WASHINGTON, DC—Following the announcement by the Stanford University Faculty Senate that it will create a committee to study the possibility of reestablishing a Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program on campus, the American Council of Trustees and Alumni sent the letter below to the two professors who spearheaded the initiative, David M. Kennedy and William J. Perry. ACTA also sent a separate letter to the 31 members of the Board of Trustees, inviting them to also look into the issue, as it had previously done in 2008.
The American Council of Trustees and Alumni has followed with great interest the recent news of the Stanford Faculty Senate’s new committee dedicated to discussing the possibility of re-establishing the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps on campus. We would like to thank you for your support of this initiative, which has ramifications not just for Stanford, but for American higher education as a whole.
Like you, we are concerned about the increasing divide between the military and civilians, which we believe is at least partially attributable to the barring of ROTC programs from many university campuses since the Vietnam era. And we worry that the barriers that exist to ROTC effectively deny students the opportunity to explore military careers—a disservice both to them and to the military, which is deprived of access to many bright and motivated students who might wish to serve our country as part of our armed forces.
We also understand the administrative and academic challenges that the re-introduction of ROTC would entail, many of these revolving around the specific academic status of the military science courses required of cadets. But there is considerable flexibility in addressing this issue. Princeton, for instance, hosts an on-campus ROTC program but does not grant academic credit for courses taught by ROTC instructors. The University of Pennsylvania’s Navy ROTC program has a similar arrangement; Penn offers credit in a few of its schools for only a handful of military science courses offered at the university. Cornell readily accepts ROTC courses for credit. These examples show that the question of ROTC’s academic status is not an insurmountable obstacle to its reestablishment on campus.
While not directly related to ROTC, we also urge you and the Faculty Senate to consider a broader discussion—namely, the disturbing dearth of courses on military and diplomatic history. While universities almost universally maintain that a fundamental element of their mission is to educate students for thoughtful engagement in civic responsibilities, in fact, in recent years, they have largely scaled back or eliminated faculty positions devoted to political, legal, military or diplomatic history. This not only does a disservice to cadets interested in these subjects, but to all students who would like to graduate with a deeper understanding of past events.
We hope that this and the various other issues concerning ROTC and military training will enjoy robust discussion in the Faculty Senate. We also hope that the Faculty Senate will engage with the Board of Trustees on this issue, as it is ultimately responsible for ensuring the educational well-being of the institution. We are writing the board to that end.
ACTA is an independent non-profit dedicated to academic freedom, academic quality, and accountability in higher education. We thank you for your distinguished service to scholarship and teaching, and we would welcome the opportunity to discuss ROTC on campus with you. We look forward to hearing about the progress of the ROTC discussions at Stanford.
The American Council of Trustees and Alumni is an independent non-profit dedicated to empowering trustees on behalf of academic freedom, academic quality, and accountability. Since its founding in 1995, ACTA has counseled boards, educated the public and published reports about such issues as good governance, historical literacy, core curricula, the free exchange of ideas and accreditation in higher education.