‘G. Willikers’ is an old friend of mine and another long-time higher education insider. I tend to think old G is right, and that those schools who have banned ROTC because of Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell will not extend a welcome hand to the military not that it has been banished. There will be plenty of “We support our Troops” speeches, though; “support” being yet another word that has no relation with its plain English meaning.
Well, it is the end of the semester, and things get a little busy, and so it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that so far, only three presidents of Ivy League schools (Yale, Harvard, and Columbia) have expressed excitement and enthusiasm about getting the good old ROTC back on campus where it belongs. This, of course, is a reaction to Congress passing, and Obama signing, the repeal of the Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell Clinton-era policy that allowed gays and lesbians to serve, but only if they kept their true identity and orientation under their hat.
The whole military-policy-on-gays line was a straw man for the universities. Everyone likes a bad guy, and everyone likes to be the good guy. DADT was perfect for the universities. They could take the moral high ground and cast someone else as the bad guy. Even better, universities could publicly punish the bad guy for their backward ways by not allowing them on campus—and feel good while doing so. The only kink in this brilliant strategy was that the military, as a whole, did not seem particularly perturbed to be the bad guy, and they didn’t feel the need to whip up protests and bang on the gates to get in. Why should they? There are plenty of universities with thriving ROTC programs.
Reports such as from the New York Times step away from DADT and claim that for some universities dropping ROTC was a matter of “academic standards.” The implication is that Midwestern U. isn’t obligated to carry the lamp of learning as high as the Ivies. Except for classes on physical fitness and weapons, much of the ROTC curriculum is interchangeable with a sound business curriculum: cultural awareness, ethical decision-making, communication, and leadership.
If faculty were truly concerned with academic rigor, the university context offers avenues for faculty involvement and oversight. However, few faculty members have the interest (never mind the experience and technical knowledge) to oversee courses on adaptive tactical leadership (3 credits) or basic course physical fitness (1 credit), so better to drop the whole thing altogether. What is clever about the academic-standards charge is that can be easily resurrected as a reason not to engage with the ROTC.
Prediction: The ROTC will never be a full partner in Ivy campus life. There will be some forthcoming, and beautifully worded, invitations. It is doubtful that the military will enter in an alliance that can be shattered by dismissive and prideful faculty and politically motivated administrators. At best, the repeal of DADT signals a truce between the Ivies and the ROTC. But that doesn’t mean they are going to be friends.