ELITES AND THE MILITARY
Christina Hoff Sommers revisits a recurring theme in a WaPo op-ed today: the lack of ROTC programs at many elite private colleges and universities.
America’s elite schools tend to regard the military as morally suspect. Students soon get the message that a career in the armed forces is unworthy of their consideration.
The distaste of top-tier schools for the military is powerfully demonstrated when faculties deny the Reserve Officer Training Core (ROTC) access to the campus. Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Brown and Columbia, for example, have not allowed it in 30 years.
The ban discourages some of the country’s best students from volunteering for military service. The nation, in turn, is deprived of their skills, talent and imagination.
True. Of course, if one wishes to pursue a career in the military and can get into Harvard, one would presumably be sufficiently intelligent to apply and be accepted elsewhere. And Harvard students can take ROTC courses at M.I.T.
At some of our top-ranked universities, patriotism itself is disdained. According to University of Chicago ethics professor Martha Nussbaum, “pride in a specifically American identity” is “morally dangerous.” Barton Bernstein, a Stanford professor of history, speaks for many of his peers when he reproaches ROTC for “preparing students for war and training them to kill, and that is fundamentally unacceptable at a university.” Cecilia Ridgeway, a sociologist and member of the Stanford Faculty Senate, adds that “first-rate universities” should not feed “militaristic approaches to problems.” Nussbaum, Bernstein and Ridgeway seem unimpressed by the fact that the free and democratic way of life Americans enjoy is ultimately protected by an effective military.
These professors and those who agree with them may be far outside the mainstream of American opinion, but on campus they have the power to make life difficult for undergraduates who wish to prepare to serve their country.
Again, this is hardly news.
Hoff’s suggestion for how to get around all this seems reasonable, however:
In the mid-1990s a law was enacted that prohibits colleges and universities from receiving federal funds if they fail to permit military recruiters or ROTC units on campus.
Subsequent revisions and clarifications of the original provision, known as the Solomon Amendment, have strengthened it to stipulate that if any school within a university denies access to recruiters or bans ROTC, the entire institution could lose its federal funding.
The Air Force recently used the Solomon Amendment to gain access to law school job fairs. Until last year, many law schools barred military recruiters from their campuses. But the Air Force sent them letters warning them that by blacklisting the military, they were violating the law and risked losing all government subsidies. Law professors were apoplectic. There were frantic meetings, rallies and threats of lawsuits. Protesters disrupted Air Force interviews with students. “It’s essentially blackmail,” said a stunned Harvard Law professor, Heather Gerken. But law schools such as Harvard, Yale, Stanford and Georgetown have quietly complied.
What worked for the law schools will work for liberal arts colleges. They should be presented with the choice of lifting the ban on ROTC or losing government support.
This seems like a reasonable compromise. There are hundreds of institutions of higher learning in the U.S., a large number of which offer ROTC. There’s no reason for the taxpayers to subsidize private schools that don’t support the program.