Monday, April 25, 2011
Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger and Navy Secretary Ray Mabus announced that Columbia and the U.S. Navy have agreed to officially reinstate Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) Program enrollment opportunities at the University.
“Repeal of the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell law provided a historic opportunity for our nation to live up to its ideals of equality and also for universities to reconsider their relationships with the military,” said Bollinger. “After many months of campus discussion, open forums and a strongly favorable vote in the University Senate, together with consultation with the University's Council of Deans, it is clear that the time has come for Columbia to reengage with the military program of ROTC. I believe that it is the right course of action for Columbia to formalize this recognition and thereby add to the diversity of choices for education and public service we make available to our students.”
Under the agreement, Columbia will resume full and formal recognition of Naval ROTC after the effective date of the repeal of the law that disqualified openly gay men and lesbians from military service, anticipated to come later this year.
“Columbia University and the Department of the Navy have a long and rich history together,” said Secretary Mabus. “The formal recognition of Naval ROTC by Columbia marks a renewal of that storied relationship. Columbia’s tremendous support to our men and women in uniform returning from the recent wars is overwhelming, as are the growing numbers of veterans who are woven into the fabric of this great institution. The return of Naval ROTC to campus will only serve to enhance and strengthen our institutions and continue to contribute to the success of this great country.”
On April 1, Columbia’s University Senate passed a resolution by a vote of 51-17 welcoming “the opportunity to explore mutually beneficial relationships with the Armed Forces of the United States, including participation in the programs of the Reserve Officers Training Corps.” University Provost Claude M. Steele will establish a committee of faculty, students and administrators to oversee implementation of the ROTC program consistent with Columbia’s academic standards and policies of nondiscrimination.
Columbia’s Navy and Marine Corps-option midshipmen will participate in Naval ROTC through the NROTC unit hosted at the SUNY Maritime College in Throgs Neck, Bronx. They will join Columbia’s Army and Air Force ROTC members who will continue to train, as they do currently, with other New York area students at consortium units at Fordham University and Manhattan College. At present, there are nine Columbia and Barnard College students participating in these New York consortium units. The new agreement between the Navy and Columbia will provide that NROTC active duty Navy and Marine Corps officers will be able to meet with Columbia NROTC midshipmen on the Columbia campus in spaces furnished by Columbia.
“In recent years Columbia has proudly welcomed hundreds of talented veterans as undergraduate, graduate and professional students,” Bollinger said. “Some continue to serve in the Reserves; others are now ROTC members. They have greatly enriched the diversity of life experience and perspectives that make a university a place of intellectual discovery and their example gives me confidence that our campus can be a forum for further enhancing the relationship between our military and civil society.”
In addition to Columbia’s growing community of student military veterans, more than half of whom attend the School of General Studies, the University in recent years also dedicated a new War Memorial prominently placed in Butler Library. The memorial includes an interactive Roll of Honor website that lists the names of all known Columbians who lost their lives in the nation’s military service going back to the Revolutionary War.
The School of General Studies has taken a leading role in Columbia’s University-wide participation in the Yellow Ribbon program of education benefits for Iraq and Afghanistan-era veterans, some 340 of whom are currently enrolled at Columbia. The school was originally founded after World War II in part to provide a Columbia undergraduate education to veterans and other nontraditional students.
The University has a long history of educational programming with the U.S. military and the Navy in particular. Beginning in 1942, Columbia’s Morningside Heights campus served as a Midshipmen’s School that trained more than 20,000 officer candidates for duty during the next four years. Columbia was also a site for the Navy’s V-12 programs, which trained doctors and dentists for military service. A third program, the Military Government School, was established to train a cadre of naval officers to handle the administration of occupied territories.
Columbia’s College of Physicians and Surgeons created a hospital in Europe to minister to the wounded, following U.S. troops first to England and later to France, sometimes operating in hospitals behind the lines and at other times in tents nearer the front. It had provided a similar service during World War I. In 1942, the medical school organized the Second General Hospital on the Washington Heights campus to treat soldiers and sailors who were sent home due to the severity of their wounds. At the end of the conflict, many veterans enrolled in the University with support from the G.I. Bill of Rights. Other veterans resumed academic careers as members of the faculty or joined the administrative ranks of the University.
In recent years this relationship has developed in many ways. In April 2010, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen began a national speaking tour focusing on civilian-military engagement and veterans’ issues with a day at Columbia that included a visit to the new war memorial, a luncheon with student military veterans and a public World Leaders Forum moderated by President Bollinger.
On Veterans Day in November 2010, with approval from the University Senate, Columbia student military veterans and current ROTC students began weekly honor guard ceremonies for the University’s American flag in front of Low Memorial Library.
“The University Senate provided an open and transparent process for multiple voices in the Columbia community to be heard on the issue of reinstating ROTC,” said Sharyn O’Halloran, chair of the University Senate and professor of political economy. “The overwhelming final vote reflected a strong consensus that the time has come for Columbia to reestablish relations with the ROTC in ways that both maintain our academic values and allow the University to play a productive role in educating the nation’s next generation of military leaders.”