Harvard University says it will allow the ROTC back on campus
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Nearly 40 years after Harvard expelled the Reserve Officers Training Corps program from its campus, university officials announced Thursday that they would officially recognize the Naval ROTC.
Harvard was among several prominent colleges that banned the ROTC amid the movement against the Vietnam War. More recently, the program drew criticism on campuses because of the armed forces’ policy on gay men and lesbians in the military. Now, two months after President Barack Obama signed a repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, some colleges are inviting the ROTC back.
Harvard will formally recognize Naval ROTC in an agreement to be signed Friday by the university president, Drew Gilpin Faust, and the secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus.
“Our renewed relationship affirms the vital role that the members of our Armed Forces play in serving the nation and securing our freedoms, while also affirming inclusion and opportunity as powerful American ideals,” Faust said in a statement.
Since the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” presidents of other universities have publicly expressed interest in bringing back the ROTC, which has units on more than 300 campuses nationwide.
Under the agreement, Harvard will finance the Naval ROTC program and provide access to athletic fields, classrooms and office space.
Harvard students have been allowed to participate in the program, but they had to go to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to train. That arrangement is expected to continue.
Harvard’s program will not go into effect until the “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal is effective, which will be 60 days after the president, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, and secretary of defense certify that policies and regulations are in place and military readiness will not be affected.
The university is in discussions with other branches of the military about re-implementing ROTC programs, officials said.
“NROTC’s return to Harvard is good for the university, good for the military and good for the country,” Mabus said in a statement.
Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, said Harvard’s decision should be impetus for the repeal to become effective.
“This announcement should be incentive for the Pentagon that repeal should be in place before kids return to Harvard and other campuses this fall,” Sarvis said. “We welcome the return of ROTC on more college campuses.”