A Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) unit on Stanford’s campus is unlikely in the near future, according to University administrators.
The Faculty Senate voted 28 to 9 with three abstentions last spring to extend an invitation to the military to bring ROTC back onto campus. However, it remains unlikely that any military branch will take the University up on the offer. The lack of progress is primarily due to low levels of student interest and concerns about financial sustainability, according to Senior Assistant to the President Jeff Wachtel.
The University was free to pursue discussions with the military about ROTC returning to campus immediately following the approval vote. However, the Faculty Senate has not formed a subcommittee to advise President John Hennessy on ROTC issues, or to consider granting course credit for ROTC classes, Wachtel said.
Obstacles to establishing an ROTC unit
For the military to be able to justify the cost of establishing a full-blown unit, approximately 15 to 20 students would need to graduate per year from any participating branches of the military, according to Scott Calvert, Director of Finance & Administration in the Office of the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education.
Once attrition is accounted for, as many as 100 students would need to participate in whichever ROTC unit was stationed on campus.
“That’s a very large number,” Wachtel said. “Once we learned that, we realized that there has to be another approach to putting a program together.”
That alternative will likely take the form of further collaboration with nearby universities that already have ROTC units, such as San Jose State University, Santa Clara University and UC-Berkeley, with whom Stanford currently has cross-town agreements to allow for Stanford student participation. This alternative could include anything from allowing other ROTC units to hold events on campus to hosting ROTC courses taught by Stanford faculty for ROTC students from Stanford and the partner universities.
Calvert added that such collaboration would compensate for the fact that a relatively large number of students, when compared to the handful of Stanford ROTC participants, is needed to facilitate many of ROTC’s leadership training objectives.
“The federal government is going through belt-tightening on their budgets, and the military is not exempt from that,” Wachtel said. “They’re concerned about the cost of any program they put in place, but they’re still enthusiastic about doing something at Stanford.”
The Naval ROTC proposal
Calvert sent Stanford’s proposal for a Naval ROTC unit to the military more than one month ago, but he expressed doubt that the Navy will establish a unit on campus.
“I think we presented a good and viable case, and in different economic times it might look more attractive,” he said. “We have not heard back, but we’re not putting all of our eggs in that basket.”
Calvert said Stanford focused its efforts on the Navy because both the Army and Air Force already have a presence on the peninsula at Santa Clara University and San Jose State, respectively. The number of Stanford ROTC participants in the Naval program was also highest at the time Calvert wrote the proposal, and those students must travel the farthest of ROTC participants, to UC-Berkeley.
“It doesn’t make sense for the Army to put two units 10, 12 miles apart from each other,” Calvert said.
Course credit for ROTC
According to Calvert, it is unlikely that any course credit will be awarded for ROTC classes before the fall of 2012.
“We’re not close to actually having details of the program,” Wachtel said. “We’re not really at the point of having a program for the faculty committee to approve.”
Both the Army and the Navy expressed interest in having their curricula approved for course credit. Wachtel said he plans to forward the curricula to the yet-to-be-formed Faculty Senate subcommittee to determine if the classes merit Stanford credit.
“You can get activity credit for a lot of things at Stanford,” Calvert said. “You can get it for yoga. And that has a place in our education, physical fitness and well-being. But it’s hard to imagine that some of the activities and coursework that they do in ROTC can’t meet some kind of threshold where we can see the benefit of giving some transcript credit.”
Stanford’s agreements with other universities’ ROTC programs contain the necessary legal framework for Stanford students to receive academic credit for ROTC classes, but for that credit to be awarded, the Committee on University Standards and Policies (C-USP) must first evaluate the classes. Hennessy pointed to this possibility in last Thursday’s Faculty Senate meeting.
“So far, none of our faculty has even started to consider the material that is taught in those courses, the credentials of the people that teach them and so forth,” Calvert said.
Each branch of the military has a unique ROTC curriculum that is uniform at the national level. Calvert said that Stanford plans to work with a national ROTC staff member to bring those curricula before C-USP, but that the issue of ROTC course credit is not yet on C-USP’s agenda.
“Curricular change certainly takes awhile here,” Calvert said.
The military has been receptive to assisting in the process of getting course credit for Stanford ROTC participants, despite its apparent reticence to commit to establishing an ROTC unit on campus, Calvert added.
“They think of the students that participate as their students, too,” he said. “They would love to see transcript credit for the coursework that [ROTC students] are doing.”
If Stanford were to secure a full ROTC unit on campus, the University would share some of the cost by providing furnished offices to the unit, as well as assigning a Stanford administrator to the unit to ensure continuity between the program and Stanford, Calvert said.
However, due to ROTC tuition scholarships, he said that the net monetary flow would be into the University.
“Right now, without a unit coming, the financial obligation on Stanford is pretty low,” Calvert said.