What is ROTC?

Basically, it's one of the ways that the U.S. military recruits and trains university students to be officers. ROTC (sometimes pronounced "rotsee") candidates usually apply at the end of high school (but may also apply during their first two years of college), and are offered scholarships of varying amounts (or at least a stipend during their junior and senior years).

In exchange, candidates must complete a variety of courses and training activities during their studies (usually, but not necessarily, at an on-campus facility). Crucially, they must also commit to 3-5 years of active post-graduation service, and usually some additional period of post-graduation service in a reserve capacity. The exact terms and conditions vary between each branch. More information is available on Wikipedia, as well as each branch's official ROTC website: Army, Air Force, Navy.

Why doesn't Stanford currently have ROTC?

Stanford had an on-campus Army ROTC facility from 1919-1973, an on-campus Navy facility from 1946-1973, and an on-campus Air Force facility from 1946-1971. All three branches left the campus as the result of a series of Faculty Senate and Academic Council decisions to stop granting academic credit to ROTC courses.

The original Faculty Senate decision to phase out academic credit for ROTC programs was made on February 13, 1969, in response to a report issued by an Ad Hoc Committee on ROTC. The majority finding of the Committee's report was that:

"ROTC departments are, by their nature, incompatible with the University's primary commitment to the unrestricted creation and dissemination of knowledge."

On this basis, the Committee recommended:

"that the University discontinue the presentation of ROTC department courses as a part of its formal oncampus program, either with or without degree credit; that the role of military personnel on campus be limited to administrative, counseling and recruitment functions; that all on-campus military activities be conducted in accordance with rules governing voluntary activities."

A timeline of the decision-making process is available here.

But aren't some Stanford students enrolled in ROTC?

Yes. The Stanford Daily has reported that there are currently 14 Stanford students enrolled in ROTC. These students must travel to Santa Clara University (Army), San Jose State University (Air Force), or the University of California, Berkeley (Navy/Marine Corps), in order to attend ROTC classes and undertake training activities.

Since January 2010, all these students' transportation costs have been borne by the Haas Center for Public Service (using funds received directly from President Hennessy's office). The students do not ordinarily receive academic credit for their ROTC activities. For more information see the Registrar's website here (Army), here (Air Force), here (Navy), and here (regarding ROTC more generally).

Why is ROTC an issue now?

Good question! The practical reason is that on March 4, 2010 the Faculty Senate moved a motion to form an Ad Hoc Committee to "investigate Stanford's role in preparing students for leadership in the military, including potential relations with ROTC." More information about the Ad Hoc Committee is provided here, but the critical issue is that the Committee will report back to the Faculty Senate in the spring, and will presumably make a recommendation regarding the future of Stanford's relationship with ROTC.

Those who spoke in favor of the establishment of the Ad Hoc Committee at the March 4 meeting made a number of arguments as to why they thought the issue of Stanford's relationship with ROTC should be revisited (see the "What are the arguments for bringing ROTC back on-campus?" section below). However, none of those arguments were responsive to the original basis on which academic credit was denied to ROTC (see the "Why doesn't Stanford currently have ROTC?" section above). In 1969 it was determined that ROTC courses should not be entitled to academic credit, and there is no reason to think that a different outcome should be reached today.

Why was the ASSU's panel discussion cancelled?

The ASSU spent much of fall quarter planning a panel discussion on the topic of ROTC. The event was to be held from 6:30-8pm on Thursday, January 13, at the Black Community Services Center, and was to be co-sponsored by Stanford Says No to War, Stanford Students for Queer Liberation, and the Haas Center's Military Service as Public Service initiative.

The event was to take the form of an interactive panel discussion, moderated by Prof. Rob Reich, and the panel was set to consist of Prof. Ewart Thomas (chair of the Faculty Senate's Ad Hoc Committee on ROTC), two current ROTC candidates, two students who are also veterans, two members of Stanford Says No to War, one member of Stanford Students for Queer Liberation, and one member of the ASSU Executive. (That is, 4 students in support of ROTC's return to campus, 3 students opposed, and 2 neutral participants.)

