in ROTC travel to the University of Connecticut for the program.
Kagan said Yale’s current ROTC policy should be changed.
“The entire episode of removing the ROTC program is a blot on Yale’s record,” Kagan said. “The time has come for the Yale faculty and administration to remove that disgrace.”
Kagan’s statement was greeted with applause from the audience, which included students who are members of the ROTC.
The panelists also said students at highly selective colleges should be encouraged to participate in public service, particularly the military. Hill said that as public opinion becomes more favorable toward the American military, the absence of significant numbers of elite students in the armed services poses a problem.
“We have not had the intake from Yale to the military that we should have and that is not a good thing,” Hill said. “We can make things right by moving in to fill that need.”
Alexander Nazem ’04, who attended the panel, said he believes Yale should restart its campus ROTC program.
“These are premature opinions, but this is a program that should be reinstated on campus if only because there are people who would be interested in serving the military,” Nazem said. “We shouldn’t deny people that opportunity.”
Jacqueline Farber ’03 said though she has no objections to reinstating ROTC on campus, she believes the University should make an effort to attract other public service programs to campus as well.
“If you are someone who wants to help your country and help people without the idea of inflicting any more violence in this world, there aren’t a lot of options to pay for college,” Farber said. “If students want the ROTC, they should have it. At the same time, there should be a push to find other ways for students to get college paid for.”