Monday, October 09, 2006


Over at the Open University blog, Darrin McMahon reports a striking statistic:

as recently as 1956, 400 members of the Princeton graduating class of 750 served in the armed forces. In 2004, that number was down to 9. And Princeton is positively military friendly when compared to schools like Harvard or Yale, where the faculty decided in 1969 that ROTC programs had no place on a progressive campus of lux et veritas. Despite the efforts of a vocal minority, the ban has not yet been lifted.
I have long thought that Harvard should bring ROTC back.

In my view, Harvard has a moral obligation to play an appropriate role in our nation's defense. No one benefits more from the freedoms that the military defends than academics, who use the freedoms of expression more liberally than the average American. It seems particularly reprehensible for us to free ride as completely as we do.

In addition, from a purely self-interested standpoint, Harvard as an educational institution would benefit from having more students who are considering a military career. If one judges "diversity" by worldview rather than merely skin color, more ROTC students would substantially increase the diversity of Harvard's student body. Their presence would enrich discussions in various history and government classes.

Finally, ROTC at Harvard would extend the university's reach in the world. We have run into diminishing returns filling the ranks of investment banking and management consulting. Wouldn't it be great if some of the next generation of military leaders launched their careers at Harvard? If the Harvard faculty wants to have influence, they should be eager to teach the next Colin Powell.

Some faculty see the Harvard ROTC ban as a protest against the federal government's treatment of gay military personnel. But to me the form of the protest seems particularly sanctimonious, as the faculty are asking for a sacrifice from others (in particular, from potential ROTC students and from other students who would benefit from a more diverse student body), while giving up relatively little themselves. I propose that any professor who wants to protest federal policy can do so personally by refusing to apply for or accept any grants from the federal government.