ROTC committee awaits community responses

Nov. 19, 2010, 3:03 a.m.

An open letter to the Stanford community asking for feedback on the potential return of ROTC to campus received fewer than 20 e-mail responses and six phone calls as of Thursday morning, according to Ewart Thomas, a professor of psychology and the chair of an ad hoc committee on ROTC.

The letter, sent last Thursday, is the most recent example of gauging community opinion in the mounting debate over whether or not the program should return to campus. The Faculty Senate formed the committee in March after professors William Perry ’49 M.S. ’50 and David Kennedy ‘63 recommended that discussions be revisited.

“We all agreed that we need to know what the Stanford community feels about ROTC,” Thomas wrote in an e-mail to The Daily. “We decided to start the letter with our impressions of the key issues surrounding ROTC…in the hope that that would encourage responders to give us feedback about the issues we think are important.”

“It would be great to see students share their opinions on the ROTC issue with the Faculty Senate,” said Ann Thompson ’11, a cadet in the Army branch of the program. “Students I’ve met over the past four years have been very curious about, and almost always supportive of, ROTC.”

The issues highlighted in the letter include academic credit and instructor selection for ROTC courses. The letter also provides an overview of the history of ROTC at Stanford.

The committee met three times this quarter and consists of several professors, Vice Provost for Student Affairs Greg Boardman and two students, one of whom participates in UC-Berkeley’s Navy ROTC program. When asked about responses to the open letter, Boardman deferred comment to Thomas, who said the letter was the first step in gauging community input.

“In January, the [committee] will have a ‘town hall’ style meeting with students and another meeting with faculty,” Thomas said. “Also, the committee is gathering information about how a few other universities arrange their ROTC programs. After that, we’ll digest the information gathered and try to make a recommendation.”

Students currently participating in ROTC cross-town programs travel to Santa Clara University, San Jose University and UC-Berkeley for training and do not receive academic credit. All three ROTC branches were removed from Stanford in 1973 amid antiwar sentiment and concerns that courses would not meet academic standards.

“The context for examining the ROTC-at-Stanford issue in 2010 is similar to the context of 40 years ago, inasmuch as (a) any proposed Stanford-ROTC program would have to pass muster ‘as a compatible and worthwhile academic endeavor,’ (b) the value of such a program to Stanford and the nation is still viewed by some as ‘high’ and by others as ‘low,’” the letter states.

The letter also says “the present context differs from the earlier one” because of voluntary service and because the federal “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy is a considerable roadblock to bringing ROTC back to campus.

Thomas said the majority of responses thus far are positive toward ROTC.

“The respondents typically do not specify exactly what this means, and the committee is not yet at the point of knowing what sort of program might be feasible,” Thomas said. “We will have to examine whether course credit can be given for ROTC courses, but we haven’t done so as yet.”

The committee is accepting community feedback until Nov. 22. It expects to report its findings in the spring.

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