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With the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” President Obama is calling on colleges to welcome back the military. While several Ivy League schools are considering the request, the military is not in expansion mode. We explore the future of ROTC and what it means for civilian-military relations on university campuses.
- Donald Downs Donald Downs, Professor of Political Science, Law, and Journalism at the University of Wisconsin, Madison; author of the forthcoming book "Arms and the University: Military Presence and the Civic Education of Non-military Students"
- Diane Mazur Law Professor, University of Florida; former Air Force captain; author, “A More Perfect Military: How the Constitution Can Make Our Military Stronger”
- Alvin Thornton Associate Provost of Howard University, former three-term Chairperson of the Prince George's County school board and Chairman of the Maryland Thornton Commission.
MS. REBECCA ROBERTSFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your community with the world. I'm Rebecca Roberts, sitting in for Kojo. Coming up this hour, in his State of the Union address last month, President Obama alluded to the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, saying that starting this year, no American will be forbidden from serving the country they love because of who they love. And with that change, he said -- he called on the nation...
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMAI call on all our college campuses to open their doors to our military recruiters and ROTC. It is time to leave behind the divisive battles of the past. It is time to move forward as one nation.
ROBERTSThe debate is already underway in the Ivy League. Harvard, Yale and Columbia are all exploring the return of ROTC, as is Stanford. But experts say we're not likely to see major change. The animosity between academia and the military that led them to part company in the 1960s and '70s has already largely subsided. Several hundred ROTC programs already exist, including here in Washington. And the military isn't looking to expand them. So what does that mean for the future of ROTC and the military-academic relationship?
ROBERTSIn an interesting twist of fate, some people who opposed the military's presence on college campuses during the Vietnam War are now in favor of it, saying both parties have a lot to gain from the interaction. Joining us to discuss the past, present and future of the Reserve Officer Training Corps, better known as ROTC or ROTC, we have Diane Mazur. She's a law professor at the University of Florida, a former Air Force captain and author of "A More Perfect Military: How the Constitution Can Make Our Military Stronger." Diane Mazur, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show."
PROF. DIANE MAZURThank you very much for inviting me.
ROBERTSAlso from the studios of Wisconsin Public Radio, where I imagine everything is decked out in yellow and green today, we have Donald Downs, professor of political science, law and journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He's the co-author of a forthcoming book called "Arms and the University: Military Presence and the Civic Education of Non-Military Students." Donald Downs, welcome to you. And you can join us by calling 800-433-8850 or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also get in touch with us through our Facebook page or by sending us a tweet to @kojoshow. So, Diane Mazur, let's start with you. Let's, first of all, define our terms. How is it that ROTC -- how does a high school student get involved and what happens once they accept a ROTC scholarship and go to school?
MAZURIt's something of a two-track process. The students, just like any other students, would apply for admission to whichever universities they were interested in, and at the same time, they would be applying with the military to approve and fund them for attendance at one of those universities.
ROBERTSAnd so it's not that you get an ROTC scholarship and you can take it to whatever school accepts it. You get a scholarship to a specific school?
MAZURNot only to a specific school, but military would like to know what do you intend to major in, because the military obviously has needs it would like to fill in, so it has preferences for majors such as engineering, for one example, that it thinks would be most important to the military. So a high school student is trying to juggle a lot of balls at the same time when they're applying for an ROTC scholarship.
ROBERTSAnd do you have to apply individually to each branch of the military or is it one application?
MAZURI believe it is consolidated into one application now, but I'm not precisely sure about that.
ROBERTSBut each branch runs their own ROTC programs?
MAZURYes, that is right. Now, different universities might not have all of the branches, and so that's one other thing that you would have to take into account.
ROBERTSAnd we should also mention that we did reach out to some local ROTC programs here in the Washington area, and for various reasons they politely declined to participate in this conversation. But we would like to hear from audience members who have participated in ROTC programs, or if there was an ROTC program at the college you attended, we'd like to hear what the sort of interaction was like between the cadets and the non-military students. Again, our number here is 800-433-8850 or you can send us e-mail, email@example.com.
ROBERTSSo remind us a little bit about the history of this military-university relationship. We referred to the anti-war movement of the '60s and '70s. What is the background that people need to understand to understand how we've gotten where we are now?
