Editor's Note: The views expressed by the cadets in this article are their own and do not reflect those of the University of Richmond ROTC program, 4th Brigade or Cadet Command.
Some University of Richmond ROTC members have to choose between academics and learning the skills they need to serve and protect our country.
Over the years, cadets have found that training sessions and military science classes often run into popular UR class times.
UR ROTC students thought they had a solution. They, led by Senior Cadet Dilwyn Piner, petitioned the University Academic Program Committee during the last academic year for priority registration.
The main arguments detailed in the petition were: Other local universities grant priority registration to ROTC, the time commitment for ROTC is comparable to that of student-athletes, who all have priority registration, and ROTC students have class conflicts with their training.
The committee unanimously voted against the petition in a November 2018 meeting and again in an April 2019 meeting, according to the Faculty Senate meeting minutes.
“[Priority registration] would solve the issue,” said professor Timothy Hamilton, chair of the University Academic Program Committee. “It would absolutely solve the issue. You give these students priority registration and then they’d have no problem. I think, for me, it’s good for that group, but it creates problems outside of that because priority registration is really priority over a different group.”
Hamilton said the more UR gave priority registration to students, the more registration problems would arise.
“I think the better way to fix this would not be to go to the subgroup because probably a lot of other people have kind of similar conflicts with part-time jobs, volunteer opportunities and organizations,” Hamilton said.
Senior Cadet Connor Frascati said it was not reasonable to compare ROTC students to very involved UR students.
“Bottom line is, you’re overworked as a student, you can drop a club,” he said. “You can’t drop ROTC. Once you contract and you sign on the dotted line … you’re locked in. There’s no, 'Well I’m getting a little stressed I’m just going to drop this club.' That’s not an option.”
Frascati said he believed the committee should have granted ROTC students priority registration because their time commitment was comparable to that of student-athletes.
“I definitely think athletes are very busy,” Frascati said. “I have a lot of friends that are athletes. I think our schedules are pretty comparable in terms of the time requirement per week.”
Frascati explained a typical week for an ROTC student.
“Just as an example, as a junior you’ll have classes Tuesday and Thursday from 8 a.m. to 9:15 a.m.,” he said. “You’ll have a lab that’s regularly scheduled from 4 to 5:30 p.m. on Thursdays, and then you’ll have three physical training sessions a week which occur in the mornings — which actually could include four if you’re doing poorly at physical training. That happens from 6 to 7 a.m.”
Hamilton said regardless of time commitment, ROTC students did not have the same class conflicts as athletes.
“Maybe in terms of total time [ROTC is comparable], but the way it’s structured is it’s very early mornings, weekends and the actual number of conflicts was considerably less than what we would considerably anticipate with a student-athlete,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton said reevaluation of why some groups had priority registration had not been discussed when the committee had made its decisions.
“It’s hard because it’s not like we revisited the athletic policy,” he said. “We didn’t have a vote that says 'do we continue that.' We weren’t going to touch that.”
Of the nine returning cadets when the petition was presented the last academic year, eight had had class conflicts with training the previous year, according to the Faculty Senate meeting minutes.
Frascati said he had had to miss some training because of class conflicts.
“I had two issues my sophomore and beginning of junior year where I was running into lab and missing some training,” he said. “I know a lot of cadets who have had that issue.”
Frascati said missing training could impact what job ROTC students get.
“The training that they’re missing at this level can have a negative effect on how they lead and how they perform at Advanced Camp, which is our culminating event after their junior year," Frascati said. "All this training is designed to prep them for that event, and how well they do there plays a big factor in what job they get.”
