Letter: Cut the malarky over ROTC

Though his desire to serve through ROTC is noble and his reading of the student body’s desire to participate accurate, Rob Michel’s ’14 column (“Bring back ROTC,” Oct. 26) completely misses the point as to why Yale doesn’t have ROTC.

Though the pervasive myth regarding ROTC is that we Ivies barred it during the Vietnam War and that the ban continues due to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” that isn’t the case at all. We didn’t ban ROTC; ROTC left us. As Diane Mazur, a former Air Force officer and law school professor, wrote in the New York Times on Oct. 24, the former is merely a convenient myth that fits the public perception of the Ivies as a pinko-collectivist breeding ground.

The story often goes that Harvard “expelled” ROTC in 1969. But this was not the case; ROTC did not meet the academic and professorship requirements of academic courses, so Harvard relegated ROTC to an extracurricular. The ROTC walked. The same process happened at several other Ivies, including Yale. Whatever student protests or faculty resolutions may have opposed ROTC’s presence over the years, it has never been banned.

In fact, Yale would be making a mistake to ban ROTC. Because of the Solomon Amendment of 1994, any college that bars ROTC or military recruitment from a campus is disqualified from receiving any form of federal financing — and, as evident in funds such as the $136.5 million Yale received for research through the stimulus bill, this is clearly not the case.

As comfortable as it may be to insist we Ivies are standing up for principle and for the military to insist it was unjustly banned, it’s time to stop kidding ourselves.

Jack Newsham

Oct. 26

The writer is a freshman in Morse College.


  • Segal

    The problem with the argument made in the NYT op-ed and repeated here is that the colleges knowingly created conditions under which ROTC could not remain on campus legally. By canceling faculty appointments and course listings for ROTC, the universities was violating provisions in the ROTC Vitalization Act of 1964 (http://uscode.house.gov/download/pls/10C103.txt). That law specifies that no ROTC unit may be "maintained at an institution unless the senior commissioned officer of the armed force concerned who is assigned to the program at that institution is given the academic rank of professor… and the institution adopts, as a part of its curriculum, a four-year course of military instruction … which the Secretary of the military department concerned prescribes and conducts".

    Accounts at the time such as those by the head of Naval ROTC at Harvard (http://www.thecrimson.com/article/1969/2/7/naval-rotc-hinges-upon-professorship-pnaval/) and the president of Harvard (http://www.advocatesforrotc.org/harvard/pusey1969.html) make it clear that those in charge understood that violating the terms of the ROTC law meant getting rid of ROTC.

    Universities such as MIT, Princeton and Cornell have found ways to deal with the law in ways that fit with academic norms. More details are in the numerous articles cited on the web site of Advocates for ROTC (www.advocatesforrotc.org) and summarized in a criticism of the NYT op-ed at http://blog.american.com/?p=21552

    Presumably the NYT will print letters clarifying the situation.

  • Summer

    So what young Mr. Newsham is saying is that the Ivies didn’t kick ROTC of campus – they merely made it impossible for them to stay.


  • FreddyHoneychurch

    I wanted to study Dutch, Pre-Pharmacy, and Kinesiology, but Yale, it turns out, doesn’t offer those majors. A decent football team would be nice, too.

    Also, let me hypothesize that the vast majority of the Yale community, if they wasted even ten minutes thinking about it, would actively oppose a federal military presence on campus. I’m not even going to bother to insert the reflexive and obligatory while-we-honor-our-brave-warriors’-sacrifice clause. I’m not running for office this year (pipped at post in primaries!). Yale students don’t want ROTC. Yale faculty don’t want ROTC. Yale administrators don’t want ROTC. We think there’s already plenty of militarism to go around. Solomon Amendment? Flimsy saber-rattling federal law. If Robert Gates insists on it, then let him take a run. Flimsy laws are ignored and challenged all the time. That’s how law works. We want the Pentagon to focus on solar panels.

    Anyway, these days it seems we’re committed to contracting private mercenaries. Capitalism, remember?

  • RexMottram08

    When will NASA recruit on campus?

    With their new mandate of boosting Muslim self-esteem, I imagine there are a ton of recruits on campus.

  • Summer

    > We think there’s already plenty of militarism to go around.

    Isn’t that a decision for individual students to make?

  • roflairplane

    @FreddyHoneyChurch: Wrong-O! I’d love ROTC on campus.

  • FreddyHoneychurch

    There’s one vote!

  • Hieronymus’ Bosh

    Good stuff (the comments, not the derivative-if-not-plagiaristic and incorrect perpetuation of a falsehood above them).

  • YaleMom

    Rolling On The Carpet??? These internet acronyms are confusing to us normal people!!

  • jnewsham

    Interesting. Thanks for the links, @Segal.