News | Student Life

Year in Review: After 43-year absence, Columbia recognizes ROTC

Exactly four months after President Barack Obama signed the repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy into law, Columbia officially recognized an ROTC program for the first time in over four decades.

The Reserve Officers’ Training Corps had not been recognized by Columbia since 1969, when protests over the Vietnam War led to the dissolution of the University’s long-standing Naval ROTC program. But following a campus-wide debate this spring semester, the University Senate voted overwhelmingly to support the program’s return.

“The elimination of ROTC was a symbolic gesture of frustration and anger towards policies and practices that people strongly disagreed with,” University President Lee Bollinger told Spectator last month, after announcing that NROTC would be recognized by Columbia. “And I think the sort of question now is, how do you engage in a more positive way given this opportunity.”

Although ROTC was originally ousted due to anti-military sentiment, opposition in recent years has centered on the DADT policy, which had barred gay men and women from serving openly in the military.

Just days after Congress passed the DADT repeal, the University Senate announced the formation of a task force to review the military’s relationship with Columbia.

The Task Force on Military Engagement hosted three University-wide town halls in February to discuss ROTC. The task force also surveyed students in Columbia College, the School of Engineering and Applied Science, Barnard College, the School of General Studies, and the School of International and Public Affairs, finding 60 percent of respondents supportive of ROTC and 33 percent unsupportive.

Proponents of an ROTC return, including astronomy professor and task force member Jim Applegate, said that instituting the program would benefit Columbia students, both those who already participate in ROTC through other schools’ programs, and those who might now be encouraged to sign up.

“If you evaluate this based on the contributions to education at Columbia, it’s a straightforward yes vote,” Applegate said in January.

Some ROTC opponents argued that the program’s return would amount to a militarization of Columbia’s campus, and others made the case that ROTC would violate the University’s nondiscrimination policy because the military continues to bar transgender individuals from enlisting.

Gavin McGown, CC ’13, who identifies as transgender, said last month that the University should apply the nondiscrimination policy in the same way for transgender students that it had for gay students before the DADT repeal.

“If you have a policy that you affirm in nine out of every 10 cases and you don’t affirm it in the one case, in what sense is that actually the policy?” McGown asked.

The town hall debates were civil on the whole, although not without tense moments. At the second town hall, veteran Anthony Maschek, GS, who was awarded a Purple Heart for his service in Iraq, was heckled after saying, “Other parts of the world are plotting to kill you right now when you go to bed. It’s not a joke … these people, seriously, are trying to kill you. They hate America, they hate you.”

Many students applauded Maschek, but several booed or shouted “racist,” leading to media coverage portraying Columbia as unfriendly toward veterans. But Maschek later said in a statement that this is not the case, noting Columbia’s efforts to attract more veterans.

“Comments by a small number of individuals at the town hall meeting have not changed my positive experiences at Columbia,” Maschek said.

On April 1, the senate voted 51-17 to authorize Bollinger to negotiate ROTC’s return to Columbia. Exactly three weeks later, Bollinger announced that Columbia would officially recognize NROTC.

Columbia NROTC midshipmen will be able to participate in the NROTC consortium at the State University of New York Maritime College in the Bronx, and Columbia will give NROTC midshipmen academic credit for their work.

Columbia was not the only school to invite ROTC back to its campus this year. Harvard University officially recognized NROTC in March, and Stanford University and Yale University might be next, with faculty bodies at both schools voting in support of ROTC in the last few weeks.

Applegate said last month that Columbia’s ROTC debate was often messy, but was worth having.

“This is not a terribly complicated issue. We got to the core of it and we made our decision,” he said. “Everything worked. This is the way it’s supposed to work. It’s not always neat, it’s not always easy, but it worked.”

sammy.roth@columbiaspectator.com

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Anonymous posted on

"Students could have participated in this NROTC program previously"

Not correct. Unlike Fordham AROTC and Manhattan College AFROTC, Columbia students could not previously participate with NROTC through SUNY Maritime. AROTC and AFROTC operate differently than NROTC regarding cross-enrollment. AROTC and AFROTC contract directly with students while NROTC limits participation to schools with which it has an official agreement. Because Columbia had no official agreement with NROTC, NROTC was closed to Columbia students. This administrative bar, now solved, is separate from the continuing unsolved logistical difficulty for Columbia students to commute to Throgs Neck in the Bronx. Columbia should host an NROTC extension program on campus until a fully based program is negotiated.

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ColumbiaSpectator posted on

It's been corrected above. Thanks for the catch.

