08 April 2009

ROTC back at Harvard in the near future?

The Wall Street Journal reminds us that universities such as Harvard got rid of their ROTC programs sometime in the late 60s and haven't invited them back on campus.

The students of 1969 have become the faculty of 2009, and today students who wish to participate in ROTC are forced to train at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. We are pawns in a political chess game. The issue is no longer Vietnam, but President Bill Clinton's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy that bars gays from openly serving in the military. Because of that policy, the university classifies ROTC as a discriminatory organization and has severed all remnants of support.

So Harvard today happily pays for future bankers to take accounting courses at MIT, but refuses to pay for aspiring military officers who take ROTC courses. Since 1994, anonymous donors have generously picked up the tab, providing hundreds of thousands of dollars per year for Harvard's ROTC students.

Sadly, the number of Harvard students who choose military service has dwindled. Harvard, where ROTC was founded in 1916 and which once boasted over 1,000 participants, is now home to only 29 cadets and midshipmen, spread over four years and four branches of service. Recruitment opportunities are deliberately limited, and the student handbook cautions students against joining ROTC, remarking that the program is "inconsistent with Harvard's values." And cadets begin every semester seeking to avoid the professors known to exhibit hostility toward students who wear their uniform to class.

Rather than embracing the mutually beneficial relationship Harvard might share with the military, the faculty prefers to stand in the way of progress, abdicating its responsibility to contribute to one of our nation's most important institutions. The same Harvard that once produced 10 recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor, and warrior-scholars such as Teddy Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy, now turns its back on its proud, patriotic history.

Harvard University produces the best and brightest minds in the fields of economics and politics—the future policy makers of the world. The All-Volunteer Military, for all of it benefits, has the disadvantage of being largely separated from the American population. In order to conduct public diplomacy between both the military and the civilian policymakers, shouldn't we invite our future military leaders to network with the future leaders of government and business?

For the record, today's scholar-warriors in the Defense department hold masters' degrees or higher from universities such as Princeton (Gen. Petraeus), Oxford (Lt. Col. Nagl and Gen. Wesley Clark), the University of Chicago (Lt. Col. Yingling) and even my favorite, North Carolina State University (Gen. Ray Odierno). Oh, and my least favorite, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Brigadier General H.R. McMaster).


Boss Mongo said...

Okay, so the plan is to send officers to Harvard and schools like Harvard so that they can feast on the intellectual curiosity, historical perspective, and academic open-mindedness we need to produce "pentathletes," or at least judoka. Hmm.
I've got no issues with complainants that postulate that the military mind is rigid, biased, and insular (although, the stereotype is carried to the extreme and is, quite frankly, getting a bit frayed); my problem is with those who think that the proctors of academia are any less so.
In related news, didja hear that Ward Churchill won his wrongful dismissal suit?

Starbuck said...

The article's clear that the academic community can be exclusionary. What concerns me is that generations of American policymakers are going to grow up with relatively little contact or understanding of the military. It never ceases to amaze me how many people in America have never met anyone in the military--and I would say that's probably especially true of the crowd at Harvard, who typically grows up to be our government leaders.

El Goyito said...

The problem, gentlemen, is a condition known as HUYA Syndrome. This condition exists in all cultures and is unfortunately pretty common but seems to most especially thrive in rigid institutional settings such as the ivory tower and the long gray line. The remedy to HUYA Syndrome is pretty simple: one must get their head OUT of their arse.