E-mail Responses

The Task Force has begun collecting e-mail responses sent to rotc-taskforce@columbia.edu. All submissions are considered for public consumption. If you wish your name or your opinions redacted, please contact the Task Force. The Task Force will accept submissions up to 11:59 PM on Wednesday, March 2, 2011.

From: John Huber
Sent: Sun 2/13/2011 8:31 PM
Subject: support for ROTC

I am writing to express strong support for having an ROTC presence on campus. 

Over the years, West Point has sent a number of students to our political science department  for their PhDs, a relationship which has been  mutually beneficial.  On  the one hand, we hope and believe  that the West Point students gain a great deal from our program.  As an example, one  PhD student from the Army wrote a recent book (based on his dissertation) about the political attitudes of soldiers.  It has gotten a lot of attention because the main finding -- that non-officers in the army have attitudes that more or less mirror those of society -- runs counter to what everyone believed (which was that soldiers are more conservative than society).  It's a nice example of how studying at a place like Columbia can allow army offices to produce research findings that change the way the armed forces are understood by society.  On the other other hand, having soldiers in our classes improves the work that faculty and other grad students  do by challenging the assumptions we bring to our work, and by shaping the questions we ask about the military and about international conflict.  It's a win-win exchange, and we hope that West Point continues to send us students.

I can't believe that the same sorts of mutual benefits would not exist if members of the armed services could attend Columbia's undergraduate programs through ROTC.  Students and faculty would gain new insights about the military and its role in American society.  And ROTC students would gain what every other student at CU gains -- a great education that constantly challenges one's assumptions about how the world works.  So having ROTC would enrich our environment by diversifying it in a very meaningful way.

Although the value of this diversity should be enough to justify ROTC, there is another reason as well -- higher education institutions like Columbia owe this sort of commitment to American society.  The  extent to which the armed services are successful at defining and executing their mission has a big impact  not just on our security, but also on how America is perceived around the world. If we believe that a Columbia education is a good thing in large part because it enhances the ability of students to understand and interpret and interact with the world outside Columbia, then a Columbia education would  benefit students from  the military for these same reasons.  Thus, by educating members of the military at Columbia, we would strengthen the military by enriching it intellectually.  If we believe such an outcome is a good thing -- and I strongly believe it is -- it would be a shame to turn our back on the possibility of making this contribution.

John Huber
Professor and Chair
Department of Political Science

From: Ryan Alexander Artze-de Toledo
Sent: Sat 2/12/2011 11:09 PM
Subject: ROTC on campus

Dear taskforce,

I am very pleased to hear that Columbia has started to revise its decision on not allowing ROTC recruiters on campus. This policy was originally put in place to appease student protesters during the Vietnam War. But the war is over now and yet the policy still exists. 

There is no reason why it should remain in place, especially now that DADT has been repealed. I for one am glad that it has been repealed and so does the vast majority of the students here at Columbia. To continue this practice of not allowing recruiters to come to campus will only tarnish Columbia's image. 

PS: I have no problem with this email being posted publicly.

From: Chad Kaschube
Sent: Sat 2/12/2011 12:47 PM
Subject: Consideration


Rather than deciding whether or not to let ROTC on the campus of Columbia University, we should ask ourselves if there is a reason not to.  The ROTC program has no malicious intent.  Participants in the program are honorable people that would give their life to keep us free.  Excluding them will deprive some of the bravest men and women in the world of a first class education at one of the best universities in the world.  Columbia University has a long history of dedication to diversity and inclusion.  This should be no exception. 

Chad Kaschube

From: Charles A. Kaufmann
Sent: Sat 2/12/2011 12:30 PM
Subject: Comments on ROTC at CU

Dear Sir or Madam:
The University has always seen the presentation of different, and at times conflicting, points of view as central to its mission.  This essential part of the University's identity has made me proud to be a member of the faculty.
In that spirit, should the University Senate elect to permit ROTC recruitment on campus, I hope that it also takes proactive steps to permit, support, and encourage the presence of other organizations devoted to alternative, non-violent approaches to conflict resolution.  I further hope that the University will give these organizations as much exposure as it does military organizations on campus and suggest that the University consider drawing attention to these organizations along side any comminuques regarding ROTC that it might issue..
We live in a world where armed conflict is an horrific, but necessary, reality.  I ardently believe, however, that as an institution devoted to the betterment of society, the University bears an ethical and civic responsibiltiy to actively work toward the day when such carnage will no longer be necessary.
Most sincerely,
Charles A. Kaufmann, M.D.
Clinical Professor of Psychiatry (retired)
Columbia University

Conscientious Objector during the Vietnam War Era

From: Stephen Snowder
Sent: Fri 2/11/2011 10:41 PM
Subject: ROTC Task Force


  As a Columbia student-veteran in the school of General Studies, I am extremely concerned about the makeup of your task force. Why is there not a single GS student on the task force? As you may know, the overwhelming majority of veterans at Columbia are in the school of General Studies. We are folks who actually have some experience with the military and would no doubt have a lot to contribute to your exploration of this issue. I urge you to consider adding a GS student - hopefully a veteran - to your task force.


Stephen Snowder

From: Allan Silver
Sent: Fri 2/11/2011 9:25 PM
Subject: Task Force Submissions

The two documents attached may be freely published as they stand. -- Allan Silver

Attachment #1

Attachment #2

From: Corey Hirsch
Sent: Sat 2/12/2011 3:54 AM
Subject: Fw: Update from the University Senate Task Force on Military Engagement

Dear University Senate Task Force on Military Engagement,

As an American institution, Columbia University enjoys the protection and other benefits afforded by the US Military's existence and operational programs. Further, as a leading organization, which often states that its mission includes educating America's future leaders, it has a special need to engage and support the nation's military programs just as it does other aspects of national life.

Any active measure to prevent engagement is ill advised in my view. Even passive dis-engagement is not appropriate. Access to the campus and support for ROTC (and other national service programs) are the correct policies. I do not object to posting of this view.


Dr. Corey Hirsch

From: Jon Demiglio
Sent: Fri 2/11/2011 8:42 PM
Subject: Concern

I oppose any and all Columbia University involvement with the Armed Forces and ROTC.  Any place of learning and growth that allows itself to be tied to a machine that kills in the name of freedom reveals itself to be lacking in the critical thinking skills it attempts to teach its students. 

Jon Demiglio

From: Daniel Sims
Sent: Wed 2/9/2011 3:35 PM
Subject: A point you are missing

To Whom It May Concern:

From what I've read on Bwog, both sides are making great points, however I think those points are mute when you consider this: Columbia has a chance to direct the course of the military. By fully embracing the army, we can have people who have been exposed to the core curriculum in leadership positions. As a student taking CC, I feel it would be very hard for anyone to discriminate after reading those texts. We should ignore the past of the military and look at the change we can make, we can have cadets trained in gender-studies, moral philosophy and other skills that will help them make reasoned arguments should the run into any unmoral actions in the army. This is especially import as the army begins to move to reject DADT for, while the law can be changed over night, the culture still remains. We, together with ROTC, can build up people strong enough to make those changes.

Thank you for allowing me to comment,
Daniel Sims
SEAS Sophomore MechE

From: Edgar M. Housepian
Sent: Tue 2/8/2011 12:46 PM
Subject: Why Columbia should reinstate ROTC on Campus

Now that the furor over "don't ask -don't-tell" has been resolved there are two reasons that ROTC and military recruiting should be allowed back on campus: 

                First:  our military will be better served by having college educated officers.
                Second: Columbia students must not be shut-out of the scholarships that accompanies ROTC enrollment.

