The Reserve Officer Training Corps commissioned 11 Harvard College graduates as officers in the U.S. armed forces at a ceremony yesterday, attended for a third year by University President Drew G. Faust, who said she hopes for a stronger relationship between the University and the military.
While not commenting directly on the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy—which bans homosexuals from serving openly in the military—Faust seemed to allude to the policy when she asked the recently minted officers to “help reinforce the long tradition of ties between Harvard and military service, as we share hopes that changing circumstances will soon enable us to further strengthen those bonds.”
In recent years Harvard has had a strained relationship with the military, stemming from its decision to ban ROTC from campus in 1969—a ban that the University has continued out of opposition to the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy.
But in her adress yesterday Faust repeatedly emphasized the University’s strong connections to the armed forces that predate the controversy.
President Barack Obama has said that he plans to repeal the policy, meaning that ROTC might be able to return to the Harvard campus. Currently, students at the University who participate in ROTC must commute to MIT to train.
Faust’s decision to speak at commissioning ceremonies has garnered strong reactions from both sides of the issue. ROTC graduates said yesterday that they felt supported by Faust—who also gave them a book by West Point instructor Elizabeth Samet about teaching literature through war and peace.
“During my time at Harvard, President Faust has really reached out to us,” said Sarah A. Harvey ’10, who was commissioned yesterday as a second lieutenant in the Army. “Every cadet and midshipman has appreciated what she has done.”
Yesterday’s events included a swearing-in ceremony at Tercentenary Theatre, preceded by a private ceremony in front of the John Harvard statue. There, cadets whose family members are officers in the military could swear in the newest members of the armed forces.
Christi E. Morrissey ’10—who comes from a family with three generations of military officers—was sworn in yesterday by her brother, a fellow officer and Harvard graduate who also participated in ROTC.
“It feels a bit like joining the family business,” she said. “It’s a very special moment.”
—Staff writer Elias J. Groll can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.