Harvard Re-Establishes ROTC Presence On Campus

March 4, 2011

ROTC on college campusAfter a 40 year hiatus, Harvard University announced it would welcome the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) program back to its campus.

According to The Boston Globe, Harvard University president Drew Faust and Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, are expected to sign an official agreement today, March 4, putting an end to tensions between the university and U.S. armed forces.

"Our renewed relationship affirms the vital role that the members of our armed forces play in serving the nation and securing our freedoms, while also affirming inclusion and opportunity as powerful American ideals," said Faust in a written statement. "It broadens the pathways for students to participate in an honorable and admirable calling, and in so doing advances our commitment to both learning and service."

Harvard officials are also considering re-establishing relations with other branches of the armed forces.

According to The Harvard Crimson, tensions between the two began in 1969, as student and faculty anger over the Vietnam War led to the university expelling ROTC. After the war, the university continued to keep the program off campus on the basis of the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, which Harvard felt went against its non-discrimination policy. However, since the repeal of the policy on gays and lesbians in December, Faust and other officials have been in talks with the Pentagon about bringing the program back.

Under the new agreement, a director of Naval ROTC will be appointed at Harvard and the university will take on financial responsibility for the program; however, Harvard cadets will continue to take military science classes at Massachusetts Institute of Technology as a unit will not be established on Harvard's campus unless student interest increases, noted The Harvard Crimson. Currently, there are just 20 students enrolled in ROTC. Although these students will now be transported to MIT by the university, Harvard will provide the Navy with office space and access to classrooms and athletic fields for physical training and drills.

University officials and the Navy are optimistic about the renewed relationship.

"NROTC's return to Harvard is good for the University, good for the military, and good for the country," said Mabus as quoted by the Harvard Gazette. "Together, we have made a decision to enrich the experience open to Harvard's undergraduates, make the military better, and our nation stronger."

While some are ready to welcome ROTC back to Harvard grounds, others are still hesitant, reported The Harvard Crimson. Many question whether the move will give the program more exposure on campus and, if so, will more students then see the military as a viable career? Chris W. Higgins, an Army ROTC cadet, told The Harvard Crimson that there needs to be "some sort of marketing campaign" to increase awareness.

Members of the LBGT community are also concerned, as the repeal of the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy will not apply to transgender and intersex individuals.

"Here's the fundamental question the administration has to answer: Given our non-discrimination policy, what if a trans student wants to serve?" asked Harvard College Queer Students and Allies Co-Chair Marco Chan. "We all know what the outcome would be--they'd be disqualified. How does the school answer to that?"

According to The Boston Globe, full recognition of the Naval ROTC is expected to start this summer, when final implementation of the repeal takes place.

Compiled by CityTownInfo.com Staff


"Harvard, Navy to sign ROTC pact," boston.com, March 4, 2011, Tracy Jan

"Harvard to Officially Recognize Naval ROTC," thecrimson.com, March 3, 2011, Tara W. Merrigan and Zoe A. Weinberg

"Harvard welcome back ROTC," news.harvard.edu, March 3, 2011

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