MAZURThis is a very difficult background because we are running up against, today, with a very inaccurate recollection of what happened 40 years ago that we struggle with this myth, and that there is this very inaccurate myth that universities, 40 years ago, banned ROTC from campus, that they pushed ROTC off campus, and that the major barrier today to ROTC returning to campus would be that the resistance of these universities.
ROBERTSAnd so, what was the real story?
MAZURWhat happened back around 1970, and probably the most important thing, is that ROTC was downsizing in the later years of the Vietnam War, that we had switched to a new form of a draft. It was a lottery-based system, and that if your birthday came up late in the draft, you had really no practical possibility that you would be drafted, and so therefore you had no need to enroll in ROTC as the means of managing your exposure to the draft. And so ROTC was downsizing severely and many ROTC detachments were going to close. Protest or no protest, they were going to close. And so this downsizing of ROTC, I think, caught up with an era of war protests. And these protests, I think, became part of our collective memory of why it is ROTC downsized, but it really was not connected to that.
ROBERTSAlthough since then, certainly there have been things like faculty votes, where a given faculty recommended not reinstating ROTC. Even if they weren't kicked off campus, there has been a less than encouraging attitude towards welcoming them back in certain schools.
MAZURYou raise a very important point that ROTC is a cooperative relationship, that both sides have to want to dance to have a ROTC detachment, that the military has to want to be there, and the university has to be willing to accommodate the military. And so the hardest question sometimes is looking back and saying, well, okay, if ROTC does not exist at this university, why is that? Is it because one or other of those parties are not interested? Is it because both of them are not interested? That you have to have both of them coming together in the same place. And so certainly, there has been a period in more recent history in which universities have not been interested in having ROTC return, lately primarily because of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. But what tends to fall out of the story is that during that same period that the military has had an equal lack of interest in having a detachment at that school because it doesn't need one.
ROBERTSAnd Donald Downs from University of Wisconsin at Madison, how big a part of this conversation in terms of the history of the relationship between ROTC and universities is the question of whether the courses that are taught as part of the ROTC program are given credit by the school?
PROF. DONALD DOWNSRight. Well, that's an important issue and that's been going on really since, sort of, close to the inception of ROTC back in the early 20th century. There have often been questions about the quality of courses, the quality of instructors. Over time, ROTC has gotten better that way both in terms of instructors and in terms of courses. But it has been a constant concern.
ROBERTSAnd so the military chooses the instructors and then the university decides whether or not they're credit worthy?
DOWNSThat's right in most cases.
ROBERTSAnd how many classes does a typical cadet take in the ROTC program?
DOWNSYou know, typically, it's depends on whether they're doing the four-year program or the two-year program. It's usually one course per term and they have their other activities like drill and things like that.
ROBERTSAnd give me some sense of what those classes might be.
DOWNSWell, they have courses in the history of that particular branch, which sometimes are taught by ROTC instructors, sometimes taught by history departments, depending on the arrangement at that particular school. They have courses in strategy. They have scientifically-oriented courses. They have engineering courses in the Navy, for example. And the primary attention is given to leadership and that involves, you know, how to command, how to weigh different ethical conflicts and things like that. It's primarily a leadership program, but you have to know about the institution that you're working in too.
ROBERTSI wanna take a call here. This is Ann in Washington, D.C. Ann, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show."
ANNThank you very much. I find it a little bit regrettable that you don't have another speaker taking a different view of the history of ROTC on the program. I was active on campuses as were millions of other students during the '60s, and we had to have massive protests and mobilizations to basically get ROTC off of the campus. It was not -- we have to make a distinction between the university administrations and the students. And the students had a very different will. And I certainly think that they would, today -- in those days, of course, the draft was enacted and that's had a huge impact on people's feeling invested in not going to serve in a war that they think is unjust.
ANNBut the same situations, those obtained today there is -- the vote for Obama, although he has not acted on the will of the people, was clearly to pull out of these wars in the Middle East. And I think it's very sad to hear the distortions of the history of the universities' decisions. Those universities did not willingly withdraw ROTC. They did so under massive pressure. Thank you.
ROBERTSAnd can I ask where you went to school?
ANNI went to school at Boston University.
ROBERTSAnd would -- how would you feel about Boston University having an ROTC program now?
ANNI'm completely opposed to these U.S. wars in the Middle East. I think that they benefit largely oil companies and corporate interests which see that region has been geopolitically important for strategic reasons as an entrance into Africa, Central Asia and Eastern Europe. And I just think that we need to assess the terrible harms that the swollen Pentagon budget is doing in terms of our having to cut back on social services here.