However, on the evening of January 9, four days before the event, the two ROTC candidates who had been scheduled to appear on the panel informed the ASSU that they were withdrawing from the event. The ASSU has decided to honor those students' request that their stated reasons for withdrawal remain confidential.

The ASSU representatives responsible for the event felt that, without the ROTC students, the panel would no longer appear balanced, and that the event would not, therefore, serve its intended purpose of providing students with an opportunity to hear all sides of the debate. We have been assured by the ASSU that they are still committed to providing students with that opportunity, and that they hope another event can be arranged in the not-too-distant future.

What are the arguments for bringing ROTC back on-campus?

The arguments that were made at the March 4, 2010 Faculty Senate meeting in favor of reconsidering the University's stance towards ROTC (read the minutes here) included the following:

- whether or not ROTC should be granted academic credit is a question that can be overcome through negotiation with the military (but cf. the majority of the 1969 Ad Hoc Committee's findings that "as a formal, on-campus program, sponsored, sanctioned, and partially supported by Stanford University, the ROTC program is not compatible with the University," and "this incompatibility is inherent in the very nature of the ROTC programs, and therefore cannot be removed by various changes which are from time to time proposed.");

- compelling ROTC students to travel to other universities is "unreasonable" (but cf. the section below in which this argument is analyzed in detail);

- the political accountability of the military is being threatened by its increasing intellectual distance from civil society (this argument is also addressed below in detail);

- an increased number of ROTC students would reduce the amount of money Stanford would need to spend on financial aid (this might be true, but: (1) should students' academic freedom be limited in the name of strengthening the University's finances?; and (2) Stanford University has the 3rd largest endowment in the country and does not appear to be under particularly severe economic pressure (according to the Univeresity's 2010 Annual Report, "Consolidated operating revenues exceeded expenses by $362 million in FY10"); and

- "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) will soon be/has been repealed (at the time of the March 4, 2010 meeting it was felt that DADT would soon be repealed, and this prediction turned out to be accurate, but—contrary to popular belief—DADT's repeal does not end institutional discrimination in the military; on this point, see Stanford Students for Queer Liberation's open letter to the University administration outlining the military's continued discrimination against transgender individuals).

Some other arguments that have been made are:

- "Stanford has an obligation to let students participate in a program that can offer students the opportunity to become both scholars and soldiers", quoting an article written by Kyle O'Malley and published in the Stanford Review (but aside from the fact that Stanford already "let[s] students participate" in ROTC, it is unclear why students who wish to be "soldiers" should be entitled to a specialized on-campus training facility, while students with other ambitions should not; as the majority of the 1969 Ad Hoc Committee recognized: "[We have] no desire to deprive the student of the choice to become an officer in the military … [But s]ince this University can never offer all possible alternatives, to be realized in all possible ways, the question of total freedom of choice is not pertinent" [emphasis added]; in other words, Stanford is not obliged to be all things to all people; quoting again from the 1969 report: "Stanford best serves its own purpose and the interests of the nation when it strives to educate men (sic) in the way it is best prepared to do, and when it openly acknowledges that it cannot provide all men with all the education they seek … [S]ome of the men whom Stanford educates will choose to become military officers. It does not follow, however, that Stanford must provide these men with the education specifically required by military officers.");

- joining ROTC is a matter of individual choice (but if one accepts the consensus view of academic social scientists (and especially social psychologists), it is very difficult to characterize any decision as simply "a matter of individual choice"; in any event, we believe that there are real ethical problems with offering large amounts of scholarship money to teenagers in exchange for a service commitment of 9-12 years (including the years they spend in ROTC) and limits on their academic freedom; the 1969 Committee's points about the irrelevance of "total freedom of choice" and Stanford's need to focus on educating men "in the way it is best prepared to do" are also relevant);

- military courses are no less legitimate than other ostensibly fanciful courses taught at Stanford (there are many things one could say about this accusation, but the simplest distinction between ROTC courses and Stanford's other undergraduate courses is to be found in the courses' objectives; as recognized by the majority of the 1969 Committee: "Since the goals of the ROTC Programs are to educate potential officers, much of the … Military Science course content … is of such a narrowly pragmatic, professional nature as to be incompatible with an undergraduate academic credit program"; in other words, ROTC courses do not reflect any of the disinterested academic objectives of Stanford's own undergraduate curriculum, such as knowledge for knowledge's sake, student-driven engagement with the "significant issues, themes, ideas and values of human identity and existence" (quoting from the IHUM website), etc.; of course, it would be possible to teach military science in a disinterested way, but—by definition—it would not be in the military's interests to do so);

