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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained
The Army ROTC program at Harvard has never been a major supplier of officers to military. Although Harvard ROTC graduates have generally made above-average officers, rarely does one of them remain in the Army after his tour of duty expires. And usually the Army ROTC program here commissions no more then 25 or 30 officers each year. In order to justify an ROTC unit, but sometimes it overlooks the fact that Harvard falls beneath that level. The Army is willing to do so because the Harvard unit is one of its oldest and most prestigious.
For public relations purpose, it is of considerable value to the national ROTC program to have a unit within the academic system at Harvard. But since the Harvard program is more of a show than a producer of officers, the Army does not assign Harvard its best officers. The end result is a sad cycle: very few Harvard undergraduates join ROTC, the Army therefore does not send first-rate commanding officers, and the program becomes more unpopular than before.
There are several reasons why an undergraduate would enter ROTC: because of the steadily increasing draft, the Officer Candidate School is greatly over-crowded and hard to enter; the ROTC scholarship program provides full tuition and other required expenses for some students; and each cadet receives a monthly salary of $50. There are no academic reasons for taking Military Science course; they simply are required for commissionig as a Second Lieutenant. Each of the four courses in Military Science comprises a half course which runs throughout the year, and each is given full academic credit; it can effect a student's rank list, as either a fourth course or a fifth course.
The commanding officer of the unit is a professor of Military Science; he is a voting member of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences for as long as his appointment lasts--normally three years. The selection of the commanding officer is short and simple: the Army recommends a colonel and forwards biographical background on him to the Dean of the College. Upon the Dean's approval, Franklin Ford. Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, recommends the colonel's appointment to the Corporation. In short, there is little real screening of the proposed officer.
The present professor of Military Science, Col. Robert H. Pell, previously an Army public relations officer in New York, has demonstrated maladjustment to Harvard during his first year here.
His decision to refuse commissions to four seniors last June indicates, in the words of former Dean of the College John U. Monro (himself a military man), "a different perspective on the Harvard boys than others of us had."
Undoubtedly Pell is a sincere man who is devoted to his country and the Army. But his position on the Harvard Faculty does not give him the privilege to run ROTC like a little West Point. In the case of the four disenrollments, Pell did have the authority to act on the basis of his personal opinion of the cadets' personal characteristics. But it does not excuse the fact that he used poor judgment, was factually contradictory, and was inconsiderate of the students' rights and post-college plans.
There is no doubt but that the four students, along with eight others, were performing unsatisfactorily at midyears. And it is equally clear that all four improved in the second semester and assumed they would be commissioned. Instead, in the middle of final exams, Pell and his three-man board of staffers (who are directly responsible to him and dependent on his evaluations for advancement) informed the students by mail that they would not be commisioned. The students were given no opportunity to appear before the board or Pell, and he refused to inform them of their appeal rights above himself.
Monro, Master John Finley, and at least one other University official met with Colonel Pell and advised him that he was acting wrongly; he ignored the advice and held fast to his own judgment.
"In the end, there was nothing we could do," Monro stated recently. His statement points clearly to the problem. Should the Army have the right to come onto campus, use the Harvard name, and have full academic status, if it refuses to submit to academic pressures of any kind? Of course the Army must run its own programs and choose its own officers; but if its standards do not meet--or come under the influence of--those of the University, does the Army have a place in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences? Are the cadets deluded in thinking they are getting somewhere in ROTC? Should a course which counts a marching drill more than entire semester's written work receive full credit in the College? These are the questions which the Administration, the student-run Harvard Policy Committee on Educational Policy should consider in full detail.
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