ELIZANDRO: ROTC source of pride for Villanova, nation

John Elizandro

When I took a course that met on the first floor of the poorly-named White Hall last semester, my class was periodically distracted from the topic at hand by the activities occurring on Mendel Field. We watched with a bit of awe as cadets of Villanova’s own Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps marched and drilled in impressive uniforms and tight formations.

Villanova’s NROTC program is a major source of pride for our university. As one of the nation’s premier reserve training programs, Villanova has produced 22 Navy Admirals and Marine Corps Generals — more than any other institution except the United States Naval Academy. Prominent Villanova ROTC alumni include retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni, a nationally recognized foreign policy expert and retired Admiral Bill Fallon, who recently served as commander of all United States military forces in the Middle East.

Though few Villanovans envy the ROTC cadets for their early-morning exercise regimen, there is no shortage of respect and admiration across campus for our peers in uniform.

Such affection between a university and the military might not be unique, but it is far from universal. In fact, it is inexplicably absent at many of America’s most elite schools. Schools such as Yale, Harvard, Columbia and NYU ban ROTC programs from operating on campus.

Most of these bans were instituted during the Vietnam War, and are now continued due to a stated opposition to the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy regarding the service of homosexuals in the armed forces. Though the merits of such a policy are legitimately debatable, as a justification for a ban on ROTC activities, this argument quickly falls apart. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” isn’t a military policy, it’s federal law, mandated by the elected civilian leadership of the government. To punish our military for the policy decisions of our national leadership is unfair and disingenuous.

Schools that oppose ROTC programs deprive their students of both a means by which they could finance their educations and a sure job offer after graduation. As a result of the worsening labor market, movements to reinstate ROTC programs at many of these schools are gaining strength. Though economic conditions undeniably affect military recruitment, there are even more compelling reasons to welcome the military back on America’s top college campuses.

As these universities preach about the imperative of feel-good community service projects, they conspicuously ignore the highest form of national service: risking one’s life for their country. The hypocrisy of universities encouraging students to serve their communities, while at the same time prohibiting them from serving their nation in a time of war serves only to highlight the ideological prejudices of their leadership.

The faculties of many of these elite universities enjoy the freedom of expression and freedom of speech ensured by the very institutions they so contemptuously reject. American Higher Education, proud defenders of civil liberties at home, should not only tolerate but actively encourage the defense of these liberties against our enemies abroad.

With America currently engaged in two major theaters of operations in the Middle East and dozens of smaller deployments across the world, our country desperately needs the kind of high-caliber officers that emerge from ROTC programs to lead America’s men in battle. This, combined with the contracting civilian job market, has led to more and more pressure on schools to bring back the ROTC. School newspapers and student advocacy groups at Yale have called on the University to lift the ban. Prominent politicians, including President Barack Obama, have stated that they believed the military ought to be permitted to operate on college campuses. Measures to reintroduce reserve programs have been voted on at Columbia and at other colleges.

As Reserve Officer Training Corps programs steadily make their way back into the highest halls of academia, the students at Yale, Harvard and the other schools will quickly learn what we have always known here at Villanova: that a strong and healthy ROTC program on our campus is good for our school, good for our military, and good for our country.

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John Elizandro is a freshman business major from Radnor, Pa. He can be reached at [email protected]