Frequently Asked Questions

What is ROTC?

The Reserve Officers Training Corps, or ROTC, is a military training curriculum offered as an elective or extracurricular program at colleges and universities across the United States. Its purpose is to produce officers for branches of the U.S. military. Students enrolled in the program participate in a two- or four-year curriculum leading to commission as an officer. In exchange, they receive scholarship aid of varying amounts and are required to complete a period of military service following graduation. Three branches of the U.S. military support ROTC training programs: the Army; the Air Force; and the Navy (which includes a small program for Marines). There is no such program for the Coast Guard. ROTC has produced 39 percent of the current officer corps in the U.S. These college-based programs are distinguished from those offered through the four so-called service academies: the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, the U.S. Naval Academy, the U.S. Air Force Academy, and the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.

Is there a difference between Army, Air Force, and Naval ROTC?

All ROTC programs have more or less parallel requirements. Students must complete a specific set of military science courses in addition to their baccalaureate degree, and then do a term of military service on graduation. The Naval ROTC program is the only one that indicates curricular requirements beyond the prescribed Naval Science courses. NROTC midshipmen are required to complete, as part of their baccalaureate degree, a year each of calculus, physics, advanced trigonometry, and another physical science; also required are a year of English, a year of American History (or National Security Policy), and a semester of world culture or religions. These requirements are designed to create future Engineers or physical scientists.

What does an ROTC scholarship provide?

The ROTC scholarship typically offers full tuition, a supplemental scholarship for books and fees, and a living stipend ranging from $250 to $500 per month. With the growth of financial aid at highly selective private institutions in recent years, ROTC benefits may no longer carry as much value as they once did. A ROTC scholarship cannot increase a student’s overall aid package, but it can reduce annual earnings expectations or student loans.

Has Brown ever supported military training on its campus?

Brown has supported military training during every major conflict since the War for Independence in 1776. In 1917, after the declaration of war against Germany, the Navy created the first ROTC-like training program at Brown, along with a Naval Science department. The training unit folded in 1918 and Naval Science became the department of Nautical Science. In 1940 the NROTC program returned to campus and remained for three decades. An Air Force ROTC unit was established in 1951. Providence College instituted an Army ROTC unit in the same year, and made a cross-town arrangement with Brown that continues to this day, and is still available to Brown students interested in pursuing military service.

How did NROTC and AFROTC come to an end at Brown?

In the 1960s, during protests against U.S. military involvement in Vietnam, students and faculty called for the removal of ROTC from the Brown campus. The rationale was on academic grounds: According to federal law, military science courses were to be taught through specially created departments, led by officers who held the title of professor, and Brown was obliged to grant academic credit for these courses. In the spring of 1969, the Brown faculty passed a set of resolutions rejecting military science departments as viable academic units and denying professorial status to ROTC instructors; accordingly, ROTC courses were no longer granted Brown credit. The faculty proposed phasing out all ROTC programs until they could conform to the resolutions. Following the vote, the Air Force immediately discontinued its program at Brown. The U.S. Navy, however, tried to work with the Brown administration to meet the new conditions. In 1972, a proposal was presented to re-establish NROTC at Brown under revised terms. The faculty again rejected the proposal, resolving this time to table the question until federal policies on ROTC had been reformed.

Has the legislation known commonly as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” played a role in the University’s position on ROTC?

The faculty’s original position, laid out in 1969, was based on the academic principle that no outside agent should have the right to decide what courses receive Brown credit or who holds the title of professor. Nonetheless, the military’s treatment of gay and lesbian service men and women has been a subject of debate both at Brown and on many other campuses since “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” was signed in 1993. In the wake of the repeal of DADT this year, President Simmons asked for a review of the University’s position on ROTC.

What paths are now open to Brown students interested in military service?

Students interested in the Army may attend the Providence College ROTC program through a cross-town arrangement that has existed since 1951. Brown has commissioned about 8 officers through this program since the 1980s. A somewhat different path is the Platoon Leaders’ Class (PLC) offered through the U.S. Marine Corps. This is not a ROTC program per se, because it allows participating students to complete necessary training during the summer, rather than during the school year. Students who complete the class earn a commission as a second lieutenant on graduation, and are eligible to enter Officer’s Candidate School (OCS) for additional training. Approximately 10 Brown students have chosen this path in the last few years. Brown students may also enter officer-training programs in other branches of the military directly on graduation.

Are there paths for those interested in the Navy or the Air Force?

The closest NROTC and AFROTC programs are located in Boston and Cambridge. These programs have no cross-institutional relationships with Brown. Students interested in the Navy or Air Force would need to begin officer training after graduation or attend another university.

Which of our Ivy League peers currently have ROTC programs?

