What to Do About ROTC

Extract from the Minutes of Special Meeting of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University, February 4, 1969

The President offered as a suggested method of procedure one which had been used at the meeting of January 21. Each of the four motions on the Docket would be introduced by an individual, who would speak to it, this to be followed by simple seconding without supporting remarks. After all the motions had been presented, the floor would be open for discussion. At the end of the meeting, the motions would be voted upon seriatim.

The Docket consisting of the following items was in order:

I. Professor Putnam will move

That the Faculty of Arts and Sciences recommend to the Governing Boards that:

  1. Air Force, Army, and Navy Reserve Officers Training Corps be denied course credit.
  2. Corporation appointments for Reserve Officers Training Corps instructors be abolished.
  3. The Reserve Officers Training Corps be denied the use of all Harvard facilities.
  4. Reserve Officers Training Corps training not be recognized by Harvard in any form, including that of an extracurricular activity or of a departmental course.
  5. The Reserve Officers Training Corps Scholarships be replaced, where there is need, by commensurate Harvard Scholarships.

II. For the Student-Faculty Advisory Council, Professor Albritton will move

Whereas, The ROTC program is externally controlled, i.e. taught by professors who do not hold regular appointments and do not enjoy academic freedom as it is ordinarily understood, and

Whereas, The ROTC curriculum taken as a whole does not, in its substance, deserve to be included in the course offering of Harvard College.

Resolved: That the Student-Faculty Advisory Council requests the Faculty of Arts and Sciences to:

  1. Withhold academic credit from any courses offered by the three branches of ROTC at Harvard in the future.
  2. Request the Harvard Corporation to terminate the Faculty appointments of the present instructors of these courses as soon as possible after the end of the current academic year and to make no further such appointments.
  3. Request the Harvard Corporation to withdraw the description of ROTC courses from the course catalogue and to cease the free allocation of space in University buildings to ROTC.
  4. Provide scholarship funds where need is created by this Faculty decision.

(The above motion was passed by the Student-Faculty Advisory Council at a meeting on November 26, 1968)

III. For the Harvard Undergraduate Council, Mr. Wilcox will move

  1. That the Faculty of Arts and Sciences withdraw credit from the courses offered by the three branches of ROTC (Reserve Officers Training Corps) at Harvard.
  2. That the description of ROTC courses be withdrawn from the Course Catalogue.
  3. That this Faculty request that the Corporation withdraw its appointments from instructors of these courses.
  4. That this Faculty request the Corporation to withdraw automatic allotment of space in Shannon Hall reserved for the ROTC courses.
  5. That these changes be effected beginning with the fall of 1969, affecting the four-year program and the Class of 1973, and the two-year program and the Class of 1971.
  6. That any changes in the financial status of ROTC students as a result of this motion should be given special consideration by the Committee on Admissions and Scholarships.

IV. For the Committee on Educational Policy, Professor J. Q. Wilson will move

  1. That students who wish to do so should have an opportunity to prepare themselves for military service while pursuing academic work toward their liberal arts or professional degrees at Harvard University.
  2. That present arrangements with ROTC units offering courses for academic credit at Harvard raise questions of academic policy sufficiently serious so that

    a. The Corporation be requested immediately to open negotiations with regard to the present ROTC contracts to reflect the sense of this Faculty as outlined in item 3, and that

    b. The Dean of the Faculty be requested to appoint a special committee to assist and advise officers of the University involved in these negotiations, this special committee to report to the Faculty before the end of the academic year 1968-69.

  3. It is the sense of the Faculty that revisions in the ROTC contracts should be made in keeping with the following principles:

    a. No course in military, air, or naval science shall be accepted by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences for degree credit unless it is sponsored by an academic department, committee or division responsible for concentration, or General Education courses.

    b. All courses accepted for degree credit by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences shall be directed by persons whose appointment has been recommended by an academic department, division or degree-recommending committee and approved by the Governing Boards.

(At its meeting on December 9, 1968, the Committee on Educational Policy approved this motion eight in favor, one opposed, one absent, the Chairman not voting.)