ROBERTSWell, in terms of students choosing ROTC as a way to go to college, how would you feel about that as an option?
ANNI think that it would be like a poverty draft where many students -- I believe that we ought to have open admissions to universities so that the public should basically be allowing any student who wants to go to college go to college. I don't think any student should have to sign up, to play a terrible role when they're at a young age where they may wind up killing themselves --- killing other people just in order to get an education. I think it’s a terrible decision to put young people in.
ROBERTSAll right, Ann. Thank you very much for your call. Diane Mazur, let's give you a chance to respond. She says she was there marching and that BC wouldn't have gotten ROTC off of campus without that -- I'm sorry, BU -- without that student influence.
MAZURThere was a great deal of controversy, a great deal of student protests, a great deal of public protests about the war I think throughout the country. And today, I think we tend to forget how widespread that dissatisfaction about the war was, and we tend to localize it, I think, inappropriately in some elite universities at which there is not currently ROTC today. But that I do agree with the caller that there was widespread dissatisfaction about the war. What I would add is that we've had for, throughout much of our history, a very close relationship between universities and military training, and we've lost a lot of that. And in my view, the quickest way to smarter decisions about war would be to try to revitalize that relationship between ROTC and universities, that it doesn't help us make smarter decisions to be further apart.
ROBERTSThat's Diane Mazur. She's...
DOWNSCan I add to that?
ROBERTSYeah. She's a professor at the University of Florida. We're also joined by Donald Downs, professor at University of Wisconsin. Go ahead.
DOWNSYeah. I'd like -- I agree with Prof. Mazur on that point. I mean, one could actually be antiwar and certainly antimilitarism. That's the difference between pro-militarian and pro-militarism. And, nonetheless, support ROTC is a leavening factor, that it does help train in the more liberal arts kind of context officers to hopefully would make smarter and better decisions. Also, in terms of history -- I came to this conversation late because of technical difficulty, so I was not able to talk about the historical aspect. I agree with much of what Prof. Mazur has said, but I agree more with the caller that, in many cases, especially in more elite universities, the political protests really were key and at least one of the major keys.
DOWNSAnd I have a new book with a co-author coming out that deals with a lot of these issues, and did a case study, for example, at Columbia, and it's really hard to separate the amazing political pressure that existed at Columbia from the other factors that led to the demise of ROTC. Attributing causation is a difficult thing to do especially when you have many factors involved, but clearly, in many cases, the political pressure I think was important.
ROBERTSAnd interestingly, Columbia is one of those schools that is at least getting together a committee to look at the idea of bringing ROTC back onto campus, which shows you how things are changing, a conversation we are going to continue after this quick break. And if you would like to join us, we would love to have you. The phone number is 800-433-8850. Or you can e-mail us, firstname.lastname@example.org. We will continue our conversation after this break. Stay with us.
ROBERTSWelcome back. I'm Rebecca Roberts, sitting in for Kojo Nnamdi. We are talking about the past, present and future of the Reserve Officer Training Corps, ROTC or R-O-T-C. My guests are Diane Mazur, a law professor at University of Florida and author of "A More Perfect Military: How the Constitution Can Make Our Military Stronger," and Donald Downs, a professor of political science, law and journalism at the University of Wisconsin at Madison and co-author of the forthcoming book "Arms and the University: Military Presence and the Civic Education of Non-military Students."
ROBERTSPlease join us by calling 800-433-8850 or e-mail us, email@example.com. You can also get in touch with us through our Facebook page or send us a tweet, @kojoshow. So we're talking about how things might be changing on campuses, whether universities are heeding President Obama's call, among others, to reconsider having an ROTC program on campus. And I wanted to ask you, Donald Downs, you know, since the new GI Bill, there is an influx of veteran college students. How is that changing this picture in terms of the military university relationship?
DOWNSExcuse me. I think it's had a major impact just in the last couple of years. I spoke to the dean of the School of General Studies at Columbia, which is for the older students, and he articulated to me that there's been a major impact at Columbia. They have roughly 2,000 of the veterans -- oh, excuse me. Two hundred some veterans that have come back to campus, and they provide a diversity of viewpoints, different kind of experience. They are often, you know, very intelligent students, and said students are much more receptive to them than they have been in the past. And to some extent, military personnel are playing on the well-established diversity theme at universities, that, you know, we believe in expanding the diversity in the university in terms of incomes, economic status, identity and things like that, and the military can certainly contribute to that kind of diversity.
