Widgets Magazine


Letter: With DADT gone, plenty of objections to ROTC remain

Dear Editor,

Kurt Chirbas’ article in yesterday’s Daily contains a misleading narrative, which goes something like, “Since DADT was the only obstacle to Stanford devoting its resources to a ROTC program, and DADT has been repealed, now we can talk about accommodating the military” (“Debate marches on,” Jan. 5). In fact, DADT was never a reason for the expulsion of ROTC from campus.

Imani Franklin, being a member of the ROTC ad hoc committee, should know this but doesn’t appear to. To quote from the committee’s own document: “The majority [of the 1968-9 committee] felt that the personal conduct standards of the three services ‘can seriously limit the student’s free participation in all facets of intellectual inquiry and legal political activity.’” It concluded that a formal, on-campus ROTC program was inconsistent with the definition of Stanford University as “a community whose members…have a primary commitment to the creation and dissemination of knowledge, in an environment of free intellectual activity.” Plainly, this has nothing to do with DADT.

Furthermore, I wonder if the committee even looked at the letter that I wrote to it or if it went straight to the trash bin. I raised several points that would pose a problem for ROTC’s return: 1) ROTC violates a student’s right to confidential counseling and advising; 2) ROTC restricts academic freedom by prematurely determining a career path and major for students; 3) undergraduates should not have their major determined by those who fund their education, as ROTC demands; 4) the power to set up teaching facilities on campus in exchange for scholarships sets a dangerous precedent for academic control of the University; 5) the necessity of the current constitution of the U.S. armed forces is in doubt. (I have an upcoming article in the Stanford Progressive elaborating on these points, but one can read it now at rotc.stanford.edu.)

I repeat, these are the objections that appear in my letter only. Apparently others, such as SSQL, also have their own issues with Stanford accommodating the military. I don’t suppose Stanford would want to be known as the university that is oh-so-progressive on gay rights but is all too willing to throw transgender students under the bus?

The Daily’s graphic of a soldier on a multicolored backdrop is entirely appropriate for the situation. Perhaps the U.S. military should paint rainbows on their cruise missiles so that when the families of the strike victims discover the charred bodies of their loved ones, they can reflect on the lofty ideals of egalitarianism and humanity that now permeate the armed forces.

Danny Colligan

President emeritus, Stanford Says No to War

  • Jim

    ROTC does not determine a major for students. Students are able to pursue whatever major they desire to pursue, so I find the argument that it restricts academic freedom to be weak at best. Also, while ROTC does bring a service commitment in exchange for educational benefits it far from determines a career for a student. Most will not make a career of the military and will go on to pursue other passions after 4-5 years of military service with the nation and the private sector benefitting significantly from the skills they gained while serving.

    Not sure what point #4 is trying to say. I doubt you’d see much in the way of teaching facilities beyond a little office space and maybe a student study room/lounge – nothing that many athletes and other groups don’t already have. Classes would likely be taught in existing classrooms.

    Your portrayal of the U.S. military demonstrates your lack of exposure and understanding of the military and most of those who serve in it. Contrary to what your anti-military undertones suggest to readers, the vast majority of efforts of the U.S. military involve no bullets or missiles and they never target civilians.

    You also failure to acknowledge the fact that the military deploys in support of missions directed by the country’s elected, civilian leaders that are often Ivy educated. Military officers are then left holding the bag of reality once lofty, academic ideals go out the window and people are shooting at them and planing bombs.

    Many of the issues in the military surrounding don’t ask, don’t tell stem from a lack of exposure and understanding on the part of many in the military. I believe that you, as well as others who equate “anti-war” to “anti-military,” suffer from a similar lack of exposure and understanding of what it means to serve in the military, what the military actually does (as opposed to the slant the media and Wikileaks gives you), and the realities of the world out there. If you feel that things. In the military are run poorly, then I challenge you to sign up and “be the change you want to see in the world.” (To quote Ghandi).

  • Wnope

    Funny, none of the activism to stop ROTC before losing DADT campaigned on your argument. They only used DADT.

    Is it simply the new talking point for those against the VOLUNTARY involvement of Stanford students in the military.

  • factchecking

    A close friend of mine who participated in ROTC told me that the military does in fact restrict ROTC members to certain majors for scholarships but Jim is saying something different. Maybe the Daily should explore more about this issue?

  • Jim


    “Are all college majors compatible with Army ROTC?
    Army ROTC Cadets are allowed to major in nearly all academic areas.”

  • Jim

    To be fair, things are different between army, navy, and air force. In the army, cadets are allowed to major in “nearly all academic areas.” Additionally, your academic major has no bearing on your branch in the army.

    In the navy and air force, they do have more requirements that do require certain majors for certain scholarship opportunities. This is to ensure that the military matches supply with demand for certain technical skills. You can’t fill the air force and navy with all English majors. That said, they don’t force people into certain majors, but yes, there are, in these services, some requirements for certain scholarships. Not much different than, if you want to go to med school you pretty much need to be a pre-med major (or similar) or take a number of extra classes.

