The ROTC Student Services Act

I. Introduction

Faculty legislation between 1969 and 1976 created inconveniences to students interested in military service. Forty-five students now travel to and from MIT multiple times a week and take ROTC courses in addition to a full academic workload.  The Undergraduate Council recommends that President Summers and the FAS (Faculty of Arts and Sciences) work with the ROTC to facilitate the adoption of policies that would allow relevant FAS courses to satisfy curricular requirements of the ROTC. We believe that this initiative will improve the life of Harvard's ROTC cadets by reducing the number of courses they would be required to take at MIT, while allowing the University to remain firm in its commitment to its non-discrimination policy." (See page 294 of the Student Handbook: "Any form of discrimination based on race, color, sex, sexual orientation, religion, age, national or ethnic origin, political beliefs, veteran status, or disability unrelated to course requirements is contrary to the principals and policies of Harvard University.")

II. Background Information

a. History of University Legislation

The relationship between ROTC and Harvard began transforming in 1969. Relations further declined over the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law passed by Congress in 1993. (For the actual statute, go to Today, about 45 Harvard undergraduates receive scholarships, leadership training, and security studies education through ROTC at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Protests over the Vietnam War led to the first division. Some students and faculty saw ROTC as a symbol of American involvement in the war, and sought to expel it from Harvard's campus. Another reason behind deteriorating relations was the ROTC Vitalization Act of 1964 (88 H.R. 9124). The bill required that ROTC officers be given faculty appointments. Harvard's strict requirements for faculty appointments were largely incompatible with the new statute. 

Table 1.1 outlines the key faculty legislation against ROTC over the last 32 years. 

Table 1.1 Faculty Legislation Impacting Student Participation in ROTC.  
This table provides the dates and content of legislation that has affected the accessibility of ROTC to Harvard Undergraduates.

4 February, 1969  - Requests the Harvard Corporation to terminate faculty appointments of military officers. 
- Withholds academic credit for ROTC courses taught by military officers.
- Requests the Harvard Corporation to withdraw ROTC courses from the course catalogue. 
- Requests ROTC no longer be given free space at the University. 
17 April, 1969 - Reclassifies ROTC as an extracurricular activity with no special privilege or facilities granted either by contract or informal arrangement. 
9 June, 1969 - Recommends that all ROTC programs in the University be terminated as of 20 June, 1971.
17 February, 1976  - Harvard students are permitted to enroll in ROTC courses at MIT without receiving course credit. 

b. Past Undergraduate Council Positions

Past councils and students offered different and often contradictory positions on the relationship between ROTC and the University. The 1991-1992 Undergraduate Council Ad Hoc Committee on ROTC recommended significant limitations on ROTC, possibly to the extent of prohibiting undergraduate involvement in the MIT program. The Report of the Harvard University Committee on the Status of ROTC (October, 1992) stopped short of this recommendation, leading to President Rudenstine's 1994 decision (see Table 1.1). A 1996 bill to end commissioning at Harvard was ignored by the administration. 

In the 1999, a group of students suggested a full return of ROTC. The Universities of Washington, DC provided a realistic model for such a return. The three colleges of Georgetown, George Washington, and Howard each house a different service: the Army, Navy, and Air Force, respectively. (See for more information.) Such an option required a number of policy changes by both the government and the University. The bill was heavily amended, and again the recommendations were largely ignored by the administration.

The 1999 legislation also suggested the University resume funding of ROTC at MIT. President Rudenstine's decisions substituted University funds with money from two or three anonymous alumni. These alumni continue to pay MIT about $120,000 a year, permitting Harvard cadets to take part in cross-town ROTC training. The 1999 position would ensure that ROTC would always be an option for Harvard students. On the other hand, some felt funding might be in conflict with the University anti-discrimination policy. 

III. Recommendation

The Undergraduate Council urges the President and Faculty to pursue ways to ease the inconvenience placed upon Harvard students in ROTC in ways that do not conflict with the University's anti-discrimination policy or its academic freedom.

Many students feel that they owe a great deal of respect and gratitude to the people who serve the nation through the armed forces, and wish to be supportive of the young men and women at Harvard who serve as ROTC cadets. At the same time, many students feel that it is simply unacceptable for Harvard to lend its support in name or through other means to any program that violates the letter or the spirit of Harvard's non-discrimination policy or restricts Harvard's academic freedom. Harvard's non-discrimination policy and its academic freedom are importance values to our community, and they must not be sacrificed or compromised.

The Undergraduate Council supports a new initiative to allow existing FAS courses to satisfy curricular requirements of the ROTC, as long as this can be done in a way that does not require changes to the courses and does not require any formal partnership to be established between the University and the ROTC. In this way, the Undergraduate Council feels that it is possible to be supportive of Harvard students involved in ROTC without compromising other important community values.

A precedent exists for allowing a University's courses to count towards ROTC requirements. Currently, senior cadets in the AFROTC program substitute Air Force course AS401 with MIT course 17.471, American National Security Policy. Harvard cadets cross-register the course with MIT, and receive both military and University credit.

Students in Air Force ROTC currently travel to and from MIT 2 to 4 times a week to study military history (2nd year), leadership and management (3rd year), and national security policy (4th year). The Air Force requires that cadets receive up to three hours of classroom instruction per week. Army and the Navy cadets operate under similar requirements.

Cadets could save up to 2 hours of travel time per week by taking a University course in place of the ROTC course. In some cases, cadets could also decrease their course load from five to four courses. For example, sophomore cadets could potentially substitute ROTC military history with Professor Rosenšs "War and Politics" (Gov 1730) course. This would allow them to count their ROTC course as a Harvard elective, and it would make travel to MIT unnecessary.

The way the Council envisions this initiative being carried out is that professors who teach relevant courses would discuss their syllabi with ROTC officers, allowing officers to determine if the class met ROTC requirements. Officers would then seek permission from ROTC headquarters to replace military instruction with the University course. If permission were granted, cadets would enroll in the course and receive ROTC credit for the class." 

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