- rich, well-educated, and city-dwelling individuals are under-represented in the military, and keeping ROTC off-campus contributes to this inequality (but there is a contradiction here: either the military benefits its members, in which case people in those under-represented demographics are simply not choosing to take advantage of a good opportunity, or the military does not benefit its members, in which case it would clearly be irresponsible to advocate for anyone to join the military, irrespective of their class, education-level, etc.; we do not see the military (at least in its current form) as a necessary evil, but even those who do should recognize that there are alternative officer recruitment and training programs (such as Officer Candidate School) that do not restrict academic freedom, require an on-campus facility, or offer scholarships to teenagers in exchange for 9-12 year service commitments (including the time spent in ROTC); accordingly, even if the goal is to increase the number of Stanford students in the military, bringing ROTC back to campus would not be the best way to achieve that goal);

- Stanford should support "individuals who have pledged honorably to serve this nation," quoting an unsigned editorial published in the Stanford Review (this argument relies on the notion that military service is a more virtuous form of service than any other, and promotes a reverence for military service that, we believe, does not best serve society's interests; it is our view that, in the spirit of true academic freedom, the amount of support Stanford gives its undergraduate students should be blind to those students' career choices—or, if anything, should reflect a preference for vocations that promote peaceful solutions to humanity's problems);

- ROTC could "improve the quality of civic education of our students and faculty", quoting the Chair of the Faculty Senate's Ad Hoc Committee on ROTC, Dr. Ewart Thomas, as published in the Stanford Review (but how is the civic education that Stanford currently gives its students and faculty deficient, and how would providing an on-campus platform to employees of the US military rectify that deficiency?);

- an on-campus military presence would increase diversity, and everyone benefits from diversity (but diversity of thought does not require diversity of physical resources or diversity of employers; it is one thing to say that undergraduate students should be exposed to the US military's perspective on global affairs, but it is another thing entirely to say that an on-campus military presence and instructors employed by the military are necessary in order for students to gain such exposure; after all, many Stanford courses demand that students become familiar with the perspectives of particular institutions and organizations (even institutions and organizations that mainstream society might find abhorrent), but no one is calling for those institutions and organizations to be provided with an on-campus facility and staff); and finally,

- "we as a society must hold our armed forces in the highest esteem", quoting from an editorial in the Stanford Daily (it's hard to see how this is an argument for ROTC specifically, since it would theoretically be possible to hold this view and still believe that ROTC is not in the military's best interests, but in any event it is a view that we wholly denounce; the military should be treated just like any other institution: its admirable features should be admired, its deplorable features should be deplored, and it should be subject to constant scrutiny).

There have also been many arguments made about the benefits to individual students of military service, and the benefits to the military of having Stanford students (as opposed to students who attended allegedly inferior universities) in leadership roles, but these arguments do not necessarily support a strengthening of Stanford's relationship with ROTC, since not having an on-campus ROTC facility is hardly a barrier to Stanford students entering military service, especially in light of alternative programs like Officer Candidate School.

What are the arguments against bringing ROTC back on-campus?

In the preceding section we demonstrate that there are serious problems with the arguments that have been made in support of bringing ROTC back to Stanford. In this section we wish to highlight the existence of arguments that militate against on-campus ROTC irrespective of the rationale put forward in support of its return.

The main arguments against on-campus ROTC are detailed in the articles listed here, and we strongly recommend that all students consult those materials. Our position can be loosely summarized, however, by reference to the following two themes:

(1) "ROTC departments are, by their nature, incompatible with the University's primary commitment to the unrestricted creation and dissemination of knowledge" [emphasis added] (as stated in the majority report of the 1969 Ad Hoc Committee); and
(2) "[it is not] the place of first-rate universities to feed [society's] desires [for 'militaristic approaches to problems,']" (Stanford Prof. Cecilia Ridgeway, quoted in the Stanford Review)—or in other words, academic institutions such as Stanford should "stand with those who for reasons of conscience reject military solutions to conflicts" (Colman McCarthy writing in the Washington Post).