Item I on the Docket: Professor Putnam introduced his motion. One of the principal issues in the matter of ROTC was that of civilian-military relations. Some members of this faculty support ROTC, however reluctantly, because they feel that University training is a liberalizing influence on military officers. Better an ROTC officer corps, so this reasoning goes, than a wholly West Point trained one. The mistake here is an overemphasis on a secondary effect coupled with neglect of the primary effect.

Many of the worst aspects of the Vietnam situation, counter-insurgency, the totalitarian methods of the Diem regime, outrages against civilians, bombings, massive troop build-up and other war policies were suggested and defended, Professor Putnam said, by liberals, products, many of them, of a liberal university. Clearly a liberal education is no protection against dreams of empire, nor does it succeed in inculcating a non-manipulative and decent attitude toward mankind.

We cannot then affect, or cannot more than marginally affect, the foreign policies of the United States or the execution of those policies by having half of the career officers, and not the most powerful ones in any case, trained in a university. But we can affect those policies by building a powerful protest movement. Professor Putnam cited the success that such protest movements had had in forcing France to withdraw from Indochina and Algeria and the partial success in stopping escalation of the Vietnam war. In the latter cases in particular such protest arose among students and intellectuals.

Most of this Faculty, Professor Putnam believed, supported the anti-war movement, as long as it stayed away from the campus. Yet it cannot possibly stay away when the vast majority of junior officers are trained there, not only for this war, but for future wars like it. It is inconsistent to urge students actively to go out and protest the war, while continuing to train men for the very purposes that are being protested. A student and faculty movement whose result would be that ROTC was removed from every university would be a great force for change in America's foreign policy, a great force against this war and similar wars. We might even venture to predict the end of the war in Vietnam, long before ROTC might have been totally abolished, or required to leave every campus.

The same argument holds for those who are worried about the needs of legitimate national defense. America will, of course, have an army and an officer corps, no matter what we do. This, Professor Putnam continued, makes it all the more imperative that the army, government, and business circles that make and back the Army's policies, be restrained from acts of foreign subversion, counter-insurgency, and military adventurism. We must have civilian control of the military, but the only kind of civilian control that has any real effect is the restraint exercised by a strong and vigilant anti-imperialist movement. Keeping ROTC at Harvard is not going to restrain militarism; separation of ROTC from Harvard may trigger a nation-wide movement which can have a real restraining influence.

The primary question, however, is not one of calculating political effects. The dominant question is a moral one. Is a contract between Harvard University and the Department of Defense for the production of junior officers right, fitting or proper? Should Harvard provide gratis, or even for hire, space to the Department of Defense? For Professor Putnam, and he hoped many other members of the Faculty would concur, the answer clearly was no.

Still, though the moral issues may be the dominant ones, they cannot be separated from the political ones. The reason such a contract is objectionable is because what ROTC does is objectionable; what ROTC does is objectionable because what the Army does is objectionable.

Professor Putnam then formally moved Item I on the Docket and this motion was seconded.

For the Student-Faculty Advisory Council, Professor Albritton presented Item II on the Docket. He began by directing the Faculty's attention to the first contention of the motion, namely that the ROTC program is externally controlled. Obviously it is, and must be even with the best will in the world. The officers in charge of the program at Harvard are not responsible for this, nor can they help it in the least. What courses in Military Science, for example, do, according to the current Courses of Instruction, is to prepare eligible male students for commissioning as second lieutenants in the U.S. Army Reserve. Naturally, it is going to be the Secretary of the Army in the last resort who decides how that shall be done. It is equally natural that the members of the three military departments should be officers under military discipline, who are in effect appointed to this Faculty by the Department of Defense. What is unnatural, surely, is that there should be military departments offering courses for academic credit toward the B.A. degree.

