In his State of the Union address, President Obama called on higher education to reinstate the Reserve Officer Training Corps on college campuses. Many elite colleges and universities haven't had ROTC chapters since the late 1960s. But the end of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell could open the door. Most undergraduates at Yale University think its a good idea.
Yale student Katherine Miller says President Obama’s message is clear. The military is becoming more inclusive. And that means she’ll be able to pursue her dream of a career in uniform.
Miller left West Point last year and transferred to Yale because of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the policy that bans gays and lesbians from serving openly.
"When I entered Yale I had an environment where I knew that I could be myself in. I didn’t have to hide my sexuality. I didn’t have to pretend to be someone that I was not."
Miller is among only a handful of students at Yale actively pursuing a military career. The school hasn’t had an ROTC unit on campus since the early 1970s. Cadets travel to satellite programs at other schools for their training.
The military left Yale and many Ivy League institutions at the height of the anti-Viet Nam war protests. Later, Yale struggled with the Department of Defense over its policy on gays and lesbians. But now, with the repeal of DADT, many elite schools are in serious talks with military officials about bringing ROTC back.
Yale College Dean Mary Miller. "What we also have been doing is looking very closely at how other institutions that we think of as similar to Yale.. how has ROTC unfolded in recent years on their campus."
But ROTC’s return is not a sure bet. For one thing, the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell has not, as yet, been implemented. And the military may not be that enthusiastic about opening additional detachments. There’s the question of cost. And Colonel Ray Pettit of US Army Cadet Command in Virginia says the military has to consider student interest.
"One of the downsides, with respect to getting the leadership from Ivy League schools, is that generally those students perform their required service to the Army and tend to get out the Army at a higher rate than non-Ivy League students do."
Yale’s student governing council recently surveyed interest in ROTC in the wake of the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell repeal. 20 year old junior Jeff Gordon:
"Almost 70% of students would support the return of the program given the repeal."
Law School Student Yaman Salahi is not among them. He says ROTC culture does not belong in a university environment.
"The military is not a neutral force. And ROTC is not a neutral force. It ignores the fact that there’s a tremendous amount of violence being committed by the military and in the name of the American people."
But former West Point cadet Katherine Miller says that tension may ease as the military starts to better reflect the nation it serves.
"Military service is something that a lot of people are interested in, initially. And because Yale doesn’t offer that, I don’t think people get to see that.
And having bridged both the military and elite college cultures, she says each sides has a lot to gain from working with the other.
For WNPR, I'm Diane Orson.