ROBERTSLet's take a call. This is Brian in Woodbridge, Va. Brian, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show."
BRIANHello. Good morning, and thank you for taking my call.
BRIANYes. I was a former instructor with the George Washington ROTC Unit. As part of our consortium, we had students -- midshipmen from D.C., Howard, Catholic, American, Maryland and Georgetown attending our ROTC unit, as well as of course George Washington students. And I want to take umbrage with the caller earlier who regarded ROTC program as some sort of a poverty draft. I'm not sure exactly why she would deny the opportunity for those who have lower economic status to advance himself to a program like the ROTC unit. In our program, yes, there was a great concentration on leadership skills.
BRIANBut there was also -- you get -- you know, I don't know what kind of value you could put on a inner city youth or somebody of a lower economic means, affording themselves availability of getting an engineering degree or law, international law, poli sci. As a matter of fact, I used to teach, believe it or not, celestial navigation, one they regarded as the most difficult course on the George Washington campus. But I had as one of my students, a little Malaysian girl, who attended in burqa and the whole nine yards, attend my class. And she was also double majoring in both physics and engineering. Now I don't know what kind of opportunity she would have to do that in Malaysia. But...
ROBERTSBrian, quickly. Let me ask you ask you two quick questions. First of all, you said midshipmen. The GW program is Navy ROTC, yeah?
BRIANYes, it is. I'm sorry.
ROBERTSAnd you mentioned all of these other schools able to participate. That sort of consortium model, is that more than the norm than the exception?
BRIANI think that it's more the exception. Usually -- we have a large number of universities here. So it's more advantageous to the Navy, for economic reasons, to centralize at George Washington where somebody who might be at the, I don't know, University of Nebraska -- I don't know if they, you know, there'd be even another education institute in close range. But we had nursing -- it also gave us, as a ROTC unit, the ability to widen our scope for teaching. We -- most of our nursing students were at Catholic. Most of our law, poli sci students were at George Washington. We had a wide variety coming -- going to Howard and D.C. and so forth. So that gave us -- it doubled, in effect, the range of the possibilities that George Washington offered. And President Trachtenberg saw that, and we had a very good relationship with then President Trachtenberg.
ROBERTSBrian, thank you very much for your call. We are talking about ROTC programs. We got an e-mail from someone who did not stay on the line, but he is a former cadet himself who objected to calling it ROTC. He prefers R-O-T-C or the full name, Reserve Officer Training Corps. Do you have any sense, Donald Downs, whether there -- is there a preferred way of saying the acronym?
DOWNSI think it depends on the individual. So -- and I've heard even ROTC people call it ROTC.
ROBERTSDiane, do you have a preference?
MAZURI -- that was the first time I have ever heard that people have preferences among those various terms. (laugh) I wasn't aware of that.
ROBERTSLet's take a call from Jonathan in Washington, D.C. Jonathan, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show."
JONATHANHi. Thank you for taking my call.
JONATHANAnd I'm calling as someone who was a ROTC student myself. And I got to tell you, if it was not for ROTC of the Navy offering a scholarship, I would not have gotten to college. I would not have had the opportunity that I've had today. I've learned a lot. Gosh, that was over 20 years ago. And even to this day, the leadership I learned, the civic duty, the American history part, the side about how the military operates, it's been nothing but a great benefit. And to think that today that there are possible students or cadets that couldn't -- would like to go, but maybe the school that they want to go to doesn't have a program. So therefore, they'd not -- they have to go to that school, it's kind of -- it's heartbreaking for me.
JONATHANI think, you know, academic institutions should look at to -- for instance, seriously, bringing it back also to campuses. I understand that back in the 60s or in the Vietnam War it's a very emotional, very heated time during American history. But things have changed tremendously. And to agree with the previous caller, you know, there are people that I hear -- I hear from -- that joined the military right after 9/11. And they didn't do an ROTC program. So to think of this being a poverty draft, I think, is very misleading and very misguided. And hopefully, education system will become more enlightened and will bring the ROTC back onto their campuses. Thank you.
ROBERTSJonathan, thank you for your call. We are also joined on the line now by Alvin Thornton, the senior adviser to the president for academic affairs at Howard University. Alvin Thornton, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show."
