Four years ago I walked the halls of Yale as one of two Army ROTC cadets who were also students at the college. When describing my time at Yale to others, I am always careful to make that distinction — I was emphatically not a Yale ROTC cadet. This, as nearly all students at the University know, is impossible, as Yale explicitly banned ROTC from campus during the height of the Vietnam War.
Now is not the time to rehash the horrible things that Yale faculty and administrators said about the ROTC program, soldiers, or the ideals of the military at the time. Few if any of these people remain at the school, and I would venture that only a tiny minority of the students, faculty and administrators who supported this ban were doing so for the same reasons it was initiated.
That said, the cause of the ban is something that must inform how one looks at the ban’s continued existence, especially now that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell has been repealed and even Harvard will be permitting ROTC onto campus. This ban was not born of openness, it was not born of a desire for equal rights for homosexuals — it was born of the kind of anti-military hatred that most people of this generation cannot even begin to fathom — of spitting on returning soldiers, of draft protests, of “baby killer” chants. It is somewhat novel to consider that DADT even became the justification for the ban’s existence, given that DADT’s implementation was in fact a liberalization of the military’s policy on homosexual rights, and that policy was not at all a factor in the ban’s original creation.
It is this original issue that makes the remaining Yale veterans question the University’s laggard response to the DADT repeal. Why is this being studied and simply “discuss[ed]”? Why is the administration not supporting the idea of populating one of America’s most important institutions with the type of principled, intelligent leaders that Yale has been producing for generations? Further, why is it denying Yale students the chance to serve their country in the military without having to leave campus?
The simple fact is that one can conceive of ROTC not wanting to move any of their programs in Connecticut to Yale University, given the great unknown that surrounds it. Most of Connecticut’s cadets come from either the University of Connecticut or Sacred Heart University, and relocating in the hope of drawing Ivy grads could be a huge and costly gamble. So why does Yale wait for the other side? Why has it not taken a single action to reflect the widespread campus support for bringing back ROTC? Simply put — why must we wait for ROTC to make the decision that they want to come to Yale before we welcome them?
Here are the actions that Yale can and, frankly, must take to show that it is serious about lifting this ban. First, the Yale Corporation must issue a resolution expressly rescinding its ROTC ban, and officially opening its doors to ROTC should it choose to move to the campus. Second, the Corporation and the College should immediately announce that any Yale students who take ROTC courses at another university will begin to receive full credit for the courses as unrestricted electives towards their degree program. This is the largest impediment to establishing any larger number of cadets on campus, as no Ivy League student wants to take an additional class each semester and receive zero course credit for it. Finally, Yale must actively request, and explicitly authorize, that the Connecticut ROTC programs begin regular recruitment activities on campus — an activity still prevented by the ban on ROTC.
There can be no more excuses, no waiting for the next reason to continue this counterproductive and now irrational ban. No more waiting, no more negotiations, no more discussions. I say to President Levin: take action. End this disservice to our great nation, to Yale’s own students and reputation, and to the hundreds of Yale men and women who have given their lives in defense of this country and whose names are memorialized in Woolsey Hall. Continued delay can only lead patriotic alumni and students, and the nation at large, to assume that the original reasons for this ban’s implementation play a larger part in the mind of the administration than we had previously given them credit for, and that would be a sad conclusion indeed.
Christopher Day is a 2007 graduate of Jonathan Edwards College. He was commissioned in the United States Army as a Distinguished Military Graduate of the Connecticut ROTC program and is a combat veteran of both the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.