B. James Lowe
RADM USNR (Retired)
906 Lamp Post Circle SE
Albuquerque, NM 87123-4119
February 17, 2004
Dr. Alan Brinkley
Provost, Columbia University
New York, NY 10027-1754
Dear Dr. Brinkley:
Subject: Restoration of ROTC
I apologize for my tardiness in penning a letter of thanks for the hospitality and cordial conversation accorded our alumni group in our meeting of Wednesday, February 4th.
Your pledge that you intended to form a committee from the faculty senate to review the advantages and disadvantages that would be derived from restoration of the ROTC to Columbia was greatly appreciated. Certainly, our group and other interested alumni would be willing to respond to any queries that they might have. Please feel free to invite our names to their attention. As indicated, we will form an alumni group to pursue our objective.
While we emphasized in our correspondence to Dr. Bollinger that we did not wish to revisit the DeGenova contretemps, the faculty concerns that you cited make it relevant. Many other professors were present at the “teach-in.” I am confident that they could not endorse Professor DeGenova’s entreaty for a million Mogadishus. While he later sought to disengage from his remarks by disingenuous semantics, I would like to believe that Professor Nicholas Dirks (Department Head of Anthropology) placed his comments in true perspective. He stressed that Professor DeGenova’s opinions did not represent the position “of the Department.”
As a similar phrase was offered by Dr. Bollinger, the phrase “of the” merits parsing. In your discussions with our group, you stated that many in the faculty saw an intractable relationship between the Bush administration and the military. I would stress that the military is “in the Administration” and NOT “of the administration.” The military’s obligation is to honor its oath of office to protect and defend the Constitution against all enemies be they domestic or foreign. I might add—regardless of what political party is in office.
To you and the faculty senate, we submit that ROTC is the premier vehicle for the development of the “Citizen-Soldier.” Columbia, as does its sister Ivy League institutions, has a significant role—yea, even an obligation—in developing that perspective essential to a reconciliation of government, academia, foreign policy, and military power. Any narrow perception of that role is an injustice to Columbia students. As Governor Adlai Stevenson once noted, our broad freedoms to pursue art, literature, the humanities and intellectual excellence would be nullified without our military strength.
I have reviewed the Solomon Amendment at some length. While its application would be draconian, it is analogous certainly to alumni withholding their financial support for reasons that the Institution’s objectives are no longer amenable or consistent with that of the donor. Without exception, we would be reluctant to see its imposition‑‑far better that the University support the restoration of the ROTC, the significant scholarship funds that are related and the additional academic and political diversity that would be achieved.
I quote a comment made by Shipler in a recent book. While it was directed at another malaise of our society, its generality can well apply here. “To appraise a society, examine its ability to be self-correcting when grievous wrongs are done or endemic suffering exposed, when injustice is discovered or opportunities denied, watch the institutions of government, business and charity. Their response is an index of a nation’s health and of a people’s strength.”
Time has not dimmed our will to fight for a just cause. We will continue to fight for both Nation and our alma mater.
B. James Lowe CC'51
RADM, USNR (Retired)
Arthur Ochs Sulzberger