Edgar M. Housepian, M.D. CC '49; P&S '53
Professor Emeritus of Clinical Neurological Surgery

From: Sean Wilkes
Sent: Sun 2/6/2011 3:44 PM
Subject: ROTC in New York City: An Untapped Resource

(From http://www.securenation.org/rotc-in-new-york-city-an-untapped-resource/)

John Renehan writes in the Washington Post today about the need for more ROTC programs across the country. In light of Harvard’s policies on access to military recruiters, brought up during Senate hearings for the nomination of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court, Renehan notes an increasing dearth of opportunities for military officer training, particularly in the Northeast. This raises an important point. The long-standing contention surrounding the presence of ROTC on university campuses has not been limited merely to a select number of Ivy League institutions, though they have often been the most prominent and vocal in opposing the program. Moreover, they are not solely to blame. As this WSJ data shows, the military has been slowly but surely reducing its presence in the urban Northeast in favor of institutions in the South and Midwest. Despite having a population comparable to that of entire states, for example, the resources afforded to New York City for officer training and recruitment appear paltry when compared to its corollaries in other parts of the country. The city deserves better. Here are just a few reasons why:

  • New York City has a population of over 8 million people. There are over 605,000 college and graduate students going to school in New York City, the largest university student population of any city in the United States. Yet the city boasts a mere 30 to 40 ROTC graduates each year.
  • New York “is the nation’s largest importer of college students.” That is, of students who leave their home state to attend college, more leave for New York than any other place in the country.
  • With over 8 million residents, New York City has a greater population than either the state of Virginia or North Carolina.  While both Virginia and North Carolina maintain twelve Army ROTC programs each, however, New York City hosts only two, both of which are granted the same resources and personnel as every other ROTC program in the country despite the enormous differences in population for which they are responsible.
  • Both ROTC Programs are located a significant distance away from the areas most concentrated in colleges and universities and are not easily accessible via subway, a fact that can be problematic given that the vast majority of students in the city do not own cars.
  • The Air Force hosts a single ROTC program at Manhattan College in the Bronx. It is the most easily accessible via subway, though the commute is still significant for students attending school in any of the other five boroughs, particularly Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island.
  • The Navy ROTC program, on the other hand, is located beneath the Throggs Neck Bridge and is almost completely inaccessible via public transportation. Moreover, enrollment in the program is strictly limited to students attending SUNY Maritime Academy, Fordham University, or Molloy College. Thus, out of the 600,000+ university students in New York City the Navy is limited to selecting from a collective population of less than 20,000.
  • Nearly 60% of Manhattan residents are college graduates, more than twice the national average. Though the 23 SqMi island is host to over 1.6 million people and 40 colleges and universities alone, not a single school in the borough of Manhattan has an ROTC program.
  • Neither is there an ROTC program in Brooklyn, which as CPT Steve Trynosky noted in 2006 is “home to a diverse population about the size of Mississippi, which has five Army ROTC units despite a much lower per capita college attendance. In 2005, two of the top five ZIP codes for Army enlistments were in Brooklyn, yet there are no commissioning opportunities in the borough. Could one imagine no ROTC programs for the population of Mississippi?”
  • The City University of New York (CUNY) is the third largest public university system in the nation, ranking behind only California State and the State University of New York systems, though all of its campuses reside within a single city rather than an entire state. It provides post-secondary higher education in all five boroughs of New York.
  • The CUNY system has over 450,000 students and confers nearly 3 percent of all bachelor’s degrees awarded to African-Americans in the United States. Gen. Colin Powell graduated from the ROTC program at City College, CUNY’s flagship campus. Yet today there is not a single ROTC program at any CUNY school.
  • New York City also has a vast array of private universities, including Columbia University, the fifth oldest institution of higher education in the country, and New York University, the nation’s largest private, non-profit university. Yet neither university hosts a program nor do they graduate more than a handful of military officers per year.
  • The recent Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) emphasizes the need to ensure that “officers are prepared for the full range of complex missions that the future security environment will likely demand” and that the DoD is committed to “building expertise in foreign language, regional, and cultural skills,” and “enhancing these skills in general purpose force officers during pre-accession training.” As Eric Chen noted in a previous Secure Nation post, New York City offers a breadth of resources in these areas that are unmatched elsewhere in the country. Take, for example, the latent talent and skill sets offered by the astoundingly diverse population of Queens, a New York City borough in which 138 different languages are spoken every day. West Point’s Social Sciences Department routinely takes their cadets on trips to nearby Jersey City to immerse them in the city’s large and vibrant muslim community. But why stop at immersing cadets in a cultural center when one can also recruit from it? Jersey City is just a five minute subway ride from the middle of Manhattan, but the closest Army ROTC program is located miles away at Seton Hall University. Mr. Chen goes on to note that Columbia University is particularly well suited to meet the needs espoused within the QDR, an argument which is supported by the high quality of the school’s top-ranked programs in Asian languages, anthropology, and sociology.
  • The number of programs in the city correlates directly with the resources that the military departments grant towards both the recruitment and training of military officers there. As CPT Trynosky again noted “The allocation of ROTC recruiting assets in urban areas is insufficient to serve the large population assigned. Three recruiting officers are expected to canvass the more than 100 colleges and 13 million people in New York City, Long Island and Westchester County. Compare this with the 10 recruiters assigned for 4.5 million Alabamans or five for 2.5 million Mississippians.”
  • The scarcity of commissioning opportunities in New York City is pronounced. With the scars of September 11th still prominently visible even today, New Yorkers have a distinctly personal stake in the military and its operations overseas. They should be afforded every opportunity to become military officers, and to serve proudly in defense of their city and the nation.

Posted on 4 July, 2010


Sean is an Army Captain currently studying at Harvard. The views expressed are his own and do not represent those of Harvard University or the United States Government.

From: Michael Segal, MD

Sent: Sun 2/6/2011 7:53 PM
Subject: Issues and Myths about ROTC

To members of the Task Force: 

As a graduate of both Columbia (MD’83 PhD’82) and Harvard (undergraduate), and a faculty member at Harvard at the time, in 2002 I was the one who set up the Advocates for ROTC web site (www.AdvocatesForROTC.org) to coordinate the newly formed Advocates for Columbia ROTC and the existing groups Advocates for Harvard ROTC and Advocates for Yale ROTC.  Many of you are aware of the extensive listings of coverage of the ROTC issue on our site, and I hope that members of the Task Force will see those as a resource. 

I am writing to let you know of a new section of the site, in which we take a constructive centrist approach to the “Issues and Myths” about ROTC that have arisen in the post-DADT era.  There are people on the left who are unalterably opposed to ROTC, and they have the easy task of finding as many problems with the military as possible.  There are also people on the right who are unalterably disdainful of top colleges, and they have the easy task of finding as many problems with the university as possible.  We, in contrast, have dedicated ourselves to the important task of trying to reconcile the cultures of the military and the university, proposing constructive ways in which the military and the university can engage. 

We have done so in “vision” articles, such as that of a “Blueprint for Columbia ROTC” prepared by alumnus Eric Chen (http://www.securenation.org/blueprint-for-columbia-rotc/) and a similar Blueprint for Harvard ROTC that I prepared (http://www.securenation.org/blueprint-for-harvard-rotc/).  What I wish to share in this message is another approach that focused on specific “Issues and Myths” that will come up in your deliberations.  We list these at www.advocatesforrotc.org/issues/.  We plan to update the existing items and add new ones as the discussion proceeds, but it seemed appropriate to share the existing items now. 

Issue: DADT was repealed, but continuing discrimination against transgender people in the military violates university non-discrimination policies

Instances of this issue: Yale Herald blog post, Stanford Students for Queer Liberation and Harvard Crimson op-ed.  A Huffington Post item raises a similar issue about whether ROTC should be allowed while gays in the military "suffer sharp disparities from not being permitted to marry".

Facts: Non-discrimination policies at universities, such as those at Columbia, Harvard, Stanford and Yale, do include transgender people, using language referring to "gender-identity".  As detailed in the instances above, and in a report prepared for the Palm Center, a variety of military regulations treat transgender status as an exclusionary factor for military service.  Some of the military regulations reference civilian psychiatric diagnostic classifications; which list not only Gender Identity Disorder in Adolescents or Adults  but also Premature Ejaculation, but it appears that none of the military regulations are required by law.  Accordingly, the military can leverage some of the individual privacy infrastructure planned to implement DADT repeal to accommodate transgender people in the military without needing action by Congress.  However, it is far from clear that the Obama administration would do so until the repeal of DADT has been implemented and the privacy infrastructure is already in place. Some LGBT activists raise practical concerns for people undergoing gender transitions while in the military, while other situations, such as performing gender assignment surgery for ambiguous genitalia on adults instead of newborns, as is current medical practice, raise fewer practical concerns.