DR. ALVIN THORNTONWell, thank you for having me.
ROBERTSSo, we've heard from callers, who object to the idea of there being any sort of military presence on campus. We've heard from callers, who wouldn't have gone to college with an ROTC program. From a college campus here in Washington, D.C., what do you see?
THORNTONWhat do I see? Well, we've already been -- Howard University had a very long-standing relationship with the ROTC. On our campuses, the Air Force and Army ROTC is obviously -- Howard University students participated aggressively in the anti-war movement. They did not manifest that aggressive as I don't think directly after ROTC presence here. I knew it was started to move in 1946, even though we had a soft presence even before that, starting with World War I. So -- it's a very active unit now and it's a part of the area consortia of universities, including the American University itself and George Washington and Trinity. It's a major part of college of arts and sciences curriculum program. The leadership of the ROTC unit participates in academic affairs. So there's the positive relationship on our campus at this point.
ROBERTSAnd do you think there is a positive effect for students who are not in the program to have exposure to the kids who are?
THORNTONWell, I do see a lot of ROTC students. I've been in Howard for 30 years. And I've seen a lot of ROTC students who are very active in non-ROTC related extracurricular activities, particularly in terms of student governance and student council leadership activities. Some of the more vocal leaders in those units that are not ROTC-specific, come from ROTC itself. And so that's one certainly positive benefit. I am not able to speak to, you know, their present doings and other things, but that one example is one that I would cite.
ROBERTSAnd so you would say overall, that ROTC has been a positive thing for Howard and it's an important part that you would keep going forward?
THORNTONYes, it's been a positive thing. It sort of has been a subject as one would expect of discretions about the role of the military and our larger society as I heard my colleagues talked about. But that's the discourse that we consider to be a very positive one. The do's and don'ts, and whether or not we should be involved in various foreign affairs as we are. But on the campus, the students debating those issues has been a very positive thing. We do have -- some people would want on our campus ROTC to be even larger. They're about 85 students at this point. And one would expect, even in our campus of about 10,000 kids that you would have a larger number. There's also belief that the excellent scholarship opportunities are available for students should be assessed much more aggressively by some students. So, even, I think, our ROTC officials would think that. But the relationship, as I said, has been a very positive one.
ROBERTSYou know, we're having this conversation in the context of the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and President Obama mentioning that that repeal should bring ROTC back to campus in his recent State of the Union address. Diane Mazur, how did the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy affect ROTC's reception on college campuses while it was in place? And do you think its repeal will have an effect on its ongoing role?
MAZURWell, first, I'd like to mention briefly that, as of right now, Don't Ask, Don't Tell is not yet actually repealed, that a process has been set in motion that will allow the policy to end on the day if and when the president and the military decide they are ready. Now, I do expect this to happen sometime this year. But there has been no calendar for this, so universities have no idea when this policy will actually end. Now, it is true that for the last couple of decades that universities who cited this policy as a reason why they should not cooperate in welcoming ROTC back to campus. And the interest that universities have is, they wanna be loyal to their students -- all of them, not just some of them or most of them. And the position of the universities, as we have anti-discrimination policies in which we cannot support programs, that all of our students aren't welcome to join in. So that's been the motivating principle for universities for some time now.
ROBERTSDonald Downs, would you agree with that?
DOWNSAbsolutely. There's no question. And I think with the repeal, when it does come, you are going to see the opening of doors in many campuses where it's been excluded in the past. What form that takes will depend on the economics of the situation and depend on the number of students who might be interested, et cetera. There is -- you don't have to necessarily bring back a full-fudged program. You can contribute to what's happening already in various ways.
ROBERTSAnd Alvin Thornton, as Howard, as you say, is -- discussed the various present concept, having this program there over the years, has Don't Ask, Don't Tell been a part of that conversation?
THORNTONIt's been a part of the conversation, because, I'm sure you can imagine, given the Howard's particular history in terms of being a part of what other universities removing areas of injustice and denial and discrimination that this policy obviously -- occasioned much angst and discussion on campus. And I think there's a general consensus that it's a good policy change and adjustment. And Howard University -- the students generally was very opposed to the opposition of the policy and they've participated in advocacy to overturn it.
