After a 40-year estrangement, first over the Vietnam War and then – ostensibly – in protest to DADT, the nation’s Ivy Leagues and its military have finally shaken hands to much fanfare and mutual appreciation.
Which is about where the celebrations stopped:
One year after Congress voted to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” elite universities such as Harvard, Yale and Columbia have ended Vietnam-era bans on the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) with highly publicized signing ceremonies among senior military officers and university leaders.
Yet for all the fanfare, Yale is the only university that will have cadets training on campus next fall. Columbia and Harvard have restored ties with the Navy, but the new partnerships are limited to a campus office. Stanford has requested its own naval unit (to save their students a 45-minute commute to UC-Berkeley), but the Navy appears unlikely to approve the request.
Stanford’s is a telling episode: The chief obstacle to ROTC’s expansion today is not antimilitary sentiment but a Pentagon that prefers to allocate its resources to surer recruiting prospects, primarily in the South and the Midwest. Last year the Ivy League had 54 students commissioned through ROTC, or 1% of total commissions, and the Defense Department is reluctant to launch new programs where student interest appears low.
Resources are always constrained, and that’s not going to get better in the coming years. It doesn’t make sense for Navy to stand up an NROTC unit at Stanford, where only a handful of students are inspired to serve. And despite the arm-twisting over DADT, the Ivies remain unfavorable climates for military officer training, with a tenured professoriate resistant to the siren calls of university administrators and presidents.
Those who defend the country have been for too long separated from those who man the cultural barricades. There’s too much bad blood.
We’re just not that into each other.