More generally, it is not clear how far the military will or should move to make its non-discrimination policies identical to those of universities.  For example, the university non-discrimination statements also protect non-citizens and other individuals such as those with disabilities, whose service in the military could be problematic in some cases.  Harvard's non-discrimination policy includes the phrase "unrelated to course requirements"; the equivalent in the military would be factors that are deemed problematic for military service such as disabilities or being significantly overweight. Since being eligible for military commission is a prerequisite for taking certain ROTC courses, such factors could be considered related to course requirements.

At some universities, the non-discrimination statements also refer to "veteran status" or "military status".  It would be ironic if the non-discrimination statements were to be cited as a reason to discriminate against ROTC.

The university non-discrimination statements often include language such as "legally protected status", "consistent with its obligations under the law" and "protected by applicable law", wording that recognizes that the purposes of the non-discrimination statements is to implement existing law.

Issue: ROTC students are told not to access the WikiLeaks site

Instances of this issue:  In a Silicon Valley Mercury News op-ed, a professor describes a memo received by ROTC saying that ROTC students were not permitted to access the WikiLeaks web site.  He said that professors were thinking of requiring students to access the WikiLeaks web site, and described the ROTC memo as infringing on academic freedom.  He speculates that in the future ROTC students could be prohibited from "reading material critical of U.S. military actions in Iraq or Vietnam".

In a meeting at Stanford on ROTC, the head of the Stanford ad hoc committee on ROTC was handed a copy of the Mercury News article by an anti-war activist and then held it up and said "What this looks like is, censorship could be imposed on a class that Stanford has a hand in managing ... This, I think, would be problematic."

Facts: The federal government considers accessing the WikiLeaks web site to be involvement in a crime, and has put in place for now a ban on millions of federal employees accessing the WikiLeaks web site.  A Department of Defense memo makes clear that there is no restriction in the military on accessing "unclassified, publicly available news reports (and other unclassified material), as distinguished from access to the underlying classified documents available on public websites or otherwise in the public domain".  The memo also explains that no military personnel are allowed to access the classified documents using government computers or private computers that have remote access to government systems unless they have authorization to do so.  It appears that ROTC students are not barred from accessing the documents from private computers without remote access to government systems,   However, many commanders are advising the students that accessing the classified documents may inadvertently cause them practical issues when answering questions to obtain their initial security clearances.  But advice has not been standardized, and there is even one claim that "ROTC students are under the same set of orders as regular military personal".

The resulting dilemma for ROTC students is that university professors may require them to access classified information in a way that the federal government considers illegal, and doing so could cause the student problems in obtaining security clearance needed to serve as an officer.  There are a variety of ways to bridge this gap; for example, faculty could offer the option to students not to access classified documents, recognizing the impropriety of forcing students to do something that the federal government considers illegal.  Another way to bridge this gap is for the military to amend its advice to include language about an individual not having accessed classified documents "except when the document is available publicly and the individual was required to access the document as part of an academic course", or grant such authorization in individual cases. A change in what the federal government considers illegal could also solve this issue.

In a related incident, Columbia University was contacted by a State Department official who suggested that students applying for federal jobs avoid commenting on documents released by WikiLeaks.  The university responded by advising students that they have a right to discuss publicly available material.  However, the Columbia situation differed in that it included situations in which students would read about material in newspapers, the students were not in contractual relationships with the federal government, and the university was free to ignore the position of the federal government on what is illegal.

A current company commander adds:

The executive branch, which is charged with carrying out the laws of the United States, has asserted that viewing wikileaks material constitutes a violation of law. Whether you disagree with this or not, compelling students to violate the law should still be impermissible. It should be stressed that it is perfectly valid to argue about whether the law is appropriate while still maintaining respect for the rule of law. And this sort of expression is appropriate and even encouraged within the ROTC among cadets and military professors.

For example I recently had a discussion with a couple of cadets and lieutenants who work for me about whether the federal government's interpretation of the law regarding wikileaks is appropriate or even correct. It was a very in-depth conversation with some very smart young officers. And this was not even in a classroom environment but a professional military one. Some disagreed with the interpretation, and felt perfectly free to express this to me (their commanding officer), as I would with my commanding officer.

This is analogous to an academic discussion on the legality and ethics of the prohibition of marijuana usage (a prohibition of which I am a staunch opponent I might add). As a professor I can require my students to discuss the appropriateness and legality of prohibiting the use and sale of marijuana. But I can't compel them to USE marijuana or to OBTAIN marijuana because in doing so I would be compelling them to break the law, notwithstanding the fact that I disagree vehemently with the law.

This is a great example of the sort of value an ROTC program can bring to the table. Cadets and military officers are intimately familiar with the needs and requirements of working with classified material. An ROTC cadet would be able to articulate with first-hand knowledge how the federal ruling on accessing wikileaks material might be problematic, and why for example such a heavy-handed application of the law might in-fact be unnecessary.

Issue: Should ROTC be kept away from top colleges, in favor of Officer Candidate School after graduation?

Instance of the issue: In a Washington Post op-ed column, a former secretary of the navy and a professor of military history suggest reversing the "near-elimination of Officer Candidate School billets for those without prior enlisted service" instead of expanding ROTC at top colleges because "faculties are likely to be unenthusiastic".

Facts: Similar suggestions have been made about eliminating service academies (here and here), with estimates of their costs being 2-4 times as high as for ROTC.  One of the arguments given against the service academies, but for ROTC, is that it good for civilians and future officers to interact.

New officers are currently produced in the following proportions: 23% from Service Academies, 40% from ROTC and 38% from Officer Candidate School (FY 2009); not counting direct appointments such as doctors).  The proposition can be debated that one should get rid of service academies and ROTC and train all officers in OCS.  However, avoiding ROTC only at top colleges where "faculties are likely to be unenthusiastic" will continue the current trend of officers coming from low cost schools in the south and avoiding top colleges and the coasts (detailed here and here).  This will deepen the gap between future military leaders and future civilian leaders.

Myth: A university must offer course credit for ROTC

Instance of the myth: Harvard Crimson article and Brown Daily Herald editorial.  The editorial is particularly significant since it appears to quote Brown's provost:

Provost David Kertzer, in an e-mail to the editorial page board, further noted that "in the past, the faculty have voiced concerns" about the military's requirements, like the one requiring the University to grant academic credit for ROTC classes.

Facts: Many colleges such as Princeton have ROTC but offer no course credit.  This is detailed in a table of relevant colleges here, and discussed in an article that appeared on the Harvard-associated MilBlog "Secure Nation":

Although it is claimed that ”the University would also have to grant credit for ROTC coursework” there is no such requirement in the law.  Indeed, Princeton has announced that ”credit would not be provided at Princeton” for ROTC courses, despite language in the 1972 Army-Princeton agreement that “academic credit for military professional subjects will be judged by the institution under the same procedure and criteria as for other institutional courses”.

Myth: The Solomon Amendment doesn't apply to universities since they didn't formally expel ROTC

Instances of this myth:  New York Times op-edBoston Globe editorial and Yale Herald blog post

Facts: The Solomon Amendment applies to a college that "either prohibits, or in effect prevents" ROTC or military recruiting.  The fact that universities effectively barred ROTC by the indirect means of withdrawing the conditions specified in the ROTC Vitalization Act of 1964 is not important from a legal perspective since this "in effect prevents" ROTC.  The Solomon Amendment has not been invoked for ROTC since it can be invoked only by the Secretary of Defense, who has not invoked the law for ROTC.  In contrast, the Solomon Amendment has been invoked for military recruiting, and the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that doing so was constitutional for military recruiting.  However, the ruling noted that "recruiters are not part of the law school", drawing a contrast to the situation on ROTC that leaves it unclear how the court would rule on an ROTC-related Solomon Amendment issue.  This uncertainty, together with the "shotgun wedding" nature of using the Solomon Amendment to force an ROTC program onto a campus, account for some of the reluctance of the Bush and Obama administrations to apply the Solomon Amendment to ROTC.