In support of the first theme, Danny Colligan ('11) points out (in an article soon to be published in the Stanford Progressive) that:

"(1) students should have the right to confidential counseling and advising; (2) students should be free to choose any major they want, not to be forced to commit too early, and able to change majors as long as they can fulfill the requirements; (3) students should be free to choose their career path during their time as a student, and not to have this choice determined by those who fund their education; [and] (4) outside organizations should not be granted the power to set up teaching facilities on campus in exchange for providing student scholarships."

All of these norms are essential components of academic freedom, and they are all undermined by ROTC.

In support of the second theme, Stanford University's Founding Grant states that one of the purposes of the institution is to: "promote the public welfare by exercising an influence on behalf of humanity and civilization". Even if it could be argued that such a purpose is not contradictory to militarism in the abstract, "exercising an influence on behalf of humanity and civilization" surely mandates a strong ideological preference for peaceful solutions to the problems currently being faced by "humanity and civilization".

Didn't the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" end institutional discrimination in the military?

No! Transgender individuals are still subject to de jure discrimination, and there are also many significant forms of de facto discrimination. For more information, see this article, written on behalf of Stanford Students for Queer Liberation (SSQL), as well as the open letter that SSQL recently wrote to the University administration.

What about the inconvenience suffered by Stanford ROTC candidates? Shouldn't the University do as much as it can to reduce the burden on those students?

It should first be noted that since January 2010 all ROTC students' transportation costs have been borne by the Haas Center for Public Service (using funds received directly from President Hennessy's office), so there is little financial burden (if any) placed on Stanford ROTC candidates as a result of Stanford not having an on-campus ROTC facility. However, by raising this point we do not mean to deny the inconvenience of the current arrangement; neither do we wish to defend President Hennessy's decision to fund such activities. Nevertheless, some students might find this information relevant.

Other information that students might find relevant is that—even if the Ad Hoc Committee was to strongly recommend that Stanford strengthen its relationship with ROTC—it is highly unlikely that more than one branch of the military would establish an on-campus facility at Stanford, if indeed any such facilities were to be established. Therefore, bringing ROTC back to campus would not automatically render ROTC convenient for all candidates.

It should also be kept in mind that the military has the capacity to acquire land and construct facilities through conventional means, so if any particular branch wanted to make it more convenient for Stanford students to attend its ROTC activities, that branch could theoretically acquire or construct a facility adjacent to the Stanford campus.

The most important point, however, is that Stanford has limited resources, and we do not believe that there is any sound basis on which to classify ROTC activities as definitively more worthwhile than the myriad other off-campus activities that Stanford students participate in. The distance travelled by Stanford ROTC candidates is not significantly further than the distance many other students travel to volunteer for non-profit organizations, complete internships or undertake other study-related employment, etc.

Given Stanford's limited resources, it would clearly be impractical for Stanford to attempt to reduce the inconvenience suffered by all students engaged in off-campus activities by providing on-campus facilities to all relevant institutions and organizations. Therefore, to the extent the burden placed on (the very small number of) ROTC students is roughly equivalent to the burden placed on other students engaged in off-campus activities, making ROTC more convenient for Stanford students is not an objective that is capable of justifying the return of on-campus ROTC.

Can I support the U.S. military but not support on-campus ROTC?

Yes! There are a number of reasons for which ROTC should not be brought back onto Stanford's campus, and many of them do not rely on an "anti-military" perspective. It is also important to keep in mind the existence of Officer Candidate School (OCS), which is an alternative recruitment and training program that provides university graduates with a relatively quick, straight-forward path to military service, should they wish to pursue such service upon graduation.

The majority of the 1969 Ad Hoc Committee articulated the relevant distinction extremely well:

"[We have] emphasized the distinction between ROTC as a mechanism and the objectives which ROTC serves. Our arguments have been directed to the mechanism, not the objectives or purposes. [emphasis in original]

In other words, you may believe that military service is a positive activity for a Stanford graduate to engage in, but it does not follow that Stanford should provide on-campus resources to ROTC.

