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More Than One Interpretation of ROTC Survey

MAIL:

NO WRITER ATTRIBUTED

To the Editors of The Crimson:

I would like to correct a few errors in the Crimson's November 26 article, "Poll Reveals Need for ROTC Funds: Many Enrolled for Strictly Financial Reasons." At the most basic level, the article misstates the results of the survey conducted by the Undergraduate Council Ad Hoc Committee on ROTC.

To begin with, the article reported that "[m]ore than half" of the respondents said that they would not have attended Harvard without ROTC. This is technically true, but nevertheless misleading: The actual figure was close to 90 percent.

More significantly, though, the article misrepresented the motives of these cadets and midshipmen; the reporter somehow concluded that any students who cited "financial reasons" as influencing their decision to join ROTC must therefore have no interest in the military.

But the survey results actually suggest just the opposite. In fact, only one student said they were in ROTC for purely financial reasons. The other 20 students who indicated that they would have been unwilling or unable to attend Harvard without ROTC should not be placed in that category. Their responses actually indicate that they would have chosen Harvard--had they been otherwise able to afford it--even if that meant learning in the absence of military training.

In other words, attending Harvard is more important to these 20 respondents than being a member of the military right now, but both are important and rewarding facets of their lives. It is both inaccurate and demeaning to imply that they are in any way prostituting themselves to the military in exchange for an education.

To understand this distinction more fully, another example may be helpful. Consider a hypothetical person, just graduated from college, trying to decide between two similar internships, one paid and one volunteer. This person has student loan payments, and must otherwise support themselves, but wants to work in some sort of public service.

If these financial constraints lead the person to opt for the paid internship does this mean that he or she is working in public service for "strictly financial reasons?" Does this change if we learn that the person would have preferred the unpaid internship? Of course not. It simply shows how real constraints can influence a decision between two equally legitimate, substantial options.

On a different note, the article misstates the amount of money that Harvard receives from the Department of Defense. While Harvard does receive "hundreds of millions of dollars in research grants" each year from the United States government, a majority of that money goes to the Medical School and School of Public Health.

According to the 1989-90 Harvard Facts Book the portion of that money which comes from the Department of Defense of closer to $8 million in research grants, and $1.5 million in ROTC scholarships. Timothy McCormack '91-92   Co-Chair, Undergraduate Council   Ad Hoc Committee on ROTC

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