Myth: ROTC students are not allowed to express political opinions in class

Instances of this myth: San Jose Mercury News article

Facts: ROTC students and students at service academies are not supposed to criticize the political or military leadership in public in uniform, but they may do so when out of uniform or in an academic setting such as a class.  Thus, ROTC students can express their opinions in the same situations in which their fellow students can do so.

Respectfully submitted,

Michael Segal MD’83 PhD’82

From: David Sahar
Sent: Sun 2/6/2011 2:25 AM

Let ROTC become a part of our great university

David I. Sahar M.D.
Clinical Professor of Medicine
Columbia University

From: Katharine Seidl
Sent: Sat 2/5/2011 11:40 AM
Subject: My Concerns

Dear Task Force: 

First, I would like to thank the Task Force for the opportunity to share my opinion on the ROTC issue, and for considering the take of the entire community of CU.

Unfortunately, I am not able to attend any of the scheduled talks, nor will I be able to vote. Therefore, I want to express my concern through e-mail. 

I recently listened to a program on NPR that debated whether or not ROTC belongs on college campuses. While I understand why some people argue for it, I am, simply stated, opposed it. I do not think Columbia University should have such a program. A military presence has no place in the educational setting and I would be very uncomfortable if CU decides to host a ROTC program. In fact, Columbia was appealing to me as a student because it did not have an ROTC program and I would not have selected the university if it did.

Again, thank you for inquiring and listening. I look forward to reading the report when it comes out. 

Katharine Seidl

From: Ronald Breslow
Sent: Thu 2/4/2011 4:28 PM
Subject: ROTC

It is now time for Columbia to permit ROTC here.  The arguments against it were at one point understandable, but now they do not make sense.  Do we really think that people who fight and die in our wars are misguided, not to be honored?  Do we believe that the U.S. does not need an army?  If we have students who want to belong to ROTC, and we do, we should permit them to do it here.   We should adopt the change, and quietly, without noisy demonstrations that will just damage the image of Columbia.  We want to be, and be seen to be, a place of reason, with tolerance and respect for the opinions of others.

Ronald Breslow
University Professor

From: William Bain
Sent: Thu 2/3/2011 10:20 PM
Subject: support for ROTC

Dear Task Force:

I am a veteran of the Iraq war and currently a member of the Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons Class of 2012. I am writing to express my strong support for full recognition of the U.S. military by Columbia and for Columbia's participation in ROTC.

I support ROTC on campus because I believe that a major role of universities, especially a world leader like Columbia, is to shape and develop students not only as scholars, but also as citizens. I can think of few programs to better prepare future citizen-leaders than the training of military officers. Furthermore, in the interest of academic freedom (particularly in the setting of the recent repeal of DADT), I think we should embrace a more intimate understanding of the military, which touches every aspect of human knowledge from engineering to philosophy to medicine to religion to anthropology to history. 

I think that opposition to ROTC on campus because it supports a "war machine" or a "war agenda" is intellectually dishonest. Our national defense policy is not formed by the junior military officers educated in programs such as ROTC that serve around the world in support of our nation's strategic goals, be they humanitarian or violent. Rather, that policy is formed by business, political, media, and academic elites, many of whom graduated from or are employed by Columbia.

Given the levity with which our nation wages war and violence, I think it is in our best interest that our future leaders have personal experience waging our wars so they may more judiciously and appropriately bring that force to bear. 

Therefore, I support ROTC at Columbia because I believe it will improve Columbia and because I believe it will improve our military and our future leadership. Thanks very much for your consideration.

Best regards,

William Bain 

From: Wm. Theodore de Bary
Sent: Thu 2/3/2011 2:48 PM
Subject: ROTC

To The Task Force on Military Engagement,

I believe it is time to restore ROTC at Columbia because we live in a world where educated students have to bear their share of responsibility for the defense of freedom. Columbia should use this as an opportunity to contribute its own educational leadership to the defense of democracy amidst the violent ideological struggles going on in the world today

When NROTC was abolished in 1968-9 it was not because the military had been exerting any improper influence over Columbia education, but because we yielded to the anti-Vietnam War sentiment at the time. Columbia let itself be used as a strike against the war, not because of any evidence that Columbia education had been adversely affected by the military establishment. After the Kirk/Truman administration yielded to violent disruptions in cancelling the NROTC graduation ceremony, the Senate let itself be pressured into abolishing NROTC itself.

Now in better times we should return to a more normal stance. Just as we remain proud of Columbia’s signature Core Curriculum, which started out as a discussion of war and peace issues, we should re-direct ourselves to open civil discourse today, with ROTC included in the process.

Wm. Theodore de Bary

Wm. Theodore de Bary, AB ’41, MA ’48, PhD ’53
John Mitchell Mason Professor of the University and Provost Emeritus
Special Service Professor

From: Paul S. Frommer
Sent: Thu 2/3/2011 1:31 PM
Subject: Comments from Class of 1957 Member

I attended Columbia College on an NROTC Regular scholarship, graduating (B.A.) as a member of the class of 1957. While on campus I earned a varsity “C” Lightweight Crew and participated in Greek life. I lived on campus all four years.(Subsequently earned a M.A. (American History) from the University of California.) I am a Viet Nam veteran and former commanding officer of a destroyer homeported in the Mediterrnean Sea, plus two Pentagon tours – among other duty stations.
As a result of my NROTC commissioning in the Regular Navy I made the naval service my first career, retiring as a Commander in 1979.
As a liberal arts based college Columbia’s by denying the U. S. Armed Services and the student body an active ROTC on campus (not somewhere inconveniently afar) surely has helped to fulfill President Eisenhower’s remarks as to beware of a military-industrial complex. What better way than this, to segregate the American forces officer corps from the entire general public, to seed the beginnings of a divided nation, with perhaps in time a politically dangerous military. This is what Columbia has done, in effect “cutting off its nose to spite its face”.
Our military, ever since the necessary re-introduction of the draft due to the Cold and Korean Wars, and then the Viet Nam war has become a significant part of our society, whether we like this or not, something never occurring before in our history. Liberal arts graduates need to be part of this relatively new significant element of our society, even for short periods of time.
Thank you,
Paul S. Frommer

From: Donald Quest
Sent: Thu 2/3/2011 10:09 AM

I am a professor of Neurological Surgery at P & S.

I am also  Vietnam veteran, having served as a naval aviator aboard the aircraft carrier USS Kittyhawk from 1961-1966.  I was a member of the NROTC unit at my university prior to beginning active military duty.  I learned much from my military service and am very proud that I had the opportunity to serve my country.

I came to Columbia at the height of the war protests and fully understand the sentiments of those troubled times. 

I love Columbia and have devoted my entire career to this University and its medical school.  I believe banning ROTC from the campus is  anachronistic and antithetical to the mission of a great university.  Freedom of expression, freedom to explore differing points of view, freedom of assembly are all essential elements of the atmosphere and personality of a world-class institution of higher learning. 

Mandating participation in the ROTC is not under consideration after all. Banning the opportunity to explore military service, however, is repressive and has no place at our institution.


Donald O. Quest, M.D.

From: Matthew Davidson
Sent: Wed 2/2/2011 5:13 PM
Subject: NO to ROTC

In the final analysis, it doesn't matter if the military is more open to gay people. Underneath everything the military does is conditioning human beings to kill each other. Who cares if a gay or straight finger pulls the trigger on unarmed civilians? Columbia should not support ROTC or the military at all!


From: William Smethie
Sent: Wed 2/2/2011 2:03 PM

I favor allowing ROTC on the Columbia campus.  Our military should represent a cross of our country which includes Columbia University.

From: Abraham Wagner
Sent: Wed 2/2/2011 1:39 PM
Subject: Memorandum for the Task Force on Military Engagement

The purpose of this memorandum is to express my strong support for the proposal to “Return the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) to Columbia University’s Campus.” I appreciate the fact that the University Senate is revisiting the question of ROTC’s place at Columbia, and unfortunately will not be in New York at the time of the scheduled hearings to participate personally.

