Scholar's Act of Atonement for Past Criticism of ROTC

June 17, 2019

An essay this weekend in the Chicago Tribune describes an academic's evolving views of Reserve Officer Training Corps. The scholar is Jeff Rice, a senior political science lecturer at Northwestern University. He describes how, 50 years ago as a student at Northwestern, he was among those who damaged the Naval ROTC facility, seeking to protest the Vietnam War. More recently, he makes a point of attending the ceremony in which Northwestern NROTC graduates received their commissions, and how he does so as an act of respect and atonement.

"My error of judgment regarding ROTC years ago was to see only the very short term and miss the longer-term value of the institution, both as a contribution to democratic values and in making a smarter military. The war in Vietnam blinded me and many others to a clearer vision of this issue. But, as the saying goes, that was then and this is now," writes Rice. He said his views of Vietnam have not changed, but that he now sees various presidential administrations, not the military, as the cause of the tragedies there. And he writes of the importance of maintaining connections between campuses and the military -- especially in a post-draft era. "ROTC belongs on college campuses, lest our universities become removed from reality in a way that exacerbates the negatives of the ivory tower mystique," he writes.

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