September 20th, 2012
01:12 PM ET

ROTC programs return to Harvard

by Sonia Kennebeck and Bob Crowley, CNN

(CNN) It is a scene that has not been witnessed at Harvard in the past 41 years: This week, U.S. Army cadets in uniform performed their 6:30 a.m. exercise routine on campus, the sun rising behind Harvard Stadium and reflecting on the faces of the students.

The Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, better known as ROTC, has returned to the Ivy League school after being dropped from campus in 1971 as a result of student protests against the Vietnam War. Later, the justification for the continued ban of ROTC programs at Harvard changed: The “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which prevented gay men and lesbians from serving openly in the military, was cited as the reason ROTC students, who could still study at Harvard, had to travel to MIT for their required Army courses. Now this policy has been abolished. (Harvard opened an office for the Navy ROTC  in September 2011.)

The Reserve Officers' Training Corps at Harvard was one of the first in the nation. Here they are being photographed on Memorial Day, May 30, 1917.

The Reserve Officers' Training Corps at Harvard was one of the first in the nation. Here they are being photographed on Memorial Day, May 30, 1917.

At the 2012 ROTC commissioning ceremony at Harvard, school President Drew Gilpin Faust congratulated the new ROTC graduates and emphasized the importance of this new military-civilian partnership to U.S. society.

“As Harvard seeks to shape that society and educate its citizens, it must necessarily be connected to its military. We must ensure that Harvard students understand military service as a choice to consider and honor, even if – and perhaps especially if – they pursue other paths,” said Faust.

Kathryn Roth-Douquet, former Clinton administration Defense Department official and author of AWOL: The Unexcused Absence of America's Upper Classes from the Military and How it Hurts Our Country,” has long criticized the ban of ROTC programs from Harvard and other Ivy League schools, including Yale, Columbia and Brown.

Harvard ROTC cadets are doing a bayonet drill in the school's stadium in 1917-1918.

Harvard ROTC cadets are doing a bayonet drill in the school's stadium in 1917-1918.

Roth-Douquet said, “Ivy League schools pride themselves to recruit and train the opinion-shapers and decision-makers in our society and these people need to understand the military. Everything else is dangerous for our democracy in which civilians control the military and need to do that intelligently.”
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