Prior to joining the Columbia University faculty some six years ago as Adjunct Professor of International and Public Affairs I served for over three decades in various positions in the United States Government related to national security. At SIPA I have been teaching two courses related to national security, defense and intelligence. Among my students have been active military, government employees, as well as graduate students seeking jobs in the national security area. While not part of my formal role, I have also served to advise undergraduate students from both Columbia and Barnard working on papers and projects in the national security area.

The question of returning ROTC to Columbia is not simple or easy, and arguments exist on both sides of the matter. On balance, however, I personally believe that the current policy is a legacy of the Vietnam War era long past, and the benefits to the University Community articulated by the student Advocates for Columbia ROTC and Students United for America are well-taken.

In the mid-1990s I served as a Visiting Professor of International Relations at the University of Southern California which had an active ROTC program in place. My experience with students as USC, a number of who were enrolled I the ROTC program is that the benefits described by the Columbia student group are real – not illusory. I fully expect that such benefits would be realized at Columbia as well. In this regard, I find a few points to be most compelling:

First, as we are all aware, the cost of attending Columbia is substantial and indeed daunting for many students and their families, even with the myriad of financial aid programs available. Without question the ROTC program enables a broader spectrum of students to attend Columbia than would otherwise be possible, and provides Columbia with a more diverse student body. It also provides the ROTC students ready access to employment in an economy where jobs are not as readily available as in times past.

Second, from the Government’s perspective, we need students with the type of education that Columbia affords. I can offer two examples from my own experience. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) which gave rise to the Internet and a host of other new technologies is staffed in large part by uniformed military, many with advanced professional degrees. The Intelligence Community, which now includes some 16 separate agencies, is also staffed in large part by uniformed military.

In its “best days” the CIA depended heavily on some of the best minds drawn from Columbia, Yale and other leading educational institutions. Many of the failures we have experienced in the last several years have been due to a failure to bring in well-educated young people to perform some of the most challenging analytical tasks imaginable. Indeed, much of my own time these days is spend in writing recommendations for my own students seeking work in this critical area. ROTC offers yet another viable path to supporting this critical national interest.

Third, I believe that the changes in the ROTC program since the Vietnam era noted by the students are correct, and my own experience bears this out. The demands now placed on ROTC students are not overly burdensome, particularly in light of the benefits and changes in the program. None of my USC students then enrolled in ROTC saw any significant problems, and I seriously doubt many at Columbia would see these as well.

Finally, I think the various arguments against permitting the ROTC program at Columbia listed by the Advocates for Columbia ROTC are either wrong or simply no longer credible. I see no errors of either fact or law in the student rebuttal and concur in this discussion.

Should the Task Force desire that I provide additional comments or inputs of any type on this important matter, I am at their disposal, and can be contacted most easily by e-mail: <redacted>.

Abraham R. Wagner

From: Matthew Shurtleff
Sent: Wed 2/2/2011 12:41 PM
Subject: Re: University Senate Spring Deliberations on ROTC

I fully support a yes vote for Columbia's formal participation in ROTC.  A ROTC program enriches the Columbia community by including a broader cross section of students.  Also it makes the University more accessible to students who might not otherwise be able to attend.

Thank you, Matt Shurtleff
Master's Candidate
Sustainability Management

From: Britton Ward
Sent: Wed 2/2/2011 11:55 AM
Subject: I am in favor of the ROTC returning to campus

I am in favor of the ROTC returning to campus.  I am both a GSAS student and an employee of Columbia University. My feeling is that our students should have the right to pursue all career avenues while attending CU.  Included in this is the right to pursue a military career.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me through the information below.

Britton Ward

From: Anonymous
Sent: Wed 2/2/2011 11:48 AM
Subject: Re: University Senate Spring Deliberations on ROTC

ROTC should be reinstated immediately. It's an affront and an embarrassment to do otherwise. With the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," and as mentioned in the State of the Union address, all Americans can serve in the military without discrimination. Any reason not to have ROTC on campus has now been eliminated, and not having it reinstated immediately leaves Columbia University in the divisive and political-minded past, in effect supporting its own form of discrimination.

Beyond that, I'm a firm believer that serving in the military is one of the highest forms of selfless service to our country that anyone, anywhere, can do. It should be supported, encouraged, and celebrated. 

There should be no debate here. Reinstating ROTC at Columbia is the right thing to do.

From: Len Druyan
Sent: Wed 2/2/2011 11:42 AM
Subject: ROTC on campus

I favor giving Columbia students the opportunity to enroll in ROTC at Columbia.



*       Dr. Leonard M. Druyan
*       Columbia University Senior Research Scientist 

From: Louis Brus
Sent: Wed 2/2/2011 10:10 AM
Subject: ROTC at Columbia

I am strongly in favor of ROTC at Columbia.

Columbia should actively participate in supporting our democracy, imperfect as it is, by enabling and even encouraging participation by those students interested in ROTC.  No institution is perfect.  In WWII Columbia students joined the Army and Navy, despite their racist structure at that time, because the stakes in preserving democracy were so high.  These stakes are just as high today. The University itself trained officers for the Navy.  The presence of many former civilians in the military hastened the reforms that came later. 

Elitism and arrogance shown by the Ivy League universities hurts our support in the Congress, and among our alumni, and in the general population.

Louis Brus
Samuel Latham Mitchill Professor of Chemistry
Columbia University
New York, NY, 10027

From: John Merriam
Sent: Wed 2/2/2011 9:01 AM
Subject: ROTC


I believe that Columbia students should have access to ROTC. One can never support all of the policies and actions of the government and military but it is essential that the military recruit well educated individuals.

John Merriam, M.D

From: Gail Golden
Sent: Wed 2/2/2011 1:02 AM
Subject: Yes to ROTC at Columbia

With the reversal of DADT, there seems no legitimate reason to prevent ROTC from returning to Columbia. It would be disgrace to formulate another excuse to keep it off the campus, in my opinion.

Gail Golden


Sent from my iPad

From: Edith Park
Sent: Wed 2/2/2011 1:00 AM
Subject: ROTC CDT from Art School

I am # 20 on the petition.

Columbia University had granted me acceptance for one year as a pre-med CE student, 2009- 2010. I am a Painting major student from Pratt Institute, Brooklyn and also attending St. John's University as an ROTC cadet. I will be commissioning as a Medical Service Corps. 
officer this spring and realized that discipline and the duty to help others gave me the conviction to cross unmarked territories, especially being the first ROTC cadet the art school has enrolled since our program closed during WW2. I plan to become a physician in the Active Duty Army...thanks to CU and their academic support, I am on that path.

7FEB11 is also the date I will be having my Senior Thesis Show at the Brooklyn, Pratt campus. The artwork depicts war, territory and culture. Here is an invitation...

Sincerely and Respectfully,
CDT Edith Park
Pratt Institute, Class of 2010

From: Nicholas Christie-Blick
Sent: Tue 2/1/2011 11:52 PM
Subject: ROTC opposition


The recent Congressional vote to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell removes the single most compelling reason for denying military recruiters access to Columbia.

Therefore I favor permitting military recruitment at a level comparable to that provided to other potential employers. 

I do not favor re-establishment of ROTC on campus for two reasons. First, military culture (total deference to authority) is the antithesis of everything we stand for at Columbia. I do not see how the University can honestly endorse such a culture in its midst. Second, the military constitutes a total waste of a Columbia education. If more than a handful of students per year choose the military as a career path, then we're recruiting the wrong students.

Nicholas Christie-Blick

From: Seth A. Flesher, M.D.
Sent: Tue 2/1/2011 11:30 PM
Subject: ROTC

The military will be better for having Columbia University educated people within its ranks.   Columbia University will be better for an ROTC presence and the increased diversity on campus.

Seth A. Flesher, M.D

From: Travis Bunt
Sent: Tue 2/1/2011 10:49 PM
Subject: ROTC Deliberations Should Not Be A Referendum on the Military

To Tom Mathewson and the ROTC-Taskforce,

I must admit to being taking aback when learning of the debate regarding ROTC, and more than a little puzzled after taking the time to peruse the history of the tenuous relationship as detailed  on the task force website.