As to the second contention of the motion, that the ROTC curriculum taken as a whole does not, in its substance, deserve to be included in the course offering of Harvard College, the Student-Faculty Advisory Council's case does not rest on the suspicion that something uniquely wicked is going on in ROTC classrooms, or on the idea, which may be right or wrong, that ROTC courses are in general rather easy to pass. The question is, rather, whether the subject matter of the courses given by the military departments amounts to three subjects, or even to one subject, in such a sense that it should keep its place in the offering of this Faculty. The answer to that question, Professor Albritton said, is clearly no. What is offered by the military departments is on balance narrowly vocational or preprofessional, if not professional training, which has no parallel elsewhere in this Faculty. The military departments would be obvious anomalies on that ground alone. No course-by-course examination is needed to see that fact about them. We have for good reason no departments of journalism, social work, business management, divinity, legal studies or police science. Why then do we have Departments of Military and Naval Science and Aerospace Studies? They have always been anomalies, and by now they are anachronisms.

Harvard College should be a college of liberal arts and sciences, not arrogant or closed, but a college of liberal arts and sciences. just that. This is not to say that military history, for example, or the political theory of military establishments, or their sociology, is not worth studying. But would it not be ludicrous to arrange for instruction in these subjects by inviting the Pentagon to supply us with a staff of officers under military control? As things are, Professor Albritton was willing to believe that much or most of what is taught by the military departments should be taught by officers under military control. But just in that measure he was unwilling to pretend that it should form a part of our curriculum.

In a great military emergency, we might think, rightly or wrongly, that some distortion of what we and our students are about here ought to be tolerated. We might have to bend to military necessity. But we are now in no such emergency. If there is any bending to be done, in response to terrible needs of our society, it should be in other directions. In the present situation of this country our posture of special concession to the armed forces is at best archaic and demeaning. We should simply get out of it, with what dignity we can muster, and we should do so unequivocally.

In that regard, among others, the motion proposed by the Committee on Educational Policy (Item IV on the Docket) seems too statesmanlike by half. Whatever its intention, it has an appearance of anxious solicitude for the possibility that this or that ROTC course - for that matter, this or that ROTC instructor - might plausibly be bundled under this or that departmental umbrella or rug. It does not even preclude the possibility that the present military departments should remain in statu quo, their courses "sponsored" by other departments, divisions, or committees and "directed" by persons whose appointments have been recommended by academic departments, a provision, it should be noted, which would not necessarily prevent these courses from being taught by the present ROTC staff. This concern to allow for the possibility of clothing the present ROTC program or something very much like it in academic gowns, so to speak, is misplaced.

What ROTC should be here, if anything, is precisely something very different from what it is now. As to what that should be, the Department of Defense, which is neither poor nor uninventive, can safely be left to its own devices. If we dismantle its academic apparatus here, it will learn to live with that fact and will, no doubt, propose other means of offering reserve commissions to Harvard students who want them. We can think about those means when they are proposed. The Student-Faculty Advisory Council was not prepared, nor was Professor Albritton, to reject every such proposal that can be imagined, every possible contract between the University and the Department of Defense for continuation here of some form of ROTC program.

This should not, however, be taken to mean that any such proposal that might be made would be found acceptable, whether by the Student-Faculty Advisory Council or by anyone else who thinks about it in the context of what a university is supposed to be and in the context of the present state of our society.

Referring then to the four specific actions which the Student-Faculty Advisory Council proposed that the Faculty take, Professor Albritton took note of the students currently enrolled in ROTC programs. Solicitude for them is surely not misplaced, but perfectly in order. There is, however, nothing in the motion of the Student-Faculty Advisory Council that would force the Department of Defense to abandon those students. The only peremptory section is the first which would withhold academic credit from any courses offered by the ROTC at Harvard in the future. The Department of Defense has lived with that elsewhere; no doubt it will find a way of doing so here. The next two sections either include the proviso "as soon as possible," or imply it, the intention being to make sure that no action is taken by the University so precipitate as to throw out of the ROTC programs students who are now in them.

Item III on the Docket: In presenting the motion for the Harvard Undergraduate Council, Mr. Wilcox explained that he did so simply to provide a mechanism by which it could be placed formally before the Faculty. In the specific case of this ROTC resolution, it seemed unfortunate that a constituted broadly representative student governing body might, by default, be denied an opportunity to have its resolution brought before this meeting. Mr. Wilcox had therefore volunteered to place the resolution on the Docket with the understanding that he would not speak on its behalf. Item III on the Docket was then formally moved by Mr. Wilcox, the motion being thereafter seconded.

