Community forum raises new issues for Ad Hoc Committee on ROTC to contemplate

The committee held its second forum of the week to hear the Stanford community's thoughts and opinions on the possible reinstatement of ROTC at Stanford.

By the end of a community forum yesterday, the Ad Hoc Committee on ROTC had added new items to the list of issues it will consider as it deliberates the question of whether Stanford should reinstate the Reserve Officers' Training Corps program.

"It seems to me there are a number of things we want to pay attention to," said Sharon Long, a professor in biological sciences and a member of the 10-person committee, at the conclusion of the two-hour meeting Thursday in Encina Hall.

"One is the issue of choice, and whether the freedom of thought and the freedom of flexibility to choose what you do, which is something we hope at least is an option for our students, is consistent with the conditions for financial support.

"We then have the question of whether, given that there is going to be education of the leadership of our armed forces, which is what we're talking about, should that education include and be facilitated in some way by being able to pursue a portion of their education in the context and among the peers who are in a non-military institution? Is there value to the institution? Is there value to those young people? Is there value to the military and thus to the country?

"Or do we think, as some people have spoken to, that this should be carried out only in the context of a completely military [institution], whether it's at an academy or at officer candidate school, where, in your day-to-day interactions, there are no discussions or debates from a non-military point of view. We've heard from several of you about the value of having that military experience spread out – both over time and over the landscape of the people in your life."

Participants discuss pros and cons of ROTC programs

In part, Long was responding to concerns and questions raised by Todd Davies, an academic research and program officer in the Symbolic Systems Program, who said ROTC students were required to make decisions about their future – that they would join the military as soon as they graduated from college – before they were mature enough to understand the array of choices available to them.

"This is a case where my politics of anti-war and of anti-militarism lead in the same direction as my views about undergraduate education and my experience with, in this case, ROTC students directly," said Davies, a resident fellow in Arroyo Hall.

Davies, who opposes reinstating ROTC at Stanford, said ROTC programs constrain students in their choice of majors and choice of careers.

"As an institution, the military is not very compatible with the way we view undergraduate education at Stanford," said Davies, who urged the committee to look at the issue in the larger context – not just whether Stanford should house an ROTC program, but at how it affects undergraduate education.

Davies said the military's own studies have shown that it would save money and produce the same quality of officer if the armed services replaced university ROTC programs with new officer candidate schools.

About 30 people, including faculty, staff and students, and eight members of the committee, attended the meeting.

Two-way benefits of ROTC

Debra Satz, a professor of philosophy and the director of the McCoy Family Center for Ethics in Society, said the military is a form of public service that is not well represented at elite universities. She said there is a "two-way benefit" when ROTC and non-ROTC students interact on campus.

"It's an important thing to keep in mind," she said. "Right here, we could do something by being open to ROTC students that would bring these students into contact with our students, and our students more in contact with ROTC students. And that would be a good thing."

Barton Bernstein, professor emeritus of history, who opposes reinstating ROTC, urged the committee to review the syllabi and books used in ROTC courses, and distribute them to people with expertise in those fields for review.

Akhil Iyer, '11, who is enrolled in Navy ROTC and is a member of the committee, said the books, classes and lecture slides used in university ROTC programs are similar to those used at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He offered to assemble ROTC educational materials for the committee.

Iyer said every officer's candidate receives the same training, whether enrolled in an ROTC program or at West Point.

Asked what would happen if he didn't fulfill his promise to become an officer after graduation, Iyer said he would have to pay back the ROTC scholarship he received to attend Stanford or enlist in the service.

Committee still in information-gathering mode

It was the second meeting the committee has held this week to discuss the pros and cons regarding the possible reinstatement of ROTC at Stanford. The committee met with students on Tuesday in a gathering that attracted 100 people.

Last year, the Faculty Senate asked the committee to "investigate Stanford University's role in preparing students for leadership in the military, including potential relations with ROTC. The committee should explore the logistical, financial and pedagogical implications of any such relationship for Stanford and its wider mission, and report back to the senate detailing a range of options the university might pursue and the consequences they can be expected to have."

The committee is expected to present its report to the Faculty Senate in May.

Stanford phased out its ROTC programs after the Faculty Senate terminated credit for ROTC courses in 1970. The Air Force ended its Stanford program in 1971; the Army and Navy followed suit in 1973, the same year the United States discontinued the draft and established an all-volunteer military force.

In addition to concerns about academic standards (courses were taught by military instructors), Stanford also was concerned about a clause in student ROTC contracts that said they could be drafted immediately if they quit the program. While the military agreed to eliminate academic credit for ROTC courses, they said removing the punitive clause was beyond their control. At the time, the ROTC programs were also an issue for faculty and students who opposed the Vietnam War.

ROTC at Stanford today

Currently, Stanford has cross-enrollment agreements with the University of California-Berkeley, Santa Clara University and San Jose State University.

Under the pacts, Stanford ROTC students can receive military training at those universities while working on their degrees at Stanford. The courses do not qualify to be used toward the 12-unit requirement for full-time registration status or satisfactory academic progress requirements for Stanford undergraduates.

Currently there are 14 Stanford students enrolled in ROTC programs; five in Army ROTC, two in Air Force ROTC and seven in Navy ROTC.