For Stanford ROTC students, early commutes — and perspective

May 5, 2010, 1:07 a.m.

At 3:15 a.m. on Tuesday mornings, Kassandra Mangosing ’10 has to shower, put her hair into a secured, regulation bun and make her uniform presentable before picking up a fellow reserve officer training corps (ROTC) cadet, driving to San Jose State University and beginning her walk-through to plan activities for the day’s training session. By 10 a.m. she is back in her Mirrielees apartment and ready for a nap before hitting the gym, going to class and singing at a capella rehearsal for Everyday People.

Mangosing, a self-proclaimed “military brat” — her father has served in the Air Force for 27 years — didn’t always see herself joining the ROTC program. But after signing up in high school, and eventually receiving a scholarship, she finds herself at the end of her senior year at Stanford, set to work as an Air Force maintenance officer after serving in the Air Force ROTC program throughout college.

For Stanford ROTC students, early commutes -- and perspective
Stanford students who participate in ROTC programs at nearby universities spoke on Tuesday. The Faculty Senate has formed a committee to study bringing ROTC back to Stanford, where the program was ended in 1973. From left: Jimmy Ruck ‘11, Kirk Morrow ‘11, Kassandra Mangosing ‘10 and Akhil Iyer ‘11. (JIN ZHU/Staff Photographer)

Mangosing spoke Tuesday evening at a panel discussion, “ROTC and the Stanford Experience,” presented by the Truman Service Initiative. The panel came amid renewed debate about whether or not to bring the ROTC program back to Stanford.

Professors emeriti David Kennedy ’63 and former U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry ’49 M.S. ’50 recommended in March that the Faculty Senate investigate bringing the program back to campus. They said then that the repeal of the federal “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy should be a prerequisite for Stanford to bring back ROTC.

“I believe we should still think it through, but that [“don’t ask”] would be a formidable obstacle,” Kennedy said this week.

TSI organizer Jessie Knight ’10 said that the panel was held “mostly because the ROTC debate is starting to reopen.”

“We don’t feel it’s our job to advocate one side or the other,” Knight said. “But we do want to make sure there’s an informed debate about it, and take the opportunity to educate people who are interested in learning about it so that then, as things such as the Faculty Senate debate continue, the community will be able to engage in that in an intellectual way.”

The Faculty Senate is not expected to report the findings of its committee on ROTC’s return until the fall.

Stanford’s ROTC program ended in 1973 after a tumultuous existence during the anti-war activities on campus during the 1960s.

At Tuesday’s panel, five students and one graduate described their experiences in the Air Force, army and navy ROTC programs, which send them on commutes to San Jose State, Santa Clara and UC-Berkeley several times a week.

Asked how they believe their experiences with ROTC would have changed “for better or worse” if at Stanford, their answers were mixed.

“I think there’s benefits to both,” said Melissa Corley ’04, now an Air Force captain. “One benefit of getting off campus is being out of the Stanford bubble. You see a different world and you experience dealing with a lot of diverse backgrounds.”

“There’s a lot more logistics you have to deal with,” Corley added. “On that note, it’s exhausting to get up early every morning and drive to San Jose every day of the week and then deal with Stanford classes and Stanford commitments.”

In an interview, Mangosing said “personally, I wouldn’t fight for it.”

“I really find value in going to a cross-town ROTC program because of the diverse group of people that you get to interact with and the sheer privilege and getting to leave this campus,” Mangosing said. “It’s the best campus and you don’t really appreciate how great it is until you go to another one.”

Mangosing did critique the cross-town program because students don’t receive academic credit and it “severely limits” what classes a ROTC member can take. Most have mandatory requirements all day on Thursdays.

“A social life, you can make work,” she said. “But academically, you’re ultimately dealing with a schedule that isn’t in your control.”

Army ROTC member Oliver Ennis ’11, who commutes to Santa Clara, is in favor of bringing the program back to Stanford. He said ROTC’s return, for however few students, would “save a lot of time [commuting].” Mangosing and Ennis agreed that the University revisiting the issue is the first step in garnering support for the program’s return.

Overall, Mangosing said participating in a cross-town ROTC program did not limit her Stanford experience.

“Everyone feels like they’ve missed out on something here because there’s so much to do,” Mangosing said.

“But I’ve never been to a senior pub night,” she added.

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