Shouldn't we be closing the intellectual gap between the military and academia? And isn't the political accountability of the military being threatened by its increasing intellectual distance from civil society?

This argument is reminiscent of the well-known quotation: "The function of a citizen and a soldier are inseparable." The speaker of those words was, of course, Benito Mussolini.

There are two ways to approach this question. The first is to adopt the view that we should be closing the intellectual gap between the military and academia/civil society, and to then ask whether on-campus ROTC would be a positive step towards achieving that goal. Applying this approach, it is clear that ROTC is not an effective source of citizen-soldiers, because it limits undergraduates' academic freedom, and commits them to a lenthy period of service, before they have even had an opportunity to truly explore their academic interests and engage in free intellectual inquiry.

In this way, ROTC may be an effective way to produce soldiers, but it does not permit undergraduates to sufficiently engage with the academic exercise to become citizen-soldiers who are capable of closing the gap. Officer Candidate School (OCS) is one example of a more effective program. OCS does not restrict undergraduates' academic freedom during their studies, but still allows them to be trained and commissioned as an officer relatively soon after graduation.

The second way of approaching this question is to adopt the view that universities should be peace-promoting institutions, such that if there is going to be any closing of the gap between the military and academia/civil society, it should only consist of the military dismantling itself (or at least radically reforming itself) in favor of peace and peaceful solutions. The latter approach is the one we predominantly endorse, but we included both approaches to illustrate the fact that it is not necessary to accept the view that universities should be peace-promoting institutions in order to see on-campus ROTC as an undesirable prospect.

Wouldn't on-campus ROTC enrich the debate over the military's role in society?

This suggestion amounts to an accusation that Stanford's faculty and students do not currently have the academic freedom or resources to adopt or appreciate the military's perspective on global affairs. It also assumes that the military's perspective is as valuable as (if not more valuable than) the views of more peace-oriented organizations. Even if one rejects the notion that universities should demonstrate a preference for peaceful over militaristic solutions, it should still be clear that an on-campus ROTC facility would inhibit disinterested academic inquiry and provide an unnecessary academic platform to military employees. There are real ways in which the debate over the military's role in society could be enriched, but bringing ROTC back to the Stanford campus isn't one of them.

Doesn't the Solomon Amendment basically mean that Stanford has no choice but to allow the military to establish an ROTC facility on campus?

Not quite. The text of the Solomon Amendment is certainly clear (and constitutional, at least according to a 2006 decision of the Supreme Court):

No [federal] funds [other than student loan funds] … may be provided by contract or by grant to an institution of higher education … if the Secretary of Defense determines that that institution … has a policy or practice (regardless of when implemented) that either prohibits, or in effect prevents … the Secretary of a military department from maintaining, establishing, or operating a unit of the Senior Reserve Officer Training Corps … at that institution[.]

In practice, however, the situation is much more ambiguous. The critical feature of the law is that it requires a determination by the Secretary of Defense that an institution has adopted an anti-ROTC stance. This feature has turned out to be critical because, during the 15 years that the rule has been in force, the Department of Defense has demonstrated a profound reluctance to enforce the Solomon Amendment against universities (and especially prestigious ones) that have demonstrated hostility to on-campus ROTC.

The political and practical realities here are clear. No one, least of all the Pentagon, wants on-campus animosity between university faculty/students and military personnel, and this is what the Secretary of Defense would be risking were he or she to attempt to enforce the Solomon Amendment. There are also administrative issues at play. It is highly unlikely that any branch of the military would be interested in establishing an on-campus ROTC facility at an institution that did not grant academic credit to ROTC courses. Therefore, it is in the military's interests (and may even be a de facto necessity) for them to maintain good relations with the administration of any university on the campus of which an ROTC facility exists or is planned.

These realities give Stanford significant flexibility with respect to its future relationship with ROTC. However, most importantly at this time, the Faculty Senate's Ad Hoc Committee on ROTC has given absolutely no (public) indication as to how they perceive Stanford's legal obligations under this law.

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