As expected, the Yale College faculty voted Thursday to remove all obstacles to hosting an on-campus ROTC program. The Yale Daily News reported a “significant majority” in favor. According to a source, support was so strong a simple show of hands was enough to decide the issue; no ballots necessary. Yale has been in talks with the Navy and Air Force about restoring its ROTC programs.
It’s a moment to celebrate. With yesterday’s vote, four of America’s most prominent universities – Harvard, Stanford, Columbia, and now Yale – have reassumed their civic responsibility to educate future military leaders. (Brown remains the sole, shameful exception.)
Yet, as Army Reserve officer Stephen Trynosky notes at Tom Ricks’s blog Best Defense, ROTC access is not just a problem at elite schools. Connecticut, home of Yale, has lost two of its three Army ROTC host programs since the late 1980s. The Nutmeg State now has just one Army ROTC host battalion, located at the University of Connecticut, Storrs – while Mississippi has five, Alabama has ten, and South Dakota has three. Meanwhile, Connecticut’s population is larger than Mississippi's, over half the size of Alabama’s, and four times larger than South Dakota’s.
Likewise, Connecticut has a single Air Force ROTC host program (also at Storrs). There is no Navy ROTC host program available in the entire state. In this respect, UCONN students are just as disadvantaged as students at Yale when it comes to ROTC opportunities.
The strong support shown at Yale should put to rest the notion that students there – and in the Northeast and urban areas, more generally – are hostile to the military and thus not worth engaging. Rather, it is the advocacy and hard work of many student patriots (and alumni) that have made this ROTC homecoming possible. The military should strive to reconnect not just with students at elite schools – but also with the many talented and diverse young Americans who are currently underserved by the ROTC.