According to a recent article in the News (“YCC to survey students on ROTC,” Oct. 15), YCC representatives will soon try to gauge how the student body feels about the potential return of ROTC to our campus. After reading that article, I wanted to be one of the first among my peers to speak out in favor of bringing ROTC back. I believe there are many students who feel as I do, and many reasons why the return of ROTC would benefit the Yale community.
Last year, as a senior in high school, my hardest decision was choosing between Yale and the United States Military Academy. Both Yale and the academy offer unique and unmatched opportunities to the young men and women who attend them. It was very difficult for me to choose between the desire to serve my country and the desire to receive a degree and education from arguably the best academic institution in the world. I am certain that mine was not a unique dilemma. Why can’t Yale offer an unmatched education coupled with the ability to serve one’s country in the military?
Yale prides itself on being an institution that encourages its students to explore any personal interest. Yet the ROTC program offered to Yale students, at the University of New Haven, is far off campus and is impractical for the majority of students. The effectiveness of this “solution” is evident: There are only four participants out of over 5,000 undergraduates. I do not believe that such low participation is due to lack of interest. Rather, it seems that the demands of being a full-time Yale student make traveling to another university to participate in ROTC nearly impossible. It is very difficult, and in many ways unfair, to ask students to restrict what classes they can take or what activities they can join because they have to travel off campus for training. Also, it is practically impossible for an athlete to participate in an off-campus program, regardless of how they might try to adapt their academic schedule. When I spoke with the head ROTC officer at Rutgers this past summer, he informed me that athletes are very prevalent in ROTC programs around the country, and I imagine this trend would be reflected at Yale if the program were on campus. An on-campus ROTC program could engage these athletes and work around their schedules, but unfortunately, a non-Yale ROTC program is less willing to make such personal accommodations.
More significantly, as an institution that has produced and continues to produce leaders in our nation, there is no reason to exclude military service from this tradition. I always feel somewhat hypocritical as I walk through Woolsey Hall and peer up at the ranks of former Yale students who gave their lives in military service to our country, knowing that today Yale does not allow interested students the opportunity to carry on the school’s long and honored history of military service. In a world where national security issues are becoming ever more imperative, I would hope that, as an institution, we would want our military leaders to benefit from the education and moral grounding that Yale offers. I would also note that one reason this country has a tradition of intellectual freedom, free speech and democracy is that, at dark hours in the past, there have been Americans, including Yale graduates or even students, that have been willing to stand up for those freedoms. Some of those Americans have been lawyers, politicians or energized citizens. Often, however, they have been military leaders willing to pay the ultimate price, if necessary, to defend the rights and freedoms we all hold dear.
I believe that the return of the ROTC program to Yale will only help to support the ideals that this community seeks to embrace. It is time for us to once again fulfill the core principles that are so clearly delineated in one of our University’s mottos: For God, for Country, and for Yale.
Rob Michel is a freshman in Trumbull College.