The Campus, the Embassy, and Brown University’s Continuing Ban on ROTC

One immediate response to the murder of four American diplomats in Libya has been to call in the Marines, literally, to bolster security for US diplomats.
A few days earlier, Walter Russell Mead of The American Interest had noted, on the other side of the globe, that…

After an absence that dates back to the Vietnam War era, and 11 years to the day after 9/11, ROTC is finally returning to Harvard, Columbia, and Yale.
Brown University is absent from the above list, the last Ivy League university not to allow ROTC on campus, according to a Wall Street Journal op-ed from last year.
In October of 2011, in the wake of the repeal of the ban on homosexuals openly serving in the military, Brown University President Ruth Simmons endorsed a report authored by a committee of administrators, faculty members and students that recommended against reinstating on-campus ROTC, but supported expanding opportunities for Brown students to participate in ROTC programs at other institutions. The report itself cited “discrimination” against transgender individuals as the primary substantive reason for not having an ROTC program directly on campus. President Simmons’ letter of endorsement specifically mentioned 2 other substantive reasons, in addition to the transgender issue, that were “given by some for opposing reconsideration of Brown policy on ROTC”: opposition to recent US military undertakings, and “a belief that the hierarchical approach of the military is antithetical to Brown’s open approach to learning, teaching and research”.
Which brings us back to Libya, Egypt and now Yemen. The Marines providing security for US embassies in these places and others are making every bit as much of a contribution to sensible American engagement with the world as are diplomats, intelligence operatives, and other Americans on official business stationed abroad. Wherever military members are actively serving, their profession is not second-class relative to the civilian professions around them and should not be treated as such.
Yet while trained military personnel are welcome as first-line defenders to help make civilized diplomacy possible in less-civilized parts of the world (in other words, there is no discernible advocacy for the non-deployment of military guards to US embassies on the grounds that the military is hierarchical and doesn’t accept transgendered members), in the minds of some Brunonians, those who seek to serve in the armed forces are apparently not good enough to receive their military training openly on Brown’s campus. Ironically, telling a group of people that they are worth having around when there’s dangerous work that needs to be done, but that they should otherwise stay out of sight while at your exclusive club is the practice that embodies a truly malign hierarchical attitude. If Brown University is serious about advancing principles of diversity and egalitarianism, this is the acceptance of irrational hierarchy that must be rejected.

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Lee
Lee
9 years ago

Exquisite.

Warrington Faust
Warrington Faust
9 years ago

“Brown’s open approach to learning, teaching and research”
“Open”, so long as you don’t do anthing that they don’t like, such as ROTC. An “open mind” is by definition an empty mind.
Not so long ago (1960’s), Brown was a local school that happened to be in the Ivy League. When I was a kid, it seemed that all of the local lawyers and judges had gone to Brown. Since then they have found that their “liberal” agenda, and the pressure for an Ivy League degree, attracts students, I doubt they will give it up soon.

j. harker
j. harker
9 years ago

Father Cornell 1937, brother UP 1968, me W&M 1981. All ROTC, thinking that if the country needed us, we should be able to point a rifle in the right direction. Wisdom from Dad:
ROTC serves an important back-stop to our professional military. Why? Because a reservist can say “this is a dumb idea, general” and not have to worry about a career. Brown’s leading minds on the subject might benefit from such thinking. More likely, though, as most haven’t served, such practical wisdom won’t resonate.

Tommy Cranston
Tommy Cranston
9 years ago

One can only chuckle “told ya’ so” to those questioning my belief in the imminent collapse of the U.S. upon learning Ivy League schools are banning ROTC because the military won’t let drag queens serve wearing their dresses, makeup and falsies.
In the declining Roman Empire there was an Emperor, Elaglabus, who dressed like a woman and openly demanded sex from the young soldiers.
The Romans were not so far gone as us so they had the sense cut “him” up into little pieces. Here, “he” would be elected…

Russ
Russ
9 years ago

Andrew, out of curiousity do you think transgender Americans “who seek to serve in the armed forces are apparently not good enough to receive their military training openly on Brown’s campus?” Or are with those who derisively label them “drag queens.”
Further I’d ask if the majority of Brown students feel that way, do you think they should be forced to allow that discrimination to take place on their campus? Would you feel that way if this were about any other class of people who wish to serve their country?

Russ
Russ
9 years ago

“More broadly, I don’t think Brown University should set the military’s policies.”
Of course they aren’t. Brown is setting its own policy. The military can do as it chooses (but not on private property – except in emergencies, etc.). You do believe in private property rights?
Questions like “Shall we bar academic opportunities in those countries?” and “should the University refuse to accept any funding from a government that permits its military to have policies such as ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell,’ or that discriminate against transgender individuals?” are all questions they should be asking. If there was consensus on any of those, I say they should of course stand up for what they believe.
“Should Brown sever its ties with its Catholic chaplain, until the Church’s personnel policies match Brown’s?” Perhaps but that’s for them to decide. I have no affiliation with Brown so what I think doesn’t matter. Intesting questions in the response btw.

Monique
Monique (@monique-chartier)
Editor
9 years ago

“the objection that the military should not be formally allowed on Brown’s campus because it is “hierarchical”.”
Of course, there is no hierarchy at institutions of higher ed …

Warrington Faust
Warrington Faust
9 years ago

Ruth Simmons “For example, students are permitted to study in countries whose practices fall far short of our anti-discrimination policy. ” Ah yes, the “year abroad” where the college rents second world classroom space for squat and charges full U.S. tuition. Not to mention the relief of demand on dormitory space. Tommy Cranston: “In the declining Roman Empire there was an Emperor, Elaglabus, who dressed like a woman and openly demanded sex from the young soldiers.” As I recall my Roman history, Elaglabus expressed a desire to be castrated so that he would be more pleasing to his boyfriend. That was the last straw, so they cut him up. They had little choice, “When you draw your sword against a King, you must throw away the scabbard”. I was in ROTC, but declined a commission. Still, I think it is a good idea for “citizen soldiers” to pass through the officer corps, much for the reasons stated elsewhere here. Otherwise we run the risk of developing an “Officer Class” (even moderate size Boston has a “Police Class” with their own nightclubs, gun club, and police residential neighborhoods) It is easy to say the military can do without Brown. I was impressed by William Manchester’s biography “Goodbye Darkness”. He several times names off members of his Marine Rifle Company with their college and expected graduation dates, i.e. Bob Smith, Harvard ’42. It seemed his entire company was Ivy League. Consideration of the dates of their graduating classes (’43,’44, ’45) indicated most had “dropped out” to join the Marines. Numerous times he mentions announcements at assembly aboard ship that indicated the punishment given to “Sgt. Bilko for taking into his mouth penis of Pvt. Ryan”. Usually it was a stretch at Portsmouth. He also mentions a Sgt. who bragged of “sucking every… Read more »

Russ
Russ
9 years ago

“Should Brown sever its ties with its Catholic chaplain, until the Church’s personnel policies match Brown’s?”
Perhaps we should ask, what would Jefferson do?

Since Thomas Jefferson did not want a specific religious structure at U.Va., the University Chapel, built in 1890, is not devoted to any particular religion or denomination. Throughout the years, it has been used for many different religious services. Today, there is always a waiting list to get married in the Chapel. Most students know it as a point of reference when meeting friends or giving directions. It has become a landmark at the University and stands for one of Jefferson’s most cherished ideals, that there should be freedom of religion both in government and in education.

www3.alumni.virginia.edu/student/traditions/chapel.aspx

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