Item IV on the Docket: Professor Wilson opened his remarks by explaining that it was surely not the intent of the CEP [Committee on Educational Policy] to attempt to find a way to defeat student interest, to turn aside another student challenge to Faculty government, or to devise some mechanism whereby the whole matter could be swept under the rug. Just the opposite. What the Committee on Educational Policy wanted to do was to find a way to meet these objectives, to remedy the anomaly that ROTC is today, and to do this in a manner that is consistent with the policies of this Faculty, that does not set a dangerous precedent, and that permits maximum flexibility, neither soliciting nor foreclosing alternative arrangements, should the Department of Defense or other interested groups choose to suggest them.

There is to be considered the exceptional action proposed or implied by the other resolutions. This Faculty, sitting as a Committee of the Whole, is being asked to decide that the content of all the courses of three departments of the Faculty are undeserving to be included in the Catalogue. Why should the normal tests of close scrutiny by the academic departments not be applied instead? If courses cannot pass this scrutiny, they cannot be offered, save as an extracurricular activity. No clear case has yet been made as to why we should make this general finding of fact, especially with no independent inquiry on the part of this Faculty or its usual fact-finding bodies: the academic departments.

Professor J. Q. Wilson next turned his attention to the third section of the Committee on Educational Policy motion. Let us assume, he said, that a status other than complete withdrawal or complete extracurricular status could be found and agreed upon. Let us suppose, too, that some courses acceptable to ROTC would be clearly labeled as extracurricular, while others would be given for credit. The crucial question is how will it be determined which courses may be given for credit. Under the CEP resolution, which is consistent with the traditional policies of this Faculty, no course can be given for credit unless it is sponsored by a department or a degree-recommending committee. Thus any course which might be acceptable for ROTC credit would first of all have to be sponsored by a regular academic department and would have to be approved by that department in the same way that any course counting for concentration in that department is approved. This course could either be one now in existence - taught by a regular member of the instructional staff, which course the ROTC authorities would accept as counting not only for the degree, but for the commission - or it could be a new course. If it is a new course, it could be taught either by a civilian or by a military officer.

If anyone proposed that a course for credit be taught by a military officer, that officer would be subject to the same tests of academic competence and freedom from outside control as would any nonmilitary instructor. In fact, we could safely assume that the tests would be even more stringent, that there would be the closest possible scrutiny. If, as has been suggested, no military officer can truly be free from academic control, and if that judgment is shared by the academic departments, then that means a military officer could not teach such a credit course. But, Professor Wilson said, he had heard no good reason why we should suspend or supersede the judgments of these departments and attempt to anticipate these conditions ahead of time.

Professor Wilson then explained to the Faculty the purpose of the special committee to be appointed under the second section, second paragraph, of the Committee on Educational Policy motion. This is not to be a fact-finding committee, but is designed to represent this Faculty as a partner, holding a watching brief, in the negotiations that will have to ensue if the Governing Boards accept the recommendations of the Faculty. The committee would presumably represent our interests, interpret the principles of the CEP resolution to the Department of Defense and the Governing Boards, and report back to the Faculty before the end of the academic year, or at such future dates as the negotiations may require. This Faculty will then once again have an opportunity to decide not only whether the arrangements are satisfactory, but also and most importantly, whether the academic departments which make up this Faculty, have seen fit to give any ROTC courses credit status and whether they have seen fit to give to any military instructional staff the right to offer such courses.

For the Committee on Educational Policy, Professor J. Q. Wilson then moved Item IV on the Docket and this motion was seconded.

The floor was then opened for discussion.

The Student-Faculty Advisory Council motion, Professor Meselson said, seeks on sound and important academic grounds to affect a clear and total separation between the membership and course offerings of this faculty and the membership and instruction of an outside body, namely the Reserve Officers Training Corps. In contrast, the Committee on Educational Policy motion seeks what would appear to be the reverse, that is to have some of the ROTC courses and some of the ROTC instructors more fully integrated into the regular departments of the University. This contrast is the central difference between the two resolutions.

