Now that the military has ended the practice of discharging openly gay service men and women the stated reason for excluding the military from Ivy League campuses has been removed. Yet the Ivies have not yet changed their behavior. ROTC programs military recruiters continue to face open hostility on Ivy League campuses.
The issue resurfaced this week when a wounded Iraq veteran and Columbia university student was speaking in favor of bringing ROTC back to campus. As he tried to participate in the debate he was shouted down by hecklers calling him a “racist” and a baby killer. Columbia is considering an end to its ban on ROTC and had asked students to speak on the issue. Some Ivy League universities, such as Harvard, allow students to cross-register with ROTC programs at other schools while some schools simply choose to not participate. Many on the left are continuing to argue against any military presence on Ivy League campuses, even going so far as to suggest moral equivalency between U.S. soldiers and Taliban fighters. While others are arguing that the military itself bears responsibility for the lack of representation.
There are two primary issues at stake here. The first and most obvious is theSolomon Amendment. By law the Secretary of Defense can deny federal funding and grants to institutions of higher learning which bar ROTC or military recruitment activities on campus. The second issue is less obvious but perhaps more important. There is a growing and dangerous gap between the nation’s elites and the nation’s war fighters. The United States has an all volunteer military. As such it is only natural that service members tend to come from the South and other areas of the country where patriotism and military service are highly regarded.
This is not to suggest that areas such as the Northeast or California are not patriotic. Still, outside of certain pockets like San Diego, some maintain that military service is not considered a viable option by many in some parts of the country. Speaking as an Afghanistan veteran who was born in New Jersey, my personal experience supports such observations. This has lead to a widening gap between those who serve and those who make the decisions affecting military service members and their families. When one considers that around 2% of the population serves in the military; the military is becoming a separate cast unto itself in the United States. Long term this situation is not a healthy situation for our Republic.
I do not necessarily think an Ivy League education is fundamentally better than at other schools. However, one cannot deny that many people at the top levels of corporate and government leadership have Ivy League pedigrees. By widening the pool and making it easier for students from Yale or Harvard to pursue careers in the military we could go a long way towards closing the culture gap between the military and civilian leadership. The problem now faced by many elite universities considering a policy change related to military inclusion is an attitude raging from apprehension to outright hostility regarding military service from faculty and students.
When the military refused to allow homosexuals to openly serve, universities were provided with needed cover to do what many on campuses wanted to do anyway, keep the military away. With the end of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, universities have lost their primary moral argument for keeping the military at bay. Elite schools will now be forced to publically decide whether or not they consider themselves a part of the United States. By continuing to exclude military recruiters and ROTC programs, elite schools are signaling an institutional hostility to the armed forces and further intensifying the gap between the military and those who send them to war.