  • Danny Colligan


    Like you say in your second comment, different ROTC branches have different restrictions on what major cadets can choose. Undergraduates being able to choose any major they want (and switch majors at any time) so long as they can fulfill the requirements seems like a key component of undergraduate academic freedom.

    4-5 years is a significant amount of time. I know of no other program that mandates even one day of post-academic professional commitment. (And even if there were one, I would oppose that as restrictive on undergraduate academic freedom as well.)

    Point #4 is saying that if any outside organization can pay to set up teaching facilities on campus and provide their own teachers, that erodes academic control of teaching and resources at the University. (If you want more elaboration on any of these points, see my article on the site mentioned in the letter.) You downplay the scale of the military’s potential footprint, but the scale is not the problem — my objection stems from the fact that it would merely exist. One penny for accommodation is a penny too much.

    I acknowledge fully (there is only so much that one can say in 500 words, after all) that Ivy-educated civilian leaders callously throw men and women in uniform into harm’s way to satisfy their own political objectives. One of the reasons I object to war is so that military officers will not be “left holding the bag of reality once lofty, academic ideals go out the window and people are shooting at them and planing bombs.” I don’t want anyone to get killed for any leader’s political gain or corporation’s profit. It seems like you also have a distaste for needless suffering, so I hope you will oppose war with me.

    I do not equate “anti-war” to “anti-military.” Perhaps I am anti-war and anti-militarism, but not anti-military per se (to the extent that the term “anti-military” has any meaning). I suppose if the military drastically reformed itself (say, devoting itself to international humanitarian relief… or even exclusively to self-defense), I would be more enthusiastic about its mission. As it stands, however, I can’t get excited about using force to dominate less militarily advanced peoples of the world.

    Your suggestion that I join the military in order to understand seems odd. Let me forward an analogous argument: “You criticize the Ku Klux Klan, but that is only because you, Danny, do not understand the KKK. Maybe if you joined the KKK you could understand what it actually means to serve the KKK leadership and potentially influence it in a way that you see fit.” Would anyone seriously suggest that since I don’t like the KKK I should join it to try and reform it? No, so why do people give the same argument for the armed forces?


    As you can read in the letter you are commenting on, DADT was never a reason for banning ROTC operations from campus. Maybe others used DADT as the only roadblock to ROTC’s return, but I certainly can’t answer for others’ tactics.

    Stanford students can voluntarily join ROTC. Some do now. There’s nothing stopping them.

  • Jim


    When you write a piece under the title of “President emeritus, Stanford Says No to War” to object to Stanford increasing its integration of ROTC on campus, then you are equating your anti-war stance to anti-military.

    While I can see your arguments as a reason why an individual would choose to not participate in ROTC (and understandably so for many), I do not find them the least bit compelling as a reason to not welcome the presence of ROTC on campus. And I doubt many others will either, so I really am not too worried about it.

  • Danny Colligan


    “When you write a piece under the title of “President emeritus, Stanford Says No to War” to object to Stanford increasing its integration of ROTC on campus, then you are equating your anti-war stance to anti-military.”

    How do you figure that? The group is not named “Stanford Says No to the Military.”

    And what do you mean by “anti-military”? The military is not a pure idea that one can oppose in full, unlike militarism or war or fascism. The US military is an institution, with many positive and negative qualities and shades of difference within it (say, between branches, squadrons, etc.). So this term is ambiguous — if one is “anti-military,” what is one opposing?

  • Jim

    Well, Danny in is case it means you oppose ROTC, a military organization, having a more integrated presence on Stanford (I say more integrated because there is already a presence on campus). By signing your name with the title of president “Stanford Says No to War” I take it that this is an opinion piece from your perspective in that role. If it isn’t then you shouldn’t have included the title. Your reasons for objecting to a stronger presence on campus are related almost solely to arguments around academic freedom – hard to tie them really to any interests of saying no to war. So hard to see this position as anything more than an extension of your say no to war platform in that you oppose any support of the military or things related to it.

  • Danny Colligan


    I agree with your reasoning except for the last two sentences.

    Although my reasons objecting to Stanford providing resources to ROTC on the grounds of academic freedom are larger in number, the most important objection is the militarism objection. That is, I don’t believe Stanford, as an academic institution, should be supporting the objectives of an institution that, as it is currently constituted, stands in such stark opposition to Stanford’s charter. Presumably, all the other objections (choice of major, etc.) could be satisfied by tweaking the ROTC program terms.

    Like I said in my previous comment, I believe you are confusing “the military” and “militarism.” I certainly don’t oppose all arrangements that Stanford might have with the military. For instance, if the military wanted to pay for its officers to get degrees in some subject that fell under Stanford’s purview, I wouldn’t oppose that — in fact, I would support it.

