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.