In the days of the late 1960s, in the throes of the Vietnam War, friction between campus anti-war activists and ROTC cadets drove the administration to ban ROTC from Yale. Over the following three decades, all voices advocating the return of ROTC were quickly hushed by vocal liberals lambasting the military’s outdated policies.
Regardless of its past policies, it is now time for the University to again uphold its commitment to public service — of which the U.S. military is an essential part — and bring back ROTC.
The return of ROTC will do much more than rehabilitate Yale’s longtime anti-war reputation — it will increase the vibrancy and diversity of the Yale community. The generous merit-based aid doled out by ROTC would allow even more remarkable students to matriculate here, funded by Department of Defense-paid scholarships. No longer should the lack of an avenue for pursuing military service in exchange for reduced tuition preclude qualified applicants from passing up Yale for Cornell or Princeton, where ROTC programs thrive.
Setting up an ROTC detachment would be neither financially nor logistically difficult. The facilities it would require are far less than some may imagine. There are no tanks or grenades that could potentially prove bothersome to passers-by. ROTC is a program for officers, where future military leaders are schooled in the arts of warfare and leadership techniques, not a basic training camp for enlisted troops. ROTC simply needs a few classrooms, a gym and a field — hardly too much to ask, considering the reciprocal benefits.
The Department of Defense could likely be eager to reinstate an ROTC detachment at Yale. The University’s prestige alone would draw a number of students who straddle both the notion of serving your country and the goal of expanding your mind. Furthermore, the University of Connecticut, the only school in the state with ROTC, has only Army and Air Force programs. Yale could very easily add a much needed Navy program to the state’s ROTC offerings.
Recently, the most fervent objections have come from those decrying the military’s treatment of homosexuals, who are still unable to serve openly in uniform.
It must be noted that an endorsement of ROTC in no way demonstrates support for the the military’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on homosexuality. Of course, such a stance seems entirely incompatible with “The Gay Ivy.” But bringing in a cadre of willing reformers, such as those Yalies who oppose the policy, could be the best way to foster debate about this controversial policy.
The administration’s decision to ban ROTC during the Vietnam War may have been made sense at that time. But today, a new generation of Yalies should tirelessly push the University to reinstitute the program and provide the opportunity for men and women to serve their country and obtain a world-class education in the process.
The only possible outcome is a better military, a freer country and a greater Yale.