University Senate weighs ROTC return

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ROTC cadets participating in a flag-raising ceremony on campus last year. / Photo: Eileen BarrosoThe University Senate convened a special task force this winter to consider whether the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) should be invited back to campus. The impetus for the dialogue was the federal government’s repeal last December of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which Columbia and many other universities previously said violated their nondiscrimination codes.

The Senate’s task force for military engagement, chaired by Columbia law student Ron Mazor ’09CC and College associate dean Roosevelt Montas ’95CC, ’04GSAS, conducted a student survey in February about the prospect of Columbia hosting an ROTC program for the first time since 1969. It also held three town hall–style meetings and invited e-mail comments from all members of the Columbia community.

The survey, to which 19 percent of 11,629 polled students responded, found that 60 percent of Columbia students would welcome ROTC units. (Currently, a handful of Columbia cadets commute to Fordham University and Manhattan College to train with their ROTC Army and Air Force units, respectively.)

When Columbia went to press, the Senate was planning an April 1 meeting at which the full advisory group of students, faculty, and administrators was expected to vote on whether to recommend that the University formally invite ROTC back. Although Senate recommendations are nonbinding, President Lee C. Bollinger has promised to consider the Senate’s opinion carefully.

“I think this is an issue that has significantly stirred the interest of the community, and it is important for the community to have a sustained, serious, factually based discussion about it,” Bollinger said at a March 4 Senate meeting. “The Senate is the place to institute that discussion. I do think there are other bodies that ought to be brought into this conversation, particularly the Council of Deans. Out of this should hopefully [develop] a sense of what the community feels. And then the University should take this [consensus opinion] and find ways to achieve this.”

To learn more, visit columbia.edu/cu/senate/militaryengagement.

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