By Kate Abbott
In a report released last Friday, the ad hoc committee investigating the potential return of ROTC to Stanford announced its support for the program. The report comes several weeks early of its anticipated May 12 delivery, and a presentation of the recommendation will be given at this Thursday’s Faculty Senate meeting.
The report calls for a “restructured ROTC program” that includes a review of all ROTC lecturers and professors by a designated Stanford committee and courses available to all Stanford students for academic or activity credit.
“An on-campus ROTC would augment the civic education of other Stanford undergraduates as well,” the report states. “The opportunity to talk about patriotism, just and unjust war, human rights, imperialism and anti-colonialism, etc. in a classroom or dormitory that includes prospective officers in America’s military is something from which all our students can benefit.”
The 10-member committee voted unanimously in its supportive recommendation; however, unanimity was not required, according to the committee’s chair, psychology professor Ewart Thomas.
“Our recommendation reflects inputs from every committee member; the language was massaged here and there, and it turned out to be possible to write the recommendation in such a way that all on the committee agreed to it,” Thomas wrote in an email to The Daily.
The committee began investigating the issue last March, following a presentation given by professors David Kennedy ’63 and William Perry ’49, M.S. ’55, which urged the University to explore its options in helping to close a perceived civilian-military divide.
The report focuses on the history of ROTC at Stanford and discusses two large issues surrounding the debate over the program: the academic merit of ROTC and its perceived discriminatory policies.
“The two broad classes of arguments that we take up in the report were the ones that took up much of our time,” Thomas said. “These are: a) how serious are the academic conflicts between the curricula for a liberal education and that for ROTC training likely to be, and b) the claim that, because transgender people and others are barred from the U.S. military, bringing back an on-campus ROTC program to Stanford would violate Stanford’s own nondiscrimination policy.”
After an ad hoc committee concluded that the program was not a “worthwhile academic endeavor,” the Faculty Senate voted 25-8 to phase out ROTC programs on campus and to stop awarding credit to ROTC courses by 1973. Today, 14 students participate in ROTC programs through cross-town agreements with neighboring universities and do not receive academic credit.
Additionally, some have claimed that support for a Stanford ROTC program would inherently violate the University’s nondiscrimination policy, but the report claims a Stanford program would not necessarily endorse these policies.
“We fail to see any good reason for the current exclusion of persons from the American military merely because of their transgender status,” the report states. “But our committee did not set out to determine whether all the policies of the American military are fully in keeping with the nation’s civic ideals. That seems to us far too high a standard to set in order to open the door to a more educationally productive relationship between Stanford University and ROTC.”
Over the last year, the committee has solicited feedback from the community in the form of open letters and town hall meetings, in addition to discussions with other universities about the format of their ROTC programs. However, the committee did not take into account the recent non-binding advisory measure in which 2,406 students voted in support of ROTC, while 929 voted in opposition, and 2,117 voted to abstain.
When asked about the impact of the student vote on the measure on the committee’s report, Thomas said it was “not much.”
“I tried to follow the student measures in The Daily and on the web, and I even went to a courtroom style debate that was won by the ASSU leadership,” he said, “and I think others on the committee monitored the same events. In that sense, the issues got blended into our discussions, but these debates could not have had nearly the impact on our discussions as the issues we do mention in the report.”
ASSU President Michael Cruz ’12 will speak on behalf of the student body at Thursday’s meeting. As a Students of Color Coalition (SOCC) endorsed candidate, Cruz actively campaigned for abstention on the advisory measure.
During the Faculty Senate meeting on Apr. 28, Thomas said he will make a short presentation, and then the floor will be opened for discussion. According to University spokeswoman Lisa Lapin, the Senate is expected to vote at this meeting.