The consequences of inviting ROTC officers into regular academic departments or of approving courses proposed by the ROTC have not, up to this point, been considered carefully enough. It is important that departments initiate appointments to this Faculty and that they conceive and initiate courses, not merely recommending and approving them. Only in this way can high standards of excellence in teaching and in membership in this faculty be maintained. To maintain this excellence is a responsibility that belongs to none but ourselves, a responsibility that we should not share.

The Student-Faculty Advisory Council motion would make that clean separation which is so very necessary. While the Committee on Educational Policy motion might result in the same end, it also might not, and this would be a far worse outcome than the present situation. It would be better to see a separate Department of Military Science than to see yoked together members of existing departments and persons from ROTC, or any other outside body. However, the rationale of the Student-Faculty Advisory Council motion, as embodied in the first two paragraphs, does not clearly enough state the considerations which should lead to a clear separation between departments within the University and outside bodies. The first paragraph does contain the central point, that is, that the ROTC program is taught by professors who do not hold regular appointments. A regular appointment is initiated, conceived, recommended, generally even paid for by the department. These appointments are not. On the other hand, it is improper, and possibly even dangerous, for us to try to decide as this part of the motion would have us do whether or not professors who do hold regular appointments might not, nevertheless, enjoy academic freedom. As we all know, this has been a problem in some places at some times, but how unwise it would be for us to establish the precedent of questioning whether a professor who does hold a regular appointment does enjoy academic freedom. Similarly, the second paragraph, which states that "the ROTC curriculum taken as a whole does not, in its substance, deserve to be included in the course offering of Harvard College," asks this Faculty to sit in judgment on course offerings of this Faculty, or it might, at least, be cited as a precedent for so doing. The statement, furthermore, has very little to do with real justification for achieving a clear separation.

It was with this sense that Professor Meselson made the following amendment to the Student-Faculty Advisory Council motion: That the first paragraph be amended so as to read, "Whereas the ROTC program is taught by professors who do not hold regular appointments," striking out the remainder of that paragraph, and in addition, the entire second paragraph. The amendment was thereafter seconded.

Professor H. S. Hughes, who favored the Student-Faculty Advisory Council motion, was opposed to the notion of the tidying up process which the Committee on Educational Policy motion seemed to imply. This tidying up of courses to perform a service function for a noneducational institution is simply inappropriate for a Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Putting what are now ROTC courses, or ROTC-type courses, under the regular departments or having a department certify military personnel as competent to teach is a solution which would offer the worst of all possible worlds. The implications of the Committee on Educational Policy resolution are less defensible intellectually and in terms of educational policy than what we have now.

It would be better to live with the status quo, that is, ROTC set apart so that we know exactly what it is. What the motion does is merely to shift responsibility; it shifts it to departments which are already laboring under more than their share of perfectly legitimate problems. The Faculty should not shirk its job; it should pass the Student-Faculty Advisory Council motion and present ourselves, the students, and the outside world with a clear-cut decision ....

The ROTC courses, Professor Huntington said, had frequently been referred to as anomaly. If they were anomaly, it was a procedural one more than anything else. They have crept into the Catalogue through some means now lost in history, but through a procedure quite clearly not the procedure by which any other courses get into the Catalogue. The basic point, therefore, is not whether we withdraw credit from the ROTC courses, but how it takes place.

The Committee on Educational Policy resolution goes to the heart of that issue. It makes the decision on how courses get into the Catalogue on procedural grounds; it does not attempt to judge the ROTC courses, for example, on whether they are wicked or easy or narrowly professional. As a Faculty we do not make that judgment about other courses, and neither the Faculty nor the Student-Faculty Advisory Council are in a position to make that judgment about the ROTC courses. Whether or not the ROTC courses should be given credit or should be in the Catalogue and the very complicated issues of quality and outside control are all matters which can only really be decided by the departments of this Faculty. These are the units of the Faculty which we rely upon to make these decisions with respect to all other courses and to all other appointments. Therefore, in regard to ROTC we ought to follow our usual procedures, remove the procedural anomaly and insist that the departments confront the issues posed here. If the ROTC wants to propose an engineering course for the Division of Engineering and Applied Physics, or a strategy or Defense organization course for the Government Department, or a military history course for the History Department, the departments will take action on them as they deserve.

