The Reserve Officer Training Corps is a program within the United States military that provides scholarship and funding to college students in exchange for a commitment to military service after graduation. While this financial reward might sound appealing, many colleges and universities in the U.S. have opposed an ROTC presence on their campuses. Pros and cons of offering the program to all students have been debated on campuses across the country.
U.S. Foreign and Military Policy
A common reason for opposing an ROTC presence on a college campus involves opposition to U.S. foreign policy and the country's use of its military. The origins of ROTC's removal from many campuses, like Columbia University's, had to do with opposition to the Vietnam War. As Columbia debated returning to the program in recent years, opposition to foreign policy remained a major point of contention. Some, for example, thought that supporting ROTC implicitly meant endorsing U.S. military missions in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere, when many students on campus opposed them. Supporters of ROTC, however, pointed out that the U.S. military does not only engage in warfare, and that many of its missions, such as those in Haiti or in post-Katrina Louisiana, are humanitarian in nature, and that supporting ROTC supports those actions as well.
Discrimination and Prejudice
Especially during the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" era, many college campuses did not participate in ROTC because it violated the school's commitment to non-discrimination against gay and lesbian students. Since the repeal of DADT, however, some campuses have returned to accepting ROTC on campus. While the repeal of DADT has satisfied some previous opponents, others remain unconvinced that the program is non-discriminatory. Transgendered students, for example, are still not allowed into the ROTC program, causing concern at universities, including Yale. Brown University expressed concern about the military's designation that transgendered people have a mental disorder.
The ROTC has always been a popular source of financial support for college. While college tuition costs continually rise, the program provides either 3- or 4-year partial or full scholarships for tuition. Eligibility varies based on a student's high school record. In addition, students are also eligible to receive a monthly stipend to help cover some living expenses and a semester stipend to help cover the costs of books. While this sounds appealing, some students from low-income families might be eligible for full tuition and board through a program like Questbridge, which does not require military service.
Commitment and Training
An issue commonly debated about the ROTC concerns the commitment of students both during their college years and after. Some colleges, like Brown University, consider the military training aspect of the ROTC program to be in conflict with its liberal arts curriculum. In addition, the requirement of a military science education sometimes conflicts with university norms. The training component of the ROTC curriculum is a serious one, with some cadets getting up very early three days a week for intensive physical training. Some support this because it builds both physical fitness and employable skills, while others contend that it interferes with academics and is too time consuming.
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