Widgets Magazine

Faculty Senate talks ROTC

Correction: In an earlier version of this story, The Daily incorrectly reported that Perry spoke to the Faculty Senate about his son’s experience as a Marine. In fact, he was speaking about his grandson.

Professors William Perry and David Kennedy made a case for the return of the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) to campus yesterday in front of the Faculty Senate, which passed a motion to investigate potential relations with the program.

The ROTC program, which during the Second World War involved roughly half of undergraduate males, left campus in 1973. According to Kennedy ’63, the 1969 Faculty Senate terminated the program because of academic concerns over the faculty status of military instructors and units given to students, and punitive clauses in student contracts for those who left the program.

The punitive clauses – students who left the program were automatically conscripted – are now gone, and academic concerns were negotiable then and should be negotiable now, Kennedy said.

But both Kennedy and Perry ’49 M.S. ’50, the former U.S. Secretary of Defense,  said that the elimination of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy is a prerequisite for the return of ROTC to campus.

When Perry was discussing the issue with President Hennessy last decade, the controversial policy came up as a roadblock.

“We both decided that with ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ it was inappropriate to re-raise the question,” Perry said.

But yesterday, Kennedy and Perry expressed confidence in President Obama’s ability to end the policy.

Stephen Krasner, an international relations professor, cautioned the faculty that political uncertainties surrounding “don’t ask, don’t tell” should not dictate the University’s reconsideration of ROTC.

“I would urge the committee to not make it hostage to what happens to ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,'” Krasner said.

The elimination of ROTC from campus has negatively affected both students and the military, Kennedy and Perry said.

“I do think that we are in danger of seriously compromising a 200-year-old tradition of the citizen soldier,” Kennedy said, noting that the armed forces are now very small and efficient, and don’t involve much of the civilian public.

Kennedy spoke about the emergence of a “military caste,” which both he and Perry noted as a troubling phenomenon.

In 2008, Kennedy said, of 307 top-level general officers, 180 had children in the service. By comparison, in a civilian body of similar stature, the U.S. Congress, just 10 of 535 members had children in the service.

This divergence of civilian and military life has serious implications for political accountability of the armed forces, Kennedy said.

Both Kennedy and Perry emphasized that the University, which aims to train the leaders of the future, must embrace ROTC if it is going to play a role in training future military leaders.

“The main reason I joined ROTC [just after World War II,] was that in the event that our country faced another crisis, I wanted the opportunity to be in a leadership role,” Perry said. “Had Stanford not had ROTC, I would not have come to Stanford.”

Perry supported all of Kennedy’s assertions, and added several anecdotes that illustrated his support for bringing the program back to campus.

He told the story of twin sisters participating in Air Force ROTC that were in a class he taught at Stanford, and the extent to which the time spent meeting their commitments off campus caused them to miss opportunities.

“In my view, these sisters were some of the best Stanford students I have met,” he said. “I just felt that the loss to them, and the loss to other Stanford students, in not being able to participate in campus activities, was really a shame.”

Perry also spoke about the experience of his grandson, a Marine, sitting in one of his lecture classes while in uniform.

Though his grandson expressed some apprehension about roaming campus in uniform – he had heard Stanford students were anti-military – he received an instant standing ovation from the 100 students in attendance, Perry said.

Other Business

Professor Arthur Bienenstock gave a presentation on the Government-Research University Partnership, highlighting the Obama administration’s effort to increase the efficiency of research.

Bienenstock said that nationwide, there are currently $2.4 to $4 billion in non-reimbursed indirect research costs on government-funded projects stemming from administrative burdens. This amounts to about $1,000 per student at Research I and Research II universities.

Professor Philippe Buc, chair of the Committee on Undergraduate Standards and Policies, detailed several items from his committee’s work on electronic devices in the classroom, grade inflation and GERs.

The committee is poised to recommend a ban on electronic devices during exams, but likely will leave policy on devices in the classroom up to individual professors because compelling arguments for and against a ban exist.

Grade distribution has come under scrutiny this year as well. Buc reported that his committee has been in dialogue with Princeton University, which has successfully brought down the percentage of A’s given to students in recent years.

Tightening the definition of GERs and the GER designation process is also on the agenda.

“If we have GERs, faculty and students should take them seriously,” Buc said.

In his report to the Senate, Provost John Etchemendy commented on several issues that have been sparked interest on campus.

Etchemendy said that Vaden Director Ira Friedman and Vice Provost for Student Affairs Greg Boardman are coming up with an exceptions policy for the controversial new requirement that all international students purchase Cardinal Care, the University-provided health insurance plan.

He also complimented the overseas studies program staff in Santiago, Chile, where 21 Stanford students are studying, for their work after last week’s magnitude 8.8 earthquake, and said that a decision on the status of the program next quarter will be announced within several days.