What about our future leaders? The Senate just confirmed our newest Justice of the Supreme Court – Elena Kagan. Nominee Kagan served as the Dean of Harvard Law School. The Washington Post reported:
Four months after becoming dean of Harvard Law School, Elena Kagan sent an e-mail to students and faculty lamenting that military recruiters had arrived on campus, once again, in violation of the school’s anti-discrimination policy. But under government rules, she wrote, the entire university would jeopardize its federal aid unless the law school helped the recruiters, despite the armed forces’ ban on openly gay members.
“This action causes me deep distress,” Kagan wrote that morning in October 2003. “I abhor the military’s discriminatory recruitment policy.” It is, she said, “a profound wrong — a moral injustice of the first order.”
This position provides clear guidance on the thought process of many academic leaders that use the claim that the military discriminates as the basis for preventing ROTC from flourishing on college campuses. They claim that unjust practices of the military are in direct contradiction to the policies of the school.
Harvard does not officially recognize ROTC at the Law School or at the undergraduate level, which means that Harvard students who wish to participate in ROTC must do so at MIT. They do so at their own expense and on their own time. It is morally inconsistent to accept federal funding from the United States government without properly implementing the programs proscribed by that same government. Why do college administrations believe that they can determine the moral high ground – whose right is really right? Does a University have the right to determine if a war is just or not and then subject their entire student body to their position by limiting opportunities in ROTC. Administrations across this country that do not permit ROTC on campus should be careful to review their own potentially discriminatory policies in place. Was it only a short time ago that Larry Summers, the former head of Harvard University, stated at an academic conference that differences between men and women might be one reason fewer women succeed in science and math careers. What an uproar that sparked and his discriminatory statements continue to haunt him, even today.
Whether you agree or disagree with the policies of the US military or a particular mission or effort, all Americans have a duty to allow all Americans the opportunity to choose to serve our country. In many other foreign nations, military service is obligatory. We don’t impose that requirement on our youth. They are free to make that choice, but if it not available on campus, then either they do not take part or must endure costly and often time-consuming commutes to find these opportunities.
Kagan, Summers and other academic leaders need to heed the call to end the ban on ROTC. In the post 9-11 America, all of us have a duty to protect our nation. I trust that our college students can make sound decisions and weigh the personal benefits and costs of ROTC. I have faith that they will make the right choice for themselves and our nation. Some of the best and brightest have made indelible marks on our military, national security and the furtherance of technology and science through their service in the military.
As one of our great economists Milton Friedman held that “freedom has nothing to say about what an individual does with his freedom.” Mental and moral, like muscular powers, are only improved by being used. Universities that prevent ROTC from being on campus hinder and dumb down the strength of our students. They bar them from exercising their moral muscle and limit their freedom….which is bestowed upon each individual in our democratic society.
Thankfully, I had the choice to join the ROTC at age 18. It was one of the best decisions I made and had that opportunity not been on my campus, I might never have had such a rewarding and successful life. Every single college student in the US should have the freedom to make the very same choice that I had, to join ROTC on their campus.