In March, we received some heartening news from Harvard: After decades of absence, ROTC was finally allowed back on campus following the repeal of the Military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. Now Harvard and its Ivy League peers are moving further in their rapprochement with the military. A new feature in the New York Times discusses the recent trend of retired military generals and other high-ranking officers being offered positions at elite schools.The list of new professors is distinguished and growing: General Stanley McChrystal is teaching at Yale, Admiral Eric T. Olsen at Columbia, and Admiral Mike Mullen at Princeton, to name a few. And their classes, covering a range of topics beyond military history, have become some of the most popular and difficult to get into at their respective schools.This is not to say that acceptance has been total. Although students have been remarkably open to their new professors, they are meeting resistance from some of the faculty:
At Yale the military is, for most students, a great unknown, and many in General McChrystal’s class say they signed up out of curiosity. “I would never have imagined myself three years ago in a course taught by a general,” said Erik Heinonen, one of General McChrystal’s students and a former Peace Corps volunteer.Some faculty members at Yale remain opposed to a retired celebrity general who does not hold their union card, a Ph.D., teaching at a civilian university, and say they are uncomfortable with his history of driving the secret commando raids that killed so many people in Iraq and Afghanistan. They also point out that the wars of the last decade have been unpopular on campus. […]“There is almost no antimilitary bias among students,” said John Lewis Gaddis, a Yale history professor and the recipient of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for biography, who has welcomed General McChrystal to Yale. “I wouldn’t say it’s true among the faculty.”
It’s unfortunate, but hardly shocking, that many of today’s university faculty oppose these ex-military professors. In the 1960s and early 1970s an immature and irresponsible anti-military attitude took hold on campuses around the country—especially at the elite universities of the Ivy League. Many of today’s longstanding professors were themselves attending these universities at that time, and their thinking about military issues is informed by that past intellectual environment. Old habits, as they say, die hard.This makes it all the more heartening to see that elite universities—and their students—are finally beginning to shed their anti-military biases. Our universities and our military need each other, and it’s good to see them moving closer together.