  • Sebastain Gould

    As the transfer class at Stanford is very small, it is hard to get a great number of undergraduate veterans. Thus our ability to rely on one another, and feel comfortable growing in the community here is more difficult (or, as one can only ever speak for themselves, myself), than if we had more people who shared a similar experience to us. As current academic policies require only those recently graduated from high school and not having gone to a previous college can apply as freshman, it will continue to be hard to get more veterans here in the undergraduate program.

    Thus ROTC is the closest thing to a focal point we can have in such a small community; it offers an existing institution which we can impart knowledge to, and gain knowledge from. It could be a focal point in our community. Not allowing ROTC on campus does a great disservice to veterans on campus. As a small and generally socially stigmatized group, having more members can only help us feel more comfortable. Cultural facets wrong with the program are a product of social forces directly under control of congress; they integrated racially before, and now they will integrate with respect sexual orientation at the behest of the government. If you have a problem with one aspect of a program then attack that; not the entire institution.

    If you have a problem with war as a whole then I respect your efforts in trying to disarm the world; but in the event that you do not succeed, I want the country I live in to be able to protect me. If that requires asking students to voluntarily choose a major they can’t back out of, then I am okay with that. When someone graduates from college with a major they think they wanted, they will not necessarily enjoy it, but at least in the military they would have job security.

  • Sebastain Gould

    I just noticed something misleading about your statements, Mr. Colligan. You refer to your article as being at rotc.stanford.edu, but is in fact at http://www.stanford.edu/group/antiwar/rotc.html; redirected from rotc.stanford.edu. When I see stanford.edu preceded by an official title, I expect it to represent the group with which the title is associated. If one tried to go to haas.stanford.edu and was redirected to receive an anti-public service webpage, it would seem just as bothersome. Please rectify this if possible.

  • Danny Colligan


    I would hardly think anyone would mistake the Stanford Says No to War ROTC page for an official ROTC page. The banner at the top states “The Case Against Bringing [ROTC] Back to Stanford”.

    Unless, of course, ROTC has unexpectedly taken a position against its own accommodation by the university. In which case SSNW will happily accept ROTC’s endorsement of our cause.

  • Jim


    Regardless of if anyone would mistake the Stanford Says No To War ROTC webpage as an official ROTC page or not, your group’s use of the rotc.stanford.edu address to re-direct to your page is completely inappropriate. More appropriate alternatives for your group would be to use ssnw.stanford.edu or nowar.stanford.edu.

    And yes, you are against the institution of the U.S. military and not just the idea of militarism. Let me direct you to some of your quotes:

    “Perhaps the U.S. military should paint rainbows on their cruise missiles so that when the families of the strike victims discover the charred bodies of their loved ones, they can reflect on the lofty ideals of egalitarianism and humanity that now permeate the armed forces.”

    “Stanford should reject the ROTC’s attempts to foist itself on campus since the ROTC and the armed forces it feeds into do not, to quote Stanford’s founding grant, ‘[exercise] an influence on behalf of humanity and civilization.'”

    “By my count, the military currently runs afoul of the ideals the University purports to stand for. Stanford’s founding grant calls for the University to ‘[exercise] an influence on behalf of humanity and civilization.’ Does training students to participate in the world’s most effective and well-financed killing machine facilitate this goal? Clearly not.”

    These are directed against the institution of the military not the idea of militarism.

  • Danny Colligan


    All of my quotes that you cite object to aspects of the US military as it is currently constituted — that is, as an institution that displays a healthy degree of militarism. They would be null and void if the US military acted as a, say, “save the whales” organization. But as it stands, the military does not have “lofty ideals of egalitarianism and humanity” nor does it “[exercise] an influence on behalf of humanity and civilization.” If the militarism were stripped out of the military, I would change my tune. Therefore, it can not be said that I object to the US military per se.

  • Sam

    “your group’s use of the rotc.stanford.edu address to re-direct to your page is completely inappropriate. More appropriate alternatives for your group would be to use ssnw.stanford.edu or nowar.stanford.edu.”

    Umm… thanks for the suggestions, but according to what standard of “appropriateness” do you deem our use of rotc.stanford.edu to be “completely inappropriate”? Are you trying to make a moral/ethical argument? Is your comment a precursor to a trademark lawsuit against Stanford University (the owner of the domain)? Please clarify.

  • wow

    Having the rotc.stanford.edu redirect to an anti-rotc page is pretty childish. Sam, your questions at the end of your comment are pretty ridiculous. Not sure how you expect people to take you seriously.

    Regardless if you disagree with the current state of the military, students can make an informed decision on their own if ROTC, along with its benefits and requirements, is a good fit for them. Personal dislike alone is not enough for to take away the opportunity of the ROTC.

    “the power to set up teaching facilities on campus in exchange for scholarships sets a dangerous precedent for academic control of the University”

    This seems a bit like fear-mongering, doesn’t it? Sounds to me they just want office space and maybe an area to gather the students.

  • Shantelle

    Danny Colligan, you come across as immature and snooty.

  • Martin

    Isn’t Danny Colligan a grad student, and ROTC students are undergrads? Why is he trying to involve himself in undergrad issues?