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Anonymous posted on

Coincidentally, a U.S. naval officer who apparently was trained in the University of Texas's NROTC on-campus program commands the unit which helped plan the recent targeted extrajudicial assassination in Pakistan. As the UT student newspaper recently observed:
"Vice Adm. William H. McRaven, a 1977 UT journalism alumnus, commands the unit that planned and executed the raid that led to the killing of Osama bin Laden....
"McRaven took over leadership of the more than 60,000 troops in the Joint Special Operations Command in 2008. McRaven is a highly decorated Navy SEAL who participated in the Naval ROTC program while at UT..."
And according to Wheaton College Professor Anni Baker's "Life In The U.S. Armed Forces," book: "In the classroom, ROTC students...study the principals of military operations, tactics, weapons...Students continuing on with ROTC in their final two years of college commit to serve as commissioned officers, usually active duty...Today, officers grapple with a number of complex and demanding tasks. Above all they are commanding units in Iraq and Afghanistan...."
So if you don't think the Columbia Administration should help prolong the U.S. government's endless military intervention in Iraq-Afghanistan-Pakistan in 2011 by eventually training U.S. Naval officers for this endless war in "an NROTC extension program on campus" or in "a fully based program," then having a democratic, binding, one-person/one vote official refererendum on this "Bring Back ROTC"" issue--in which all currently Columbia, Barnard, Teachers College, Physicians and Surgeons-affiliated students, employees and faculty members can participate (as well as interested West Harlem and Morningside Heights community residents)--is what might need to be required in the Fall of 2011.

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Anonymous posted on

@becb20242fa68fb8e560d846d8f749bb:disqus So what you're saying is NROTC killed Osama Bin Laden? I don't think that reasoning is going to be popular in...

New York Fucking City!

Columbia University = American university with a global outlook. Get over your post-structuralist self.

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Anonymous posted on

There's an interesting video about the 21st-century military role of the U.S. Navy at the following link that indicates what some of the naval officers the Columbia Administration would be training in a NROTC program might become in involved in--which might interest some of Columbia and Barnard's disenfranchised anti-war students, anti-war employees and anti-war faculty members. Perhaps it's time for a free "Rock Against ROTC Concert" in Low Plaza during the 2011-2012 academic year?
 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v... 

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Anonymous posted on

 Will the entire concert consist of you singing your terrible and pathetic folk songs, Bob Feldman?

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Anonymous posted on

Bob, having just clicked on that link, I would be proud to count as my classmates people as described and portrayed in that video. I think your time has passed. How sad that you cannot accept it.

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Anonymous posted on

Don't think there's ever been any objection at Columbia or Barnard to having veterans of the U.S. Navy as classmates by any anti-war students. The moral objection is to Columbia University, institutionally, beginning to serve as a training center for a U.S. Navy that's engaged in the kind of war-related activities that most U.S. anti-war activists oppose. Since, according to The Coalition To Oppose ROTC's blog, only about "5% of Columbia's students" have cast any kind of ballot in 2011 which expressed support for "the return of ROTC" (despite Spectator's editorial support for ROTC's return), sounds like you're underestimating the level of anti-war and pacifist consciousness that still exists on Columbia & Barnard's campus (and in the off-campus U.S. working-class communities where some of the military veterans who are now attending Columbia grew up in). Following is another link that indicates military role of some U.S. Navy people in endless U.S. military intervention in Afghanistan in recent years that might interest you:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

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Anonymous posted on

Bob, I think you misunderstand me. I would be proud for Columbia to provide and sponsor such training and instruction to young people who want to go on and serve our country, even in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. I would be proud to go to school with such young people. Also I don't see how you can make a statement like "sounds like you're underestimating the level of anti-war and pacifist consciousness". I am actually a student here. I go here. I am far more in touch with with the "consciousness" and views of the student body than you. You graduated 43 years ago. You have nothing in common or in touch with the students of today.

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Anonymous posted on

Bob Feldman '68.. get over it. The 60s are over. There will be no "referendum" along the lines you demand. ROTC is back. There is nothing -- nothing -- you can do about it. You don't matter in this at all.

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Anonymous posted on

I don't get it. Is nrotcmustgo (aka Bob Feldman) for or against Columbia NROTC? Because he seems to be describing reasons for it.

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Anonymous posted on

The article says "Columbia will give NROTC midshipmen academic credit for their work" but it is not clear that will be the case for all or even some courses. Columbia announced that "University Provost Claude M. Steele will establish a committee of
faculty, students and administrators to oversee implementation of the ROTC
program consistent with Columbia’s academic standards and policies of
nondiscrimination." This has generally been understood as meaning that the Columbia faculty will need to approve credit for any ROTC courses. At Harvard, credit is only given for some Navy seminar courses. At Princeton, where the 1972 Princeton-Army agreement specifies a process for deciding on credit for ROTC courses, VP Robert Durkee has announced that Princeton agreed to such a procedure but had no intention of giving any credit.

Ill post URLs in a separate post to avoid this post being delayed by URL moderation.

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Anonymous posted on

There is no reason to resist it now that the DADT has been repealed but I hope people join for the right reasons - for service, not for finance or hate of people who look different from us. There should be more to service than the lure of financing a school as expensive as Columbia. Personally speaking, I am not going to encourage anyone to join service. While a lot of good as come of our involvement like the killing of Osama, the wars have killed innocents in the hundreds of thousands. I would rather have the student loan over my head than the guilt in my conscience.

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