DOWNSI think an important point, too, is that in the past, it was largely objections to the military that were responsible for the abolition or whatever you wanna call it, of ROTC. Because during the Vietnam era, people identified the military with a policy. And that's no longer the case. You look at the bumper stickers, that's, you know, the pro-troops, not necessarily pro-war. So there's been that distinction. So Don't Ask, Don't Tell really became the primary objection, not the military per se.
ROBERTSLet's take a call from Peter. He's calling from Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. Peter, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show."
PETERThank you. It's a pleasure to talk. I hope I may able to articulate my thoughts as well. While I've been waiting, I have heard quite a few of the things, I believe, stressed by your other callers and contributors. First of all, as the catalyst in this conversation, I'd like to say how pleased I am that we are looking at the expected repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. I feel it -- as we live in a democracy, the military who we ask to carry out our will overseas ought to be a fair representation of the cross section of the society, that they are acting on behalf of -- for the same reason, I feel that having military programs on college campuses is a good thing, because I think we are, sometimes, in danger of building a military curse that has -- is a subculture separate from the society.
PETERThat they work to protect or they carry out actions on behalf of -- we are half full -- in a democracy, where hopefully our federal government is acting on the wills of people. And I think one of your contributors had just stated that there's a tendency to confuse the military with policy. I think, the more interaction we get between the people who are in the military or planning to be in a military with their civil counterparts, the less the risk that we build. And military curse system that social subculture that operates under a different belief system from civil society as a whole. And I think that is a dangerous road to go down. Thank you.
ROBERTSPierce, thanks for your call...
THORNTONI think that's very important, my colleague, if I could...
THORNTON...because at Howard, the military -- the ROTC students do have academic majors and their ROTC curriculum is largely a minor subset of courses. And so they are political science majors and they are engineering majors and they are involved in the broader curriculum of the university and social activities. I think that is critically important, even how they are positioned on the campus. And in our university anyway, integrated into a facility concept that has been with the political science department and -- importantly, because you would expect some opposition that comes from some students there, sociology, et cetera. So I think that is very important in terms of integrating them into the larger social fabric of the campus.
DOWNSAbsolutely important. And both the caller and the representative from Howard are right on the money here. We have found in our systematic surveys at the University of Wisconsin that those kind of benefits have indeed happened, that students see the military as separate from policymakers. Students will humanize the military more by exposure to ROTC students and to veterans, and that allows them to be more objective and more appropriately critical.
ROBERTSThat's Donald Downs, calling from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. We also have Alvin Thornton from Howard University and Diane Mazur from the University of Florida. You're listening to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show." I'm Rebecca Roberts sitting in for Kojo. We will continue our conversation about the future of ROTC on campus in a moment. Stay with us.
ROBERTSWelcome back. I'm Rebecca Roberts sitting in for Kojo Nnamdi. I'm talking with Diane Mazur, law professor at University of Florida and author of "A More Perfect Military: How the Constitution Can Make Our Military Stronger." We're also joined by Donald Downs, professor of political science law and journalism at the University of Wisconsin and co-author of the forthcoming book "Arms and the University: Military Presence and the Civic Education of Non-Military Students." We also have Alvin Thornton, senior adviser to the president for academic affairs at Howard University. And we are talking about ROTC on campus. You can join us at 800-433-8850 or send us e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. We have a couple of e-mails coming in from people who have participated in ROTC in various ways. Tom says, "I owe my BA in political science to a full Navy ROTC scholarship during the Vietnam War, when ROTC was so controversial among anti-war protesters."
ROBERTSHe says -- he wrote editorials for the university of Louisville student newspaper saying, "ROTC courses should not get college credit because that reduced the number of true academic courses an ROTC student could take. A stand that almost got me kicked out of ROTC except for the First Amendment." We also have a comment from Cathy on our website who says, "You've given a mistaken impression that every ROTC cadet is on scholarship. That's untrue. Many students choose ROTC voluntarily for its military history, leadership and management political science and public policy courses. Many of the instructors hold higher degrees.
ROBERTSThese scholarship programs are excellent, but scholarship students are not the only ones in the program. I have one son on an ROTC scholarship and another son that took classes without the benefit of scholarship money." So there we have someone wanting to take the ROTC classes despite not having scholarship and one who has the scholarship who doesn't wanna take the ROTC classes or at least not get credit for them, which I think speaks to not only the diversity among students, but also over time and across campuses and across probably branches of the military as well. Let's take a call from Chip in Washington, D.C. Chip, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show."
