Last week, University President Drew G. Faust and other high-ranking Harvard administrators officially inaugurated the new Army Senior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps office in the Student Organization Center at Hilles. At the ceremony, Lieutenant Colonel Timothy J. Hall, the director of Army SROTC at Harvard, announced that the program will, for the first time, offer classes for undergraduates on campus in the fall. This event marked yet another chapter in the University’s renewed relationship with ROTC, which returned to campus last year after the military repealed its “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that Harvard had long opposed.
As we have previously argued, the return of the military to campus is a welcome move after the repeal of DADT. President Faust promised on numerous occasions that ROTC’s exile at Harvard would cease when the military abolished DADT and allowed gay and lesbian soldiers to serve in its ranks openly. Once the policy was repealed, the University, quite fairly, kept its word. More importantly, Harvard opened the door for a valuable form of public service—military service—to return to a place heavily steeped in the civic tradition of the armed services.
Harvard alumni have distinguished themselves on the field of battle by earning 17 Medals of Honor, the highest number among non-military institutes of higher education in the country. Indeed, since the earliest days of the country, our school provided support for America’s men and women in uniform. During the Revolutionary War, Continental Army troops briefly took up residence in Harvard Yard. Memorial Hall, a venerable landmark of our campus, was built to commemorate alumni who have served in uniform.
With these precedents in mind, Harvard seems to have handled well the manner in which it has welcomed back ROTC. A formal ceremony, with important officials in attendance, is a clear sign of the University’s support of the new relationship between Harvard and the Army. The solemnity and dignity of the occasion were more than merited, given the fact that the Army’s outpost at SOCH is the first physical military presence on our campus. Although ties with Naval ROTC are already established, cadets in that program continue to travel to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for training.
Although the discriminatory ways of the military have, for the most part, been amended, there is still room for improvement. It is especially troubling that individuals with a transgender identity are not allowed to serve openly. Harvard should work closely with both the military and advocacy groups on campus, like Queer Students and Allies, to promote greater inclusion in ROTC programs and provide a voice for those who still face a stigma in the armed forces. Yet the lingering flaws of the military do not warrant its continued expulsion from our school. Now that the Army has planted its flag, Harvard’s community should work with its representatives and be prepared to welcome further ROTC programs in the future.