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Columbia Spectator Staff

An eight-person committee, with two students from the University Senate, will advise the Office of the Provost on the implementation of a Naval Reserve Officers' Training Corps program that Columbia students can participate in for academic credit. Administrators finalized and released the names of the committee members on Nov. 29 after some students serving in the University Senate raised concerns about student representation and transparency on the committee. Interim Provost John Coatsworth ended up choosing two out of three students recommended by the senate's Student Affairs Committee members: Eduardo Santana, a Columbia College USenator, and Mi Wang, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences USenator. "We will finalize the academic aspects over the next few months, and our goal is to have the NROTC program be fully defined and in operation by the end of the spring semester," Jeffrey Kysar, chair of the NROTC committee and mechanical engineering professor, said. He said that the committee has met once to discuss the implementation of an agreement with the Navy in June to allow Columbia students to participate in its NROTC program at the State University of New York, Maritime, in the Bronx. Last month, some members of the University Senate—which voted in favor of bringing ROTC back to campus in April—said the senate had not been involved in discussions about the committee, leading to questions about the transparency of the process. "What we did was to ask the Student Affairs Committee to recommend possible appointees from the Student Affairs Committee and from the University Senate, and two out of the three that were recommended were chosen," Coatsworth, who gave final approval of the committee's membership, told Spectator on Wednesday. At the same plenary meeting, SEAS USenator Ryan Turner asked Rittenberg if a SEAS student would serve on the provost's committee and was told the ROTC committee doesn't need students from all participating schools. Coatsworth also told Spectator that the committee will continue to monitor the NROTC program in future years, and that membership will change from year to year. "We weren't trying to discriminate against SEAS," Coatsworth told Spectator. "I'm sure there'll be a SEAS member on the committee next year or the year after." Turner, though interested in getting an engineering student on the committee, said he was pleased by the final selection. "After hearing from SAC members, the Provost's Office, and the Dean of SEAS, on the issue, I'm satisfied that the two highly competent student senators currently on the committee will more than adequately represent the voice of all students, including engineers," he said in an interview. GS USenator, ROTC cadet, and army veteran Jose Robledo had told Spectator in October that he hoped ROTC cadets would have representation on the committee. Now, though, he says he isn't troubled by the fact that none of the committee members come from the military—as long as committee members gather feedback from students who have participated in ROTC. He said that having an ROTC cadet serve on the committee, "would actually be detrimental because it automatically biases the committee." "The goal of forming this committee should have been to form a group of healthy skeptics and this committee should not have anyone that was strictly for or against ROTC," he said. According to Coatsworth, the purpose of the committee is to ensure that the ROTC program meets Columbia's academic standards. "We want to make sure it works at our academic level," Coatsworth said. "And we believe that we will have a committee that will constantly monitor every year how well the program is working and bring to the attention of the University administration any problems that occur." Robledo said he hopes the committee will help design a program that exceeds Columbia's academic standards and challenges students. "Make the classes the cadets have to take academically rigorous," Robledo said. "Make it something that people in the program will be actually proud of completing. If we wanted to save money and spend a lot less time in the library we would have gone somewhere else." Kysar, who does not personally have a background in the military, said he has taught and advised students who are also ROTC cadets and seeks to support those who take advantage of the new program. "I view my service on the advisory committee as a means to assist NROTC students at Columbia to achieve their goal to become an officer in the Navy," he said. Sammy Roth contributed reporting.

university senate Student Affairs Committee Office of the Provost NROTC
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