CHIPHey, thanks for taking my call. I did an ROTC between 1996 and 2000. And kind of what Jonathan said, an echo to that, I was very similarly able to attend a great college of my choice. I mean, I was always going to go to college, but a great college of my choice because obviously that financial ability that the government gave me. My brother was able to do the exact same thing, and both of us were in the military active duty during September of 2001. So obviously, there was a lot of recourse from that. But the important thing was that it was a conscious decision for which we volunteered.
CHIPAnd secondly, I don't know actually if it's still policy, but during my sophomore year, at the beginning of your sophomore year, when you're on scholarship, they actually give you the ability or the opportunity to quit, at the very beginning of the year. So basically, we would have gotten our first year completely paid for on full scholarship and sophomore year, we could have just walked away, no hard feelings. You actually have to sign a commitment letter, but not for your sophomore year. So they gave me plenty of opportunity to back out, to make another decision, choose another direction. But obviously, I just wanna tell you, I'm incredibly grateful for having been able to do that and it's determined a lot of what I've done since.
ROBERTSChip, thank you for your call. And Diane Mazur, you talked about in sort of times when troops are drawing down around the world and military needs are lessening, that ROTC program shrink, that there's obviously a supply and demand question here. We are at least planning something of a draw-down situation coming up in foreign policy is this call for more ROTC programs going to coincide actually by the time when ROTC has less need for recruit.
MAZURI don't see that it's really affecting the size of ROTC, because today actually we get by with a much smaller military than we would actually need to do all the things that we ask them to do. And we cover the smallness of our military with the immense size of our civilian contractor force. And so, if we were being candid and honest about the number of junior officers we really needed, we would make a lot more of them today. But I would like to talk about a related point. I think everyone, from President Obama on down, is always looking at universities being the bottleneck about ROTC, that if not for universities, we could have more ROTC opportunity, we could have more diverse ROTC opportunity.
MAZURAnd I actually think that universities are not very much of a problem there, certainly not after Don't Ask, Don't Tell goes away that we should be looking to the Department of Defense and asking why is it that you have moved your ROTC's footprint south and west? Why is it that ROTC is really no longer available in large numbers in urban areas? Why are you savoring more rural universities? And I think that the military has a lot more control over the diversity and availability of opportunity to ROTC. And we should be asking them, we should be asking the military what kind of changes do you think that you should be making now that Don't Ask, Don't Tell is going to end.
ROBERTSWell, Alvin Thornton, you're here from Howard University, an urban historically black school. Do you feel that the Howard ROTC program is increasingly unusual?
THORNTONUnusual? Gosh, I don't wanna claim that. (laugh) I don't wanna claim that because it's unusual, obviously, in the sense that it's had such a long record, an impressive record of producing diverse officers, people like Togo West, the Secretary of the Army, et cetera. It's such a long period when it was not very, very fashionable for blacks to be in leadership roles in the Air Force and the Army. And so Howard, particularly, played such a critical role between the 1946 period and when there was greater openness in our society. So in that sense, very unique. I do wanna make a point about the acceptability of courses by professors in the larger academic curriculum. There is a rich debate -- I think it's richer in our campus -- where that is being discussed. There's obviously a push for students to be able to use their ROTC credits to get minor and major degree certification. That has not been accepted, at this point, on our campus. I don't know what the case is on other campuses, but it's a rich debate that people are having.
ROBERTSLet's take a call from Shawn in Washington, D.C. Shawn, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show."
SHAWNHi. Thanks for taking my call.
SHAWNI was an ROTC instructor at University of Pennsylvania for two years and for about three in '05. And just to address what was earlier said about the decision point between more universities joining the ROTC program, I think that that was correct in that it is -- the choke point for that is the Department of Defense. However, the assertion that urban centers are being marginalized, I don't believe it's correct because urban centers can use the advantage of locality, and that's with the consortium system. University of Pennsylvania, we had five schools that fell underneath our program, 120 students. It didn't make sense to have five separate naval officers detailed for each school when we could cover the entire region with just five officers. I think that's the primary reason.
SHAWNAnd then the second point I bring up, I was a naval academy graduate. So getting the chance to see the distinction between the naval academy and ROTC product, I think that it should acknowledge what -- that diversity of officer that it produces is vital to the services because you get a very different product from the naval academy and from a naval ROTC unit. And I think that's an advantage to bring a more liberal education into the mix so it's a diversity of officers, which is only a benefit to the department.