Professor Sutherland reminded the Faculty that the ROTC program has been at Harvard for a little over half a century. Nothing in the forty-seven years with which he had been familiar with the ROTC program had persuaded Professor Sutherland that somehow the presence of this form of instruction at Harvard was bad or prejudicial. It seemed to him, and here he drew on personal experience, highly desirable that men serving in the military should have the wisest, best educated, best equipped, firmest and most kindly officers that can be found. Any question of the elimination of our armed forces is an interesting but utterly vain dispute. This being so, the more people like our graduates and graduates of our sister universities and colleges throughout the country, who will have responsibility for our young men the better it will be. While admittedly the ROTC program is different from the programs of other departments in the University, there is no reason why we should treat it as a pariah among us. It has done much good to Harvard in this past half century. Let us hope that we may not lose the advantage of this system and that it may continue here.

Professor Wylie felt that the most important problem had not been talked about at all. As Professor Wald had said at a previous meeting (December 3, 1968), it is our army and this is true. What we have done though is to neglect our duty, to let our army get out of hand. We now have to do something to limit it. What can we do? We can set an example in an extremely important matter. It is not only a question of the military-industrial complex, which must be brought to heel, but an educational problem as well. The war is having an effect on our students and because of that is driving a wedge between them and the Faculty. While our individual votes in national elections may count for very little, they do count for considerably more in this Faculty. It was with these thoughts then that Professor Wylie urged the Faculty to vote favorably for Professor Putnam's motion, and barring that, for the Student-Faculty Advisory Council motion and the Harvard Undergraduate Council motion in that order. He was strongly opposed to the Committee on Educational Policy motion, labeling it smooth and a sham, something which could only cause students to lose respect for the Faculty.

The issue, Professor Deutsch remarked, is not alienation from the United States, its government, or its defense services. Many of the most radical students are alive today because there was a United States Army in the World War II. On the other hand, we must remember that ROTC departments in the past have not been considered purely academic ones, nor have their offerings ever been considered as primarily an intellectual program. These departments have always been an anomaly in the type of university which over the decades Harvard has become.

The reasons for making special arrangements and special concessions to the ROTC program are not as convincing now as they were five, ten, or twenty years ago at the time of World War II or even of Korea. Today, these reasons no longer convince a significant part of our students, nor, no doubt, a significant part of this Faculty. They have now become divisive. The special arrangements of disguising ROTC as an academic program in an academic department are no longer valid, although this is not to say that the positive functions of ROTC cannot be carried on as an extracurricular activity for those who wish to commit themselves to it.

We should, therefore, abolish this special exception which has outlived its usefulness. We need defense but we must put limits on the militarization of our communities and our culture. This Faculty has a responsibility in these matters. It was with these thoughts that Professor Deutsch recommended acceptance in principle of the Student-Faculty Advisory Council proposal, the details to be worked out by appropriate committees.

The President asked the Faculty whether it was prepared for the question and response was overwhelming in favor of moving to it. The vote then was taken on each motion in order, those in favor being first asked to stand, followed by those opposed. The first motion which was Professor Putnam's (Item I on the Docket) lost, this being clear without an individual count. Professor Meselson's amendment to the Student-Faculty Advisory Council motion was in order before that motion could be voted upon. Professor Meselson asked Professor Albritton whether he would be willing to strike the entire preamble of the Student-Faculty Advisory Council motion (the first two paragraphs beginning "whereas"), but Professor Albritton felt that he could not do so without instruction from the Student-Faculty Advisory Council. Professor Meselson's amendment was then voted on as originally presented, and this amendment was carried by 116 in favor to 100 opposed. The Student-Faculty Advisory Council motion (Item II on the Docket), as amended, was next put to a vote, and it passed by 207 for to 125 against. The third motion which had been presented by Mr. Wilcox for the Harvard Undergraduate Council (Item IlI on the Docket) had no more than two or three people rising in its favor. Finally, the ballot was taken on the Committee on Educational Policy motion. This motion lost, there being only 112 favorable votes, approximately the reverse of the vote on the Student-Faculty Advisory Council motion.

The meeting adjourned at 6:02 p.m.

Robert Shenton, Secretary