To the Members of the University Senate Task Force on Military Engagement,
As a Columbia graduate student without a military background, I believe that reinstituting ROTC at Columbia will be good for the military, good for Columbia and—most importantly—good for the University’s students. The military is an important institution in American life. It should have access to the most intelligent, mature, courageous, and selfless young men and women in America—young men and women of integrity and capable of leadership and high achievement. The Columbia community is filled with students who match this description. It is because they match this description that they have been selected to attend Columbia. The military will undoubtedly benefit from a reinstatement of ROTC at Columbia and other Ivy League campuses through access to a new pool of high quality officer candidates.
Reinstating ROTC will also be good for the University. ROTC teaches essential and timeless values such as loyalty, duty, respect, service, honor, integrity, and personal courage. These same values are vital to the Columbia community. The community will benefit from the presence of more students who are exposed to these values through ROTC training. ROTC cadets will bring their experiences and their learning to the classroom, to Columbia’s athletic teams, to student clubs, to residences, to the campus as a whole, and to their communities at home.
Finally, reinstating ROTC will be of tremendous benefit to Columbia students who have an interest in serving in the military. Many students across the United States choose to join the military after college. They do this to serve our country, to challenge themselves, and to gain some of the best leadership training in the world. It is clear that America’s top graduate schools recognize the value of military service—the business, law, and other schools at Columbia and at top universities across the country are filled with military veterans. These graduate schools recruit veterans because they recognize and value the leadership development, the discipline, the ethics, and the achievement that come with military service. By permitting ROTC to return to the Columbia campus, the University will enable students interested in joining the military post-graduation to access top leadership training, receive tuition assistance, and advance within the military training process while still completing their undergraduate education.
There are some who would oppose the military because they associate it with the possibility of armed conflict—with all of the horrors that armed conflict entails. These are understandable sentiments. By way of offering a different perspective, however, I would like to share a story. Prior to enrolling in graduate school, I spent three years working for an international development-focused nonprofit in eastern Europe. One of my responsibilities in that job was to manage an economic development project in Bosnia and so I spent some time in Sarajevo. During the stay in Sarajevo I lived with a local family. Over dinner, members of the family described the horrors that they had witnessed during the siege of Sarajevo in the early 1990s. Their neighbor had been killed. They had shell craters in their front yard.
The United States and its allies were able to bring bloody conflicts in Bosnia and Kosovo to negotiated and peaceful conclusions partly because they were able to project credible military power.
Across the world today American soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines contribute to the maintenance of peace on the Korean Peninsula, across the South China Sea, in the Middle East, and elsewhere. They have delivered humanitarian assistance in response to natural disasters across Southeast Asia (after the 2004 tsunami) and in Haiti. These are difficult missions requiring sensitivity, diplomacy, and massive leadership capacity. If one hates armed conflict, then one should support a strong American military, led by the highest caliber officer corps—including officer graduates of Columbia.
In conclusion, I would like to add my support to those within the Columbia community who are calling for the reinstatement of ROTC on campus. This is a worthy goal and one that I believe the University should pursue.
The author is a student in an MBA student in the Columbia School of Business.