ROBERTSShawn, thank you for your call. Diane Mazur, he makes the point that, you know, in a place like Washington or in Philadelphia, where he was teaching, there's so many colleges within a close range that you don't need a program at every school.
MAZURBut, actually, based on the population you do -- here's the problem. In, let's say, the New York City metropolitan area and the multiple, multiple millions of people that you have in that area, the number of ROTC slots available to students is a fraction of what would be available, let's say, in the State of Alabama. (laugh) And we are really working against ourselves here because the kind of cultural diversity, the military really needs today is available in major metropolitan areas. And on a per capita basis, the military is assigning a fraction of its ROTC footprint to major urban areas and over-representing it by many, many number of times, over-representing that availability in places like the South, in which it's much less likely to find the kind of cultural diversity, academic diversity that it really needs in the modern military today.
ROBERTSWell, that's interesting. You know, we've talked a lot about, you know, what ROTC can bring or take away from a campus and less about what the campus can, you know, bring to ROTC. And we have a comment on our website posted by Dr. K, who says, "I went through Army ROTC at a Jesuit University. We had anti-war and peace protesters on campus from time to time. Relationships tended to be congenial. The leadership set an example. Now leadership will have to maintain respect for all cadets, regardless of their race, ethnicity and now sexual orientation. It will be a cultural change, mostly in the elimination of jokes, jests and other language. One of the most important concepts isn't the presence of ROTC in the university, but the presence of university in the military. Values such as justice, acceptance and respect for others were part of the core values of my university, and these were taught to every cadet graduating." Donald Downs, I know you've written a lot about this back and forth between the two. Do you agree with Dr. K?
DOWNSOh, absolutely. And that was the original justification or rationale for ROTC, that -- one of the former presidents of the University of Wisconsin system made a speech back in 1970 in Washington, where he said ROTC is the presence of the university in the military. And the idea is that it liberalizes the military mind, it provides diversity of viewpoints, things that the previous caller just talked about. But, of course, it also works the other way. I think it really is a two-way street.
ROBERTSAnd, Alvin Thornton, I am giving you a really easy yes here on this question. But do you think the military is better for having Howard men and women in it?
THORNTON(laugh) Yes, it is, because of the history that I spoke of because of the history of Howard University in helping to open up society, to diversify society. Everyone talks about the parallelism between black people being allowed to participate in a non-discriminatory way in the military and the presence of people of different sexual orientation. So, obviously, Howard University played the unique leadership role in helping to democratize America. So, obviously, Howard has played a very important role in the evolution of the open society and the role of the military.
ROBERTSAnd, Diane Mazur, if the military were to heed your call to make these opportunities available to more diverse student body, how would you go about doing that? What would be the way to take advantage of what different universities have to offer to the military?
MAZURProbably the easiest way to start is to think about distributing ROTC opportunities in a way that is at least vaguely proportionate to population. We are way out of whack right now, that we have the most ROTC slots where we have the fewest people. And I would also say we tend to have the most ROTC slots where the military seems culturally most comfortable in having them. And the military has got to get out of that comfortable cultural cocoon.
ROBERTSAnd what do you mean by that? Communities that have a military presence in a base already, or...?
MAZURYes. That -- what's happened over the last decade or two, we've had a lot of base closures for financial reasons. And so we've had a military that's gradually moved South in this country, and that as it has shrunk its base footprint, it's drawn that ROTC footprint along with it as well. And we reached a point where, I think, the military feels a little uncomfortable reaching back into parts of the country in which it no longer has a very substantial presence. And getting out of that cultural cocoon, I think, is something that would not only be good for universities, but would be fabulous for the military to do that. And all it needs to do is to be somewhat proportionate across the country geographically in how it affords ROTC opportunities to young people.
THORNTONMm-hmm. I agree with that, by the way.
THORNTONYes, I agree with that, by the way. And I think that one of the things that one can do is to make sure that there are consortium arrangements, not necessarily just universities that are in physical proximity with each other, but universities that have common missions, whether it be in the North or the South, particularly HDCUs and, traditionally, universities that have served majority populations to make sure that there are consortium arrangements, much like the ones that we have with Howard and American and Catholic and George Washington.
ROBERTSThat's Alvin Thornton. I'm afraid we have to leave it there. Alvin Thornton from Howard University, Diane Mazur from the University of Florida and Donald Downs from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Thank you all so much for joining us.
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