I find the extended morality play at work here quite overwrought, particularly the summaries of opinions questioning whether or not the ideals of the US Military are compatible with the ideals of the University.  Who is asking these sorts of questions of other University programs?  Should we not, given current events, hold open debate on whether or not Columbia's Business School deserves a place on our hallowed campus?  How ethical is it train those who would head to Wall Street in blind pursuit of personal gain?  Are such endeavors compatible with the educated liberalism Columbia is reputed to endow?

But of course, it is not Columbia's position to judge the merit of its graduates' careers, but to give them the tools to to practice a craft and to make their own decisions.  In this instance, however, Columbia's deliberate lack of a ROTC program explicitly communicates that an Officer's career is not a valid aspiration for a Columbia student.  Such a statement should not continue to be made.  If a student is free to choose a career path as an investment banker, he or she should also be free to choose to serve others--and get the best education he can to do so.  If there are truly academic and logistic issues that preclude that, these issues are where the focus should be, not on opinion polls and the like.

By allowing this to become some sort of referendum on the military, Columbia and it's task force have erred greatly.  No other program is subject to such subjective scrutiny, and none should be.

As a veteran, and a former Naval Officer, I cannot help but take this charade personally.  Because in making such a show, Columbia has made what should be an objective academic consideration into a free-for-all of opinion, which ultimately renders judgment on me, those who have served, those who still serve, and those who desire to serve.


Travis J. M. Bunt
MSAUD 2010
MSRED 2011

From: Ben Parker
Sent: Tue 2/1/2011 10:34 PM
Subject: thoughts on ROTC

To whom it may concern: 

As a current graduate student and former undergraduate, I have also been a longtime opponent of ROTC on Columbia's campus. However, the basis for this opposition was the US military's "Don't Ask Don't Tell Policy," a policy since repealed by Congress. 

Now that this exclusionary and discriminating policy has been removed, it is the only principled and righteous thing to do to now withdraw opposition to ROTC.  

While many opponents of ROTC for those reasons will not be enthusiastic about now allowing the ROTC on campus, this has to be our good faith follow-up to our correct and praiseworthy opposition to the don't-ask-don't-tell policy. Now that our "demands" have been met, as it were, ROTC (however reluctantly I say this) should be allowed on campus. 

thank you for your time. 

Ben Parker
CC '05
PhD candidate, GSAS

From: Christopher Linscome
Sent: Tue 2/1/2011 10:09 PM
Subject: ROTC at Columbia

Regarding ROTC at Columbia:

I have never personally been involved with ROTC or the military. Columbia is touted as one of the best schools for military veterans. In fact, was not the General Studies program created and designed specifically for military veterans coming home from World War II? Columbia University offers a first-class education to military veterans. It makes perfect sense to inculcate an ROTC program into Columbia's undergraduate school.

On another note, if one of the reasons for resistance to an ROTC presence on campus has something to do with the general political leanings or milieu of the school then can Columbia fairly be called a "university?"  Is it not a mark of any university to offer a place for dialogue, even including viewpoints that may or may not be particularly popular?  That is an aside.

As a GS student at Columbia, I would simply like to offer my support of having an ROTC program offered ON CAMPUS.

Christopher Linscome

From: David Weltman
Sent: Tue 2/1/2011 9:57 PM
Subject: Opinion on ROTC on Campus

Dear Task Force,
As a student at Columbia, I think it is our prerogative, after the decision passed in our legislative branch to repeal the DADT policy of the US military, to support our troops and show our respect for this great country by having an ROTC presence on campus. It is our duty to support this country, and I would be proud to be in a university that would do such.
Thank you for hearing out my opinions,

David Weltman
Columbia University Class of '12
List College of Jewish Studies (JTS) Class of '12

From: Anonymous
Sent: Tue 2/1/2011 9:21 PM
Subject: it comes down to patriotism

Dear members of the Columbia school community, 

Voluntary service in the military is an honor for every American that experiences it.  Although "Don't ask, don't tell" has in the past provided a reasonable, fair rationale for excluding ROTC from the Columbia campus, that law is now overturned.  To continue to exclude ROTC from campus would be perceived as elitist and un-American--which, in truth, it would be.

ROTC should be available to all college students, because as American citizens, it is their right to volunteer in the military without having to sacrifice their college educations.  Are Columbia students less willing than their compatriots at state colleges to serve their country, or less interested in honoring classmates who volunteer for military service?  I hope not.  In fact, I expect not. 

From: Ross Zeltser
Sent: Tue 2/1/2011 9:15 PM
Subject: RE: University Senate Spring Deliberations on ROTC

The ROTC should be allowed back on campus.  Thank you!

Ross Zeltser, MD, FAAD, FACMS
Clinical Instructor, Columbia University Department of Dermatology CC '97

From: Melissa Boone
Sent: Tue 2/1/2011 9:00 PM
Subject: Opinion on ROTC at Columbia


I am a third-year graduate student at Columbia, in the Mailman School of Public Health.  I believe that Columbia should bring ROTC back to campus, now that DADT has been repealed.  I fully and wholeheartedly agreed with Columbia's policy to keep any discriminatory employers - including the military - off campus, and admired the university's resolve and commitment to inclusiveness.  Considering that the official policy has been repealed, though I think that ROTC can bring a lot to the campus.  It has the possibility of opening Columbia to a lot of students who receive ROTC scholarships and want to attend college here, as well as bringing students who wish to participate in the program and become officers in the military to the university.  Our current students who want to participate won't have to travel all the way to the Bronx on Fridays to participate as a cross-town school. 


Melissa Boone
Doctoral Student
Department of Sociomedical Sciences
Mailman School of Public Health

From: Angelos D. Keromytis
Sent: Tue 2/1/2011 8:36 PM
Subject: Re: ROTC deliberations

Dear colleagues,

I cannot attend the scheduled meetings, but let me thank you for looking into this issue. Personally, I am in favor of ROTC engagement on campus.


Angelos Keromytis
Associate Professor of Computer Science, SEAS

From: Daniel Fein
Sent: Tue 2/1/2011 8:14 PM
Subject: ROTC

I wholeheartedly endorse the reinstatement of ROTC on campus. It should never have been terminated.



Daniel M. Fein
Columbia Business School
MBA Class of 2012

From: Sean Manning Udell
Sent: Mon 1/24/2011 8:41 PM
Subject: Re: Concerns about the return of ROTC to Columbia

Dear Senate Taskforce on ROTC:

My name is Sean Udell, and I am the president of the senior class of Columbia College and the president of the Columbia Queer Alliance (CQA). I am emailing you tonight merely as a concerned student, and my opinion neither reflects the opinion of Columbia College class of 2011 or CQA.

I am interested in adding a voice to the many that I am sure you are hearing. Specifically, I have been concerned by the rhetoric that says that because DADT has been repealed, somehow the military is in conformance with the University's non-discrimination policy. Though the DADT repeal has made it possible for people of some sexual identities to join military ranks, the military still bars those who are transgender or have any other non-normative gender identities from enlisting in the military. Considering that the University, specifically President Lee C. Bollinger, publicly stated that its current policy on ROTC was a result of the military's non-compliance with the University's non-discrimination policy for gay and lesbian people, it would be disappointing to see the University back down from its moral position in favor of selective discrimination against trans people or people with gender identities outside of the normative, male-female binary.

In the debate over ROTC, both sides seem to have forgotten about transgender students, who will still face explicitly discriminatory policies in the military, and by extension, in ROTC.  Transgender status or a Gender Identity Disorder (GID) diagnosis alone can disqualify a person from open military service.  The Uniform Code of Military Justice does not allow transgender individuals to serve openly, even with the DADT repeal in place. The military’s Anti-Harassment Plan also fails to protect individuals against harassment targeted toward a person’s gender identity. Various military bureaucratic entities including DD-214 forms in the military, the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System, and the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, do not contain provisions to alter gender (from male to female or vice versa).  Furthermore, numerous Veterans Affairs medical services including prostate exams, pap smears, and mammograms are routinely denied to transgender veterans.

Currently the ROTC program is not an affirming, or even open, option for transgender students. A re-introduction of ROTC, therefore, constitutes a violation of Columbia University's non-discrimination clause and the statutes of any other universities that protect against discrimination on the basis of gender identity.

