For Some Students, ROTC Is Much More Than Money

For many Harvard students, the military is not the usual educational route, but for undergraduates who choose to participate in the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC), military training and an education are inexorably linked.

Navy Reserve Cadet Timothy P. McCormack `91-92 says he always wanted to pursue a military career. The ROTC program permitted him to enroll in Harvard and still receive a naval officer's training.

"I've wanted to be in the Navy and fly basically since I was six," says McCormack, who served as co-chair of the Undergraduate Council's ad-hoc committee on ROTC this fall. "A lot of it is because my grand-dad and great uncle were in the military."

When McCormack got into Harvard, he says, he jumped at the chance to serve in ROTC. "Without the money, I wouldn't have come here," he says.

McCormack is not alone in his dual desire for scholarship funds and a military career. About 150 Harvard students are currently enrolled in ROTC programs at MIT. Some say they came to Harvard because the school's reputation and its off-campus affiliation with ROTC.

Koma B. Gandy `95, a Navy ROTC enrollee from Philadelphia, says she wanted to go to the Naval Academy so that she could eventually fly, but was 25 days too young for the Academy's class of 1995. Faced with the choice of either waiting a year or attending the academy's prep school, Gandy chose Harvard and ROTC.

"If Harvard didn't have that option, I probably would have gone to the Naval Academy prep school or attended Penn or Georgetown [which also have ROTC programs]."

But although some ROTC cadets cite an overwhelming commitment to the military, others say they joined the program because it provides necessary scholarship funds.

Brent C. Ridenour `95, an Army ROTC cadet in Wigglesworth Hall, says he enrolled in ROTC primarily for the scholarship but acknowledges that his father's experiences as a Marine in Vietnam affected his decision.

"The Army office isn't going to like this much, but I'd probably have to say it was the monetary option," says the Iowa native. "My financial aid package here wasn't looking so hot."

This spring, Harvard faces a deadline for severing all remaining ties with ROTC. The University issued the ultimatum two years ago, protesting the military's policy of barring gays and lesbians from service.

Although school officials have said those currently enrolled in ROTC would not be affected by this spring's decision, ROTC students interviewed say they are united against the proposal to cut ties with the program.

They argue that the University's association with ROTC provides needed military experience and scholarship money.

"I understand the objections you could have if you're gay," says Robin L. Mitchell `94. "I don't see how it's any fairer to deny a scholarship to someone who could come to Harvard and serve in the military as well."

Still, leaders from groups who argue that the University should stop accepting ROTC scholarship funds say the program is an affront to all homosexuals in the Harvard community.