When you think of Brown and ROTC, you may conjure up images of students with picket signs, guys in bell-bottoms and women in flowery skirts sitting on the floor singing Kum-Ba-Ya, while others chant “Peace not war.” This picture is not wholly accurate regarding what happened at Brown in the late sixties. Let us look at the beginning.
In the fall of 1940, the Naval Reserve Officers’ Training Corps was established at Brown University. That year there were one hundred and ten members. On July 1, 1941, the Air Force ROTC unit was founded at Brown. Seventy upperclassmen immediately enrolled. ??In 1967, thirty-five Brown Committee members rallied against ROTC at the annual ROTC spring review held in Meehan Auditorium. A protest was held again at this same review in 1968. 1968 was also the year that the ROTC ceremony for commissioning of officers was separated from commencement activities. In 1969 Brown faculty suggested that ROTC units not have departmental status, academic credit not be awarded for ROTC classes, and officers not be given faculty status. However, the faculty did not vote against ending military education. Nevertheless, Air Force ROTC was disbanded in 1971 and Naval ROTC followed in 1972. ??
When speaking to faculty, the major arguments against ROTC returning to campus are the issues of faculty status and academic credit. It is not clear whether faculty and administration are uninformed or misinformed when it comes to the issue of academic credit. Provost David Kertzer said in a Brown Daily Herald article that Brown was required to offer credit in order for ROTC to be on campus. This is not true though, for Princeton University does not offer credit for ROTC classes, yet has an active Army ROTC. Whether or not Princeton received special permission for such an arrangement is not entirely clear, although it would be reasonable that Brown could request the same arrangement as Princeton.
Although faculty take exception with credit and faculty standing, many students object to ROTC because of injustice towards transgenders and the military preying on the lower class by offering scholarships. To address the first matter, there is no active law against transgender men and women serving in the military. So the only other concern is discrimination, which occurs in all walks of life to all people to some degree. This is very unfortunate and wrong, but discrimination can only be beat by informing and learning. If Brown had an ROTC program, Brown students in the position of officers of the military would be in a great place to eliminate any discrimination. The second fact concerning scholarships should not be an issue. Those applying for the ROTC program are fully aware of the commitment for which they are signing up; the military is not tricking anyone into participation. Therefore, ROTC scholarships, which often cover full tuition plus a stipend, are an amazing opportunity for students to attend colleges that they could not otherwise afford and get a head start on the military career they desire.
A committee was formed at Brown University at the beginning of this month at the endorsement of President Ruth Simmons. The committee is comprised of Dean Katherine Bergeron, seven faculty members, and three students. The committee’s main goals are to address whether or not the university’s 1969 ruling is still appropriate, if there is enough interest among students for the return of an ROTC unit, if ROTC presents a bias, and how bringing about the return of ROTC would be achieved.
Let’s tackle the issue of interest. There is currently only one student participating in the Providence College ROTC battalion. However, there are students who decide??d to not participate at Providence College because of the inconvenience and hassle of arriving at Providence College by 6:00 am without any transportation but the Providence public bus system or walking. Furthermore, there are students who have decided to just join Officer Candidates School after graduating and multitudes more who did not even apply to Brown because they knew that they could not be a part of an ROTC unit at Brown. If Brown reinstated ROTC on its campus, there would be no problem getting the numbers to fill the program.
In order to achieve the return of ROTC with minimal disruptions, Brown needs to recognize and support those in the Providence College ROTC battalion. Brown administration also should let it become common knowledge to applying high-school seniors that the opportunity to participate in Army ROTC at Providence College exists. In conjunction with this, Brown must provide easy and quick transportation for cadets to Providence College. Next, faculty and administration need to address the issue concerning faculty status and course credit. Course credit should not be a problem since many fine institutions comparable to Brown throughout the country grant credit for these courses. Finally, ROTC needs to be reinstated in full.
Now the forming of the committee could mean that Brown is truly and seriously considering the return of ROTC, and if this is true, then there will be no plausible reason that the committee can come up with that would keep ROTC off of Brown’s campus anymore. In President Obama’s State of the Union address, he called for all non-participating colleges to reinstate ROTC on campus. However, only time will tell whether the formation of this committee is sincere or simply a public relations move.