Let ROTC Stay

On The Other Hand

(The following is the opinion of a minority of the CRIMSON'S editorial board.)

ISOLATIONISM is a clean and easy doctrine. Take a tainted institution, simply refuse to have anything to do with it, and then it won't be able to hurt you. Furthermore, if everyone else follows your enlightened example, the institution will be forced to reform its evil ways or die.

It would, no doubt, be a satisfying and cathartic gesture for the Harvard community to tell the United States military, which has been fighting a futile and hateful war in Vietnam for as long as most students can remember, to get its men and its ROTC program off our campus. The Faculty will have a chance to do just that tomorrow when it votes on the SDS-sponsored ROTC resolution. By voting to expel ROTC, the Faculty can unequivocally dissociate Harvard from the military--but it should not.

Slapping such an absolute ban on an organization--even upon the military--would set a dangerous precedent. If an informed elite (or even an informed majority) is allowed to forbid students to join ROTC, what logical or moral grounds are there to keep another elite, or another majority, of opposite political views from purging another organization whose action they deem treasonable or immoral. Harvard, which during the 1950's fought for the preservation of an open society by resisting McCarthyite attempts to gag academic freedom, could now set a precedent for other universities more intent on banning SDS than ROTC. The SDS resolution would also deny these students who wish to receive military training while in college their right and opportunity to do so.

If a demonstration of Harvard's opposition to current military actions is the goal, it would be far more effective to let each individual student vow not to avail himself of the opportunity of using Harvard ROTC, forcing the military to withdraw with the humilating realization that it cannot sell itself to Harvard.

To justify a permanent exclusion of the army and navy from Harvard, one must characterize them as inherently and irrevocably evil, as somehow beyond the pale of civilized society. That analysis is a little glib. Harvard was able to support the United States armed forces eagerly during World War II, and the same might well be true of a future military commitment--in the Middle East or Berlin, for example. There is nothing wrong with the proposition that the role of the military in foreign policy decisions should be curbed, but to pretend that the army is something the country can do without is a ludicrous fiction.

Harvard should not, however, be giving the military the inordinate favors that the ROTC program now receives. The University should not give the officers assigned here by the Defense Department the dignity of being called professors, and the University should not give academic credit for courses designed only to turn out competent platoon leaders. But at the same time, Harvard does not have the moral prescience to dictate which organizations can and cannot be admitted to its precincts.