Great news: Harvard University will officially recognize its Naval ROTC program tomorrow. The agreement – to be signed by Harvard president Drew Faust and Navy secretary Ray Mabus – marks the end of the school’s 41-year ban against the program.

Participating students will still go to MIT for ROTC classes, but Harvard will resume financial responsibility for its cadets and will provide office and training space. In addition, the university has appointed a chair of a new ROTC implementation committee: Kevin “Kit” Parker, a professor at the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and an Army major who served three tours in Afghanistan.

Harvard is in talks with the other service branches about reinstating its Army and Air Force programs.

This is a great moment both for Harvard and ROTC. Other universities – Yale, Columbia, Brown, and Stanford – should follow suit.

Columbia may be poised to do just that. In still more good news, the university’s Task Force on Military Engagement just released the results of its student survey on ROTC. Sixty percent of the students surveyed approved a “return of ROTC to Columbia’s campuses.” The hecklers can consider themselves outnumbered.

UPDATE: Two Harvard seniors called for this change in a Wall Street Journal op-ed in 2009:

So Harvard today happily pays for future bankers to take accounting courses at MIT, but refuses to pay for aspiring military officers who take ROTC courses. Since 1994, anonymous donors have generously picked up the tab, providing hundreds of thousands of dollars per year for Harvard's ROTC students....Recruitment opportunities are deliberately limited, and the student handbook cautions students against joining ROTC, remarking that the program is “inconsistent with Harvard's values.”

Rather than embracing the mutually beneficial relationship Harvard might share with the military, the faculty prefers to stand in the way of progress, abdicating its responsibility to contribute to one of our nation's most important institutions....But there are reasons to be hopeful that the 40-year exile of ROTC may be drawing to a close. Today, the faculty is out of touch with a student body that is generally supportive of ROTC....

ROTC should be fully and unequivocally welcomed back to Harvard. Accomplishing this would take leadership and courage from President Faust.

UPDATE: President Drew Faust just emailed the following announcement to the Harvard community:

Dear Colleagues and Friends,

I am pleased to let you know that, at a ceremony scheduled for Friday afternoon, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus will join me to sign an agreement renewing Harvard’s formal relationship with the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps.

Our renewed relationship will affirm the vital role that the members of our armed forces play in serving the nation, while also affirming inclusion and opportunity as powerful ideals. Harvard will restore full and formal ties with the NROTC, create a Director of Naval ROTC position at Harvard, provide for appropriate office space and use of classrooms and athletic facilities, and resume direct financial responsibility for costs associated with our students’ participation in the NROTC consortium principally hosted at MIT. We will be pursuing discussions with the other branches of the armed services toward similar ends.

I enclose below a link to a copy of the press release on tomorrow’s planned announcement. For now, I extend my thanks to the many of you who have helped underscore both the importance of embracing the opportunity for military service and the importance of greater inclusiveness in pursuit of that opportunity.


Drew Faust

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