Issue: If top colleges ask for ROTC programs, will any be offered?
Instance of the issue: Days before the Columbia University Senate is scheduled to begin deliberations on ROTC, a New York City local news web site "DNAinfo" obtained a quote from an Army ROTC Cadet Command spokesman about a possible request from Columbia for an ROTC program "Army ROTC would certainly entertain the request, just like we would from any other school, but right now, there are no plans to expand ... We're in a constrained resource environment. It's safe to say we don't have any plans to start any new programs."
Facts: It is by no means clear that all top colleges would be offered on-campus ROTC programs for all three services: Army, Navy and Air Force. However, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen said at Harvard on 17 November 2010 "I think it is incredibly important to have ROTC units at institutions like this. I think President Faust has made it very clear and I certainly would do all in my power to make that happen." President Barack Obama said in his 2011 State of the Union speech "I call on all of our college campuses to open their doors to our military recruiters and ROTC. It is time to leave behind the divisive battles of the past". And after Harvard announced it would welcome Naval ROTC to its campus, the White House issued a statement saying:
The decision by Harvard University to formally welcome the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps to its campus is an important step in moving past the old divisions that often kept many Americans from seeing what we share with one another, including love of country and a profound respect for our brave men and women in uniform... this sends a powerful message that Americans stand united and that our colleges, society and armed forces are stronger when we honor the contributions of all our citizens, especially our troops and military families who sacrifice for our freedoms.
The scenario being taken most seriously for Columbia is getting a Navy ROTC program. The Navy is currently the only service for which Columbia students have no cross-town opportunity, there is no Navy ROTC program within reasonable commuting time from Manhattan and the number of ROTC programs per million people in New York City is strikingly low. The Navy needs students with a background in engineering, a strength at Columbia due to its School of Engineering and Applied Science. Furthermore, the DNAinfo article notes that "The Army wants to diversify its officer corps to match changes in the country's population as a whole, meaning it's looking for more Latino officers" and Manhattan has high numbers of Latino students, not just at Columbia, but even more so at other nearby colleges that would probably be included in a new program involving Columbia.
Days before the 2005 Columbia University Senate vote on ROTC there was a similar report of an ROTC official elicited by ROTC opponents saying that ROTC was "not planning to open any new detachments", yet many new ROTC programs have been started since then. In recent month there have been numerous indications, not been disclosed publicly, that the military is actively looking at opportunities to open ROTC programs in New York City. When Navy Secretary Ray Mabus was at Harvard to sign the Harvard - Naval ROTC agreement on 4 March 2011, he described how he had first met with Harvard President Drew Faust in the fall of 2009 to plan the Harvard - NROTC association, and this wasn't known publicly until the day before the agreement was signed.
The Harvard - NROTC agreement also indicates that a range of options are being considered, not just full programs, but also extensions of nearby programs, such as chosen for Harvard - NROTC arrangement. Different decisions may be made for different service branches at a university depending on the corss-town opportunities available for each service.
But regardless of the practical issues, Brown University President Ruth Simmons discussed the wider issue by writing "It may well be that the armed services have no interest in establishing a unit at Brown or that our students may prefer a Providence College option... Neither possibility absolves us from determining whether banning an ROTC unit from Brown should be current University policy."