ROTC Enrollment Up Nationwide

Harvard numbers stagnant despite national rise

Although the number of Reserve Officers’ Training Corps students on college campuses is increasing nationwide, enrollment in Harvard’s ROTC—which has long had a contentious relationship with the University—has remained flat.

Most of the 273 colleges and universities officially associated with ROTC have reported growth in their Army programs this year, according to the Associated Press.

Air Force ROTC Captain Joseph P. Adelmann, an instructor in aerospace studies at MIT, said that the increases may be due to the draw of ROTC scholarships and the current state of the job market.

“I know in the past few years we’ve seen some increase from what [the numbers] had been previously,” Adelmann said. “Part of that could be due to the economy, could be the job security thing after college, because it’s harder to get jobs these days.”

While MIT has followed the trend of increased enrollment, Harvard ROTC—which trains as part of MIT’s program—has not followed suit.

In 2006, Harvard students made up 15 out of the 49 Army ROTC students participating in the MIT program, according to Lt. Colonel Timothy Hall, the department head of Army ROTC at MIT. This year, Harvard students make up 15 out of 86.

Paul E. Mawn ’63, the chairman of Advocates for Harvard ROTC, said that this trend could be due, at least in part, to the College’s decision to withdraw official recognition of the program in the 1960s.

Beginning in 1969, Harvard students who wanted to enroll in ROTC had to trek to Kendall Square to train and to take ROTC courses at MIT. Harvard does not give degree credit for these courses, nor does it provide financial support for ROTC programs.

The College’s current Student Handbook outlines Harvard’s official stance on the issue, as well as its reasons for not recognizing the program.

“Current federal policy of excluding known lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals from admission to ROTC or of discharging them from service is inconsistent with Harvard’s values as stated in its policy on discrimination,” the handbook states.

But Mawn said that changes were needed to help people develop different attitudes on the issue.

“People who have no connection to the military have been fed all this anti-military propaganda for years,” he said, adding that today’s media has very few positive things to say about the military. “If there was a space on campus where interested Harvard students could go to understand what the military is all about, maybe [the ROTC] could explain and give them the chance to understand. That would be helpful.”

Shawna L. Sinnott ’10, the Vice President of the Harvard ROTC Association, agreed that Harvard’s policy was partly to blame for the flat enrollment.

“Because of Harvard’s de-recognition of the program, people don’t think Harvard is an option if they want to pursue a military career,” she said.

But Sinnott also said that the current Harvard administration seems to be more accepting of ROTC.

“[University President Drew G.] Faust has been a lot more receptive,” she said. “We’re making baby steps; it’s not the same closed-door policy we’ve had with the administration in the past.”