Sean Manning Udell
Columbia College | Class of 2011
Columbia University in the City of New York

From: Eric Chen
Sent: Sun 1/23/2011 1:46 PM
Subject: An opinion on ROTC at Columbia from Eric Chen GS07

Original publication at http://www.securenation.org/blueprint-for-columbia-rotc/

Blueprint for Columbia ROTC

“I invite you to consider whether the right question may no longer be “How could we ever formally recognize ROTC on our campus,” but, instead, “How can we not welcome them back?””
Columbia College Dean Michele Moody-Adams, October 2, 2010

Columbia ROTC was once a special institutional partnership that educated generations of Columbia students in the civil-military leadership tradition of alumnus and founding father Alexander Hamilton. The partnership was severed when ROTC was effectively barred from Columbia University in 1969. Since 2002, students, alumni, and faculty have organized to restore ROTC on the Columbia campus. The majority of responses to ROTC in the Columbia community have been positive, but Columbia’s acceptance of ROTC has been delayed by opposition to the “don’t ask don’t tell” law (DADT).

Columbia ROTC after DADT

“[The repeal of DADT] effectively ends what has been a vexing problem for higher education, including at Columbia — given our desire to be open to our military.”
Columbia University President Lee Bollinger, December 18, 2010

On December 18, 2010, Congress repealed DADT. On the same day, Columbia President Lee Bollinger declared that the end of DADT is “the opportunity for a new era in the relationship between universities and our military services.” On December 20th, the Student Affairs Committee of the Columbia University Senate, the governing body that must decide whether the university will elect to restore ROTC, announced the formation of the “Task Force on Military Engagement.” The University Senate, which last considered ROTC in 2005, will take up the ROTC issue in the Spring 2011 session.

The repeal of DADT makes all the difference in Columbia welcoming ROTC. Much like the November 2010 Yale student survey on ROTC, a majority of Columbians have expressed support for ROTC on campus but not if having ROTC meant importing DADT. The repeal of DADT means a majority of Columbians now favor having ROTC on campus, period.

For Columbia officials, the question after DADT is whether an ROTC program fulfills the civic responsibility of an American flagship institution and the University’s mission to furnish “a distinctive and distinguished learning environment for undergraduates and graduate students in many scholarly and professional fields.”

Military officials currently judge ROTC programs using an accounting standard, i.e., whether an acceptable number of second lieutenants are produced at an acceptable cost, with some consideration for factors such as the host school’s comity with the military, racial diversity, and regional coverage. The effect of current ROTC metrics has been to view the suppressed cadet numbers, long estrangement, and other suspected challenges at Columbia as drawbacks, whereas Columbia’s preeminent institutional strengths have not been judged as countervailing advantages.

Since the repeal of DADT, skeptics have challenged the practicality of an ROTC program at Columbia from the military’s perspective. However, the issue is not whether the military is able to add an ROTC program at Columbia; since the Columbia ROTC movement was organized in 2002, ROTC programs have been granted to other host schools. The issue is whether university and military officials will determine that a new Columbia ROTC partnership is feasible and worth the cost.

If the evaluation of Columbia as an ROTC host school is limited to the military’s current accounting standard, then Columbia will continue to be doubted as a candidate to host ROTC. Realizing ROTC at Columbia depends on university, government, and military leaders who can see beyond current ROTC metrics and envision the benefits of an institutional partnership that invests Columbia’s strengths in the military and vice-versa.

An ROTC+ vision for Columbia

“Future Army forces require lifelong learners who are creative and critical thinkers with highly refined problem solving skills and the ability to process and transform data and information rapidly and accurately into usable knowledge, across a wide range of subjects, to develop strategic thinkers capable of applying operational art to the strategic requirements of national policy.”
The United States Army Operating Concept 2016-2028

“A healthy force must maintain high standards. Recent analyses emphasize the need for officers who are even more agile, flexible, educated, skilled, and professional.”
The Final Report of the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review Independent Panel

Leaders in all fields often stress that a vision is important, but 90% of the effort is in implementation. Simply adding ROTC to Columbia would fill an important gap at Columbia, but our goal goes beyond simply adding an ROTC program. We envision Columbia ROTC as the leading, state-of-the-art ROTC program in the nation. Much depends on the degree to which the university, the military, and the alumni are willing to implement an ROTC+ vision at Columbia.

The military’s evolving 21st Century mission aligns the military with Columbia’s global outlook and raises the potential of a Columbia ROTC+ with course offerings that are a plus both to the university and the military. In an increasingly complex global security environment, America needs military leaders able to adapt on a full spectrum, which means officers who are “lifelong learners” and “creative and critical thinkers” with the best possible academic foundation. Columbia University’s gifted students and combination of top-tier academic and New York City resources offer ROTC an ideal setting for innovative programs to attract qualified young men and women, recruit personnel with specialized skills, and prepare officers for a full range of complex missions with enhanced pre-accession training. Columbia already hosts innovative crosscutting programs that rely upon the special reach and multi-dimensional resources of a flagship university in a world city – Columbia ROTC+ would be a rare opportunity to rise to the needs of the nation with an evolutionary officer program that draws upon everything Columbia University in New York City has to offer.

Columbia ROTC+ would take advantage of Columbia’s large diverse pool of top-quality undergraduate and graduate students, a world-class research and learning environment that already trains students in a wide range of scholarly and professional fields, and the unique resources of a world capital. Columbia has top language, anthropology, and civil engineering programs that should immediately interest the Army and Marines, as well as excellent engineering and science programs that should attract the Air Force and Navy.

Navy ROTC is a promising match for Columbia. Columbia owns strong historical ties to Naval officer training. An NROTC program at Columbia would provide the Navy with much-needed access to New York City. NROTC favors strong engineering programs and Columbia’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) is one of the best in the world. For New York City, a home for NROTC at Columbia would advance Mayor Bloomberg’s initiative to make the city an “applied science and engineering hub.”

ROTC at Columbia would help solve the military’s absence of ROTC within Manhattan — which has poor access to ROTC despite having the highest concentration of college students in the country — and affirm to Columbia students their nation-building responsibilities in both military and civilian life. The return of ROTC to Columbia University, the flagship academic institution in New York City, would have a positive wider cultural and public relations impact on the military and the university.

Any new ROTC program at Columbia would join a distinguished military heritage and find a fraternal community ready to support the program. Columbia’s military tradition dates back to the students who joined the fight for a new American nation. Indeed, the standard bearer for Columbia officership is founding father Alexander Hamilton and his lifetime of visionary leadership in and out of uniform. The Hamilton Society, the student group for ROTC students and Marine officer candidates founded in 2002, has consciously sought to revive General Hamilton’s Columbia military lineage. Columbia enjoys an active and growing population of over 300 student-veterans, the largest by far in the Ivy League, as well as numerous active-duty officers in the graduate programs. Alumni group Columbia Alliance for ROTC has the express purpose of promoting and supporting ROTC at Columbia. Alumni have served in all the military branches, though none more than the Navy, where Columbia Naval officers once rivaled Annapolis’s output.

Beyond Columbia’s military community, ROTC would find a supportive environment on campus. Since 2005, University leaders have consistently cited DADT as the only significant obstacle to the university welcoming ROTC, and DADT is no longer relevant. The ROTC movement has grown within Columbia from students, alumni, and professors supporting the military on campus. The steady trend on campus has been to support the military, as expressed by University leaders such as Trustees chairman and Army veteran Bill Campbell and Columbia College Student Council president and ROTC advocate Learned Foote, multiple Columbia Spectator staff editorials calling for ROTC at Columbia, Columbia’s outreach to recent veterans with robust participation in the Yellow Ribbon program, the unveiling of the Columbia War Memorial, and highly visible commissioning ceremonies on campus. In 2006, Columbia even amended the university non-discrimination policy to add “military status” as a protected category.

The devil is in the details

As stated earlier, since DADT ended as the justification for separating Columbia and ROTC, skeptics have challenged the practicality of an ROTC program at Columbia from the military’s perspective. Issues cited include student interest, providing satisfactory physical facilities, granting ROTC instructors faculty status and titles, and granting academic credit for ROTC courses. As with any ambitious institutional change, the devil is in the details, but all the issues cited are resolvable:

a. Student interest in ROTC

Skeptics point to the current low number of ROTC students at Columbia in order to claim that student interest is too low to sustain an ROTC program on campus. However, their contention is impossible to prove or disprove without an ROTC program on campus. The damaged status of ROTC at Columbia after 1969, alienation from poor exposure, distance and poor access in urban terms, and lack of institutional assistance likely deter most Columbia students from seriously considering ROTC. It’s simply unfair to judge Columbia students for not joining an ROTC program that isn’t there. We first have to plant the seed in order to grow the tree – building up ROTC student numbers at Columbia first requires ROTC on campus. Then, as Columbia ROTC is nurtured into a fully integrated and supported part of the university, Columbia ROTC student numbers will grow over time. That’s just common sense. Roughly one-fourth of the undergraduate population is renewed every year. After ROTC is established on campus and properly advertised, eventually every student applying to Columbia will know about the ROTC program on campus.

Of course, financial incentives help attract students from elite – and expensive – universities like Columbia to any career field. In order for the military to compete for the best students, the Quadrennial Defense Review Independent Panel recommends:

To attract more youth to military careers and recruit from the nation‘s top colleges, the services should offer full scholarships on a competitive basis, usable anywhere a student chooses to attend, in exchange for enlisted service in the reserves (and summer officer training) during schooling, and 5 years of service after graduation, to include officer training school.

It is worth noting that, of the three ROTC programs, Navy ROTC is viewed by many as the ROTC program most likely to succeed at Columbia. The undergraduate NROTC survey of 2008 originated from SEAS students requesting the pathway to Naval officership, and in spite of the unpopularity of DADT, SEAS students voted in favor of Navy ROTC at Columbia. Unfortunately, despite the demonstrated student interest, Columbia students have zero access to NROTC. The absence of NROTC at Columbia is made doubly tragic by the storied history of Naval officer training at Columbia. Many alumni supporters are Navy veterans who would be particularly supportive of a Navy ROTC on campus.

b. Physical facilities for ROTC

ROTC campus space needs are relatively modest and could reasonably be met at Columbia under current conditions. ROTC-friendly neighboring spaces such as Grant’s Tomb and Central Park would augment the space available for ROTC. Furthermore, the projected timeline of the Manhattanville university expansion coincides with the likely timeline for starting an ROTC program at Columbia, which should increase the space available for ROTC on the main campus.

c. ROTC instructors’ faculty status and titles

A key constraint is the law governing ROTC, the ROTC Vitalization Act of 1964. Its provisions should not block efforts at Columbia to restore ROTC; they include the following:

No unit may be established or maintained at an institution unless the senior commissioned officer of the armed force concerned who is assigned to the program at that institution is given the academic rank of professor… and the institution adopts, as a part of its curriculum, a four-year course of military instruction … which the Secretary of the military department concerned prescribes and conducts.

The faculty appointment issue has been solved well at universities comparable to Columbia. At MIT, for example, ROTC leaders are designated as “visiting professors.” At Princeton, ROTC professors are assigned “a rank equivalent to the senior academic rank of professor.” Both these formulations satisfy the law without undermining the status of regular tenured professors and accord with Columbia’s instructional appointment policy.

d. Academic credit for ROTC courses

The courses of instruction issue has also been solved in ways that fit with the values of comparable universities. Although it has been claimed that “the University would also have to grant credit for ROTC coursework” there is no such requirement in the law. Indeed, Princeton has announced that “credit would not be provided at Princeton” for ROTC courses, despite language in the 1972 Army-Princeton agreement that “academic credit for military professional subjects will be judged by the institution under the same procedure and criteria as for other institutional courses.” Similar conditions for ROTC courses may be observed at MIT.

The Princeton arrangement demonstrates a basic model on which the university and the military can agree. More importantly, efforts at Harvard, Princeton, and Columbia have pointed the way towards an ROTC+ model that builds on the basic model by making available high quality courses valued by both the university and the military. These ROTC+ efforts have been of two types:

Regular faculty arranging ROTC credit: Professors at comparable universities such as Harvard have taught courses that were coordinated with the military and received ROTC as well as university credit. This model can be expanded, especially as the subject areas relevant to military leadership continue to expand. Although universities may have significant gaps in areas of interest to the military, departments are glad for opportunities to hire top scholars to cover important areas.

ROTC faculty arranging university credit: Columbia has discussed having regular university departments co-sponsor ROTC courses deemed worthy of academic credit. With a similar vision, the Army has sent ROTC leaders with PhDs to Princeton, positioning them to have joint appointments in regular departments.

Under these models, some courses could be offered with joint Columbia and ROTC credit. Creating an ROTC+ model in which ROTC students get courses such as military history, international relations, game theory, and anthropology provides to the military a “laboratory of the universities,” and also enhances the course offerings of the university. ROTC+ offers capabilities that are a plus both to the university and the military.

The next steps to Columbia ROTC

“Now, as anyone who has been involved in transformation knows, change can be hard. It can be challenging. And it can be frustrating. Inevitably, all institutions resist change to some degree–even when all recognize that change is needed.”
Army General David Petraeus, May 6, 2010

President Bollinger’s encouraging statement immediately following the repeal of DADT was the necessary first step towards restoring the Columbia ROTC partnership.

The next step is for the University Senate to deliberate, then approve ROTC. Input from the Columbia community will be vital to the University Senate’s decision. If the University Senate approves ROTC, university officials would then reach out to the military to start negotiating an ROTC program at Columbia. In order for the military and Columbia to negotiate constructively, it is important that the two sides deal with each other in good faith, are motivated by compelling interests and tangible benefits, and judge Columbia ROTC by a standard that favors Columbia’s institutional strengths. The intervention of political leaders to break through bureaucratic deadlocks may be necessary. Alumni will also be crucial. Columbia alumni have a strong voice in both the university and in government. Alumni are crucial in encouraging students to apply to Columbia and encouraging them to try ROTC. Alumni are also crucial in transcending bean-counter arguments and providing resources to achieve important goals.

A call to action

“The moral compass of the Army is the P.L. [platoon leader, usually a lieutenant] and the C.O. [commanding officer]. I told every one of my P.L.’s that they have to set that moral standard, that once you slip to the left, you can’t pull your guys back in.”
Army Captain Dan Kearney, February 24, 2008

Few causes are as manifestly impactful as advocating for Columbia ROTC. As it does today, much of the weight of future missions will be borne by young officers. They must be able to lead their soldiers in any combination of homeland defense, disaster relief, crisis stabilization, ministerial training, conflict prevention, security and stability, counterinsurgency, counterterrorism, essential government services, emergency infrastructure, and humanitarian aid. In the short term, young lieutenants and captains prepared by Columbia ROTC will be better equipped to rapidly innovate and adapt to unpredictable challenges. Over their careers, a strong academic foundation will help Columbia officers to master their duties with a commensurately greater acquisition of faculties. Pentagon budget cuts that may lead to leaner capabilities on the ground and the forecast of politically sensitive missions that rely on smaller numbers of forces further point to a heightened need for the exceptional individual officers that Columbia can provide the nation.

The challenges facing America are great, but so are the opportunities. At this crossroads in our history, Columbia must choose: are we an “Ivory Tower” disconnected from the needs of People and nation, and only good for insular thinking and selfish pursuits? Or, are we truly America’s producer of vanguard leaders who pursue the greater good and the improvement of all parts of our society, including the military?

The challenge of our time demands the best leaders from our generation. As Dr. Martin Luther King said in another time of pressing need in American history:

Let us stand with a greater determination. And let us move on in these powerful days, these days of challenge, to make America what it ought to be. We have an opportunity to make America a better nation.

As Columbians and Americans, it is again time for us to stand with a greater determination, for the sake of People and nation. The decision we make for ROTC at Columbia is about more than just ROTC. We are shaping our generation’s vision of Columbia University and of ourselves as fellow citizens.

Recommended reading:
Blueprint for Harvard ROTC
The Changing Landscape of American Higher Education — Panel on the Military and Academe