October 16, 2007

Allow room for ROTC

Being an elite institution should not be synonymous with being elitist. But that is exactly how the University is sometimes perceived, and the University policy that prevents the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) from training on campus only fuels this perception.

The University kicked the ROTC off campus during the Vietnam War to protest the military’s influence at colleges. More than three decades later, the ban has outlived any utility it may have had and hinders the efforts of U of C students to participate in the ROTC. While music groups, club sports teams, and student publications are all allowed University space to pursue their interests, students seeking to serve in the military while paying their way through college have no such luxury and are forced to conduct their officer training off-campus.

The University’s current hostility toward the ROTC makes life more difficult for participating students and contradicts the University’s goal of easing the financial burden on students. Keeping the program off campus discourages current U of C students from joining and could deter some potential applicants.

The ban makes an arbitrary value judgment as to what programs are worthy of the U of C and in doing so holds the ROTC to a different standard than it does any other student group. Such a judgment opposes the principle of neutrality articulated in the 1967 Kalven Report, applied last year when the Board of Trustees decided not to divest from Sudan. Rather than “maintain an independence from political fashions, passions, and pressure,” as the report dictates, the ban on the ROTC takes a stance on a political issue.

Regardless of whether the administration opens its doors to the ROTC, U of C students will continue to participate actively in the program. As it stands now, students who wish to participate in the Air Force ROTC must commute to the Illinois Institute of Technology, while students who join the Army ROTC are forced to trek downtown to participate in the program at University of Illinois at Chicago. The irony should not be lost on a student body that makes such a point of distinguishing this university from its public school neighbors.

Whatever the merits of the administration’s original ban, the decision has run its course. The ban on the ROTC contradicts the aims of the University and puts well intentioned students at an unnecessary disadvantage. The administration and faculty ought to take action and give the ROTC the same rights as other student organizations.

The Maroon Editorial Board consists of the Editor-in-Chief, Managing Editor, Viewpoints Editors, and an additional Editorial Board member.