Officer training comes to RIT

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Photo courtesy of RIT Archive Collections

This photo shows an RIT cadet’s commissioning ceremony in 1973.

Other arguments hinged on how the ROTC program and classes meshed with the traditional educational philosophy of a university. Many saw the curriculum, including military-science courses and drills, as one of inculcation rather than education undertaken with a spirit of inquiry and open debate. Some faculty members believed that because some courses didn’t adhere to academic standards, credit shouldn’t be granted.

It fell to newly appointed President Paul Miller to move toward consensus and a workable solution. A committee was appointed to plan for a smooth transition of the program. In a 1969 memo to the governance groups entitled “Principles for the Conduct of the ROTC Department,” he wrote that all involved “should strive to develop an ROTC program which is flavored by the most distinctive traditions and philosophies of RIT. Consideration should be given to advancing a program of preparing military officers which is characterized by inventive combinations of technological and humanistic content.”

To solve the issue of credit-bearing courses, Miller asked that the curriculum committee consider each course individually, weighing content and comparing to RIT policies already in place. Two referendums were held with a majority (67 percent) voting in favor of having an ROTC program on campus. The second vote showed 66 percent against granting credit for ROTC courses.

The issue heated up again just after President Nixon’s 1970 announcement of the incursion into Cambodia. Rising protests to the war on college campuses, including the demonstration at Kent State, spilled over onto RIT’s campus. Someone or a group vandalized the ROTC offices, destroying property and stealing some equipment. As a result, classes were canceled for two days to hold rallies, workshops and lectures.

In the end, the acceptance of ROTC on RIT’s campus proceeded fairly smoothly. Nevertheless, numbers continued to grow as students took advantage of the scholarships and unique training offered by ROTC, and the presence of the program on campus excites little controversy today.