mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
Four Decades Later, ROTC Welcomed Back to CUNY


After forty-plus years of absence, ROTC (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps) is returning to the City University of New York. A very ugly exit in March of 1971, forced by immature, ill informed, and generally appalling student protests, kept the military segregated from CUNY, one of the most diverse universities in America, for entire generations.

A moving reflection by Don Gomez in the NYT describes the scene during Vietnam: anti-war students at CUNY ransacking the school’s ROTC offices, burning uniforms, destroying and defacing property, and, on one occasion, rushing a recruitment event and “dumping buckets of ox blood on the registration table as baffled officers and students looked on”:

Bomb threats to Harris Hall, home of the R.O.T.C. office, were typical, causing many evacuations. Masked men and women banged on doors to disrupt R.O.T.C. classes until professors dismissed the cadets for the day. Student activists held counter-marching formations on campus, walking alongside the cadets during their drills, cursing them and carrying the black flag of anarchy next to the cadets’ American flag.

Through all this, the young cadets were urged to exercise restraint and ignore the protestors. In an effort to calm the escalating tensions, the college banned cadets from wearing or even displaying their uniforms on campus.

Luckily, this regrettable era has passed (although some of these Vietnam-era “activists” now hold prominent academic positions nationwide). As divisive as the Iraq War was for the recent generation, college campuses saw nothing like the juvenile anti-military movements from forty years ago.

That said, bridging the civilian-military gap remains a great challenge both for the military and for universities. It’s an important issue, and one that requires the commitment of both the armed forces and our academic institutions.

Watching ROTC return to the Ivy League and to storied universities like CUNY is a very welcome (and long overdue) sign of better times ahead.

[Vietnam student protest image courtesy of Wikimedia]

Features Icon
show comments
  • rheddles

    “Luckily, this regrettable era has passed”


  • Luke Lea

    Now how about a return to the draft? Professional armies have a tendency to subvert republics over the long-haul. America is a long-haul republic no?

    • Anthony

      Maybe that’s a good idea. Maybe not. One of the best aspects of our professional military is that it provides opportunities for people of modest means to improve themselves. Basic economics tells us that with thousands of conscripts to choose from, the pay and benefits for military personnel with go down a lot.

    • John Stephens

      The problem with conscription is that it simply isn’t practical to induct everyone, and arguments invariably break out about who goes and who stays.

  • Anthony

    “As divisive as the Iraq War was for the recent generation, college
    campuses saw nothing like the juvenile anti-military movements from
    forty years ago.”

    This is because no one is forced into the military against their will.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service