Cornell, Dartmouth, Penn, and Princeton maintained ROTC even after the other Ivies terminated their programs in the early 1970s. Cornell currently has the largest number of ROTC candidates (at 76); Princeton ranks second, typically fielding between 20-25 participants . Harvard, Columbia, and Yale recently took steps to bring NROTC back to their campuses.

Do these peer institutions offer credit for the military science courses?

None of our peers offers credit for military science courses through their undergraduate colleges. At MIT, one course on organization and leadership is granted credit through the Sloan School of Management. At Cornell, students enrolled in the state-supported technical schools may receive credit for ROTC courses. Yale’s new agreement with the Navy includes the provision that suitable NROTC courses may undergo review by Yale’s curriculum committee.

Are affiliated military personnel at these schools given voting rights as faculty members?

No. Officers receive some compensation and may enjoy access to libraries and other privileges extended to members of the campus community, but they do not participate in faculty governance.

Is this a contradiction, or have the government guidelines on ROTC changed?

Neither. According to U.S. Code Title X, Subtitle A, part III, universities with ROTC programs are still required to accord the senior commissioned officer the academic rank of professor and to accept military courses as part of their curriculum. However, as the evidence from our peer schools shows, branches of the U.S. military have been known to negotiate different terms in order to accommodate the unique character of the schools in question.

Would a reinstatement of a ROTC program require Brown to offer credit for military science courses?

Presumably not, since none of our peer institutions has been required to do this as part of their agreements with ROTC.

Do we know if the Navy or Air Force is even interested in returning to Brown?

A conversation with the Office of the Secretary of the Navy revealed that the Navy would indeed be interested in re-establishing a relationship with Brown. At this time, the preferred relationship would involve a cross-institutional partnership with an existing Navy ROTC unit at a neighboring school. This would most likely be at MIT, which now serves as the host campus for both Harvard and Tufts. Brown would have to investigate further to learn more about possible relationships with Air Force ROTC.

How has the Brown community reacted to the question of ROTC’s return?

The response to the question has been both vigorous and varied. The Committee has heard directly from students, faculty, staff, and alumni in person and via email, letters, the BDH opinion pages, and various formal and informal polls.

Among those voicing opposition to a return of ROTC are members of the Coalition Against Special Privileges for ROTC (CASPR), the Queer Alliance, and the Queer Political Action Committee (QPAC). A representative number of students from these groups was present at the meeting of the Brown University Community Council on March 15, where they publicly raised the concern that, because of the military’s failure to recognize transgender individuals, the presence of ROTC on campus would conflict with the Univerisity’s anti-discrimination policies. Students and faculty have also expressed concern that the military remains an environment hostile to women, that ROTC financial support locks students into post-graduate work for the military, and that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan would be tacitly supported by the Brown community via support for ROTC.

Other students have expressed the view that the University should be willing to support those who wish to do military service, that ROTC would enhance the diversity of the campus, and that the program is consistent with Brown’s mission of producing lives of “usefulness and reputation.” Some have also voiced concerns about the widening cultural gap between elite private institutions like Brown and the military.

At a luncheon sponsored by the Undergraduate Council of Students, about forty students discussed the question of ROTC in small groups, as committee members listened on. While not all were in agreement, it appeared that more than half of the students present were in favor ROTC’s return. A poll by the BDH showed a more divided opinion among the students surveyed, with fewer than 50% of those polled in favor of ROTC’s return, and a significant percentage expressing either “no opinion” or a desire to learn more about the issue. By contrast, an electronic poll of Brown alumni received over a thousand responses from graduates spanning the years 1943 to 2010. Of these 77% were in favor of having Brown serve as a host campus for a ROTC unit; 20% were opposed.

Would the return of ROTC represent a conflict with Brown’s policies on discrimination?

Under federal law, individuals identifying as “transgender” are unable to serve in the military.

Brown maintains a policy that the educational, working, and living environment of the campus should be free of any form of unlawful discrimination and harassment. Unlawful discrimination is defined by federal and/or state statutes to include unfavorable or unfair treatment of a person or class of persons because of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.

What are the broader values underlying the debate over ROTC at Brown?

Opponents and proponents of ROTC today operate in a cultural and political climate very different from that of earlier years, especially the Vietnam era. Polls show that the military is today the most respected institution in American society over and above religious or governmental institutions. Opposition to ROTC is increasingly framed in terms of human rights (e.g., the military’s treatment of women, gay, lesbian and transgender individuals) while still questioning the morality of war. Advocates for ROTC frame their arguments in terms of access and choice to those who want to become officers, and in terms of service to country.

What other ways does Brown as an institution maintain a relationship with the U.S. military?

Currently, Brown receives between $9 million to $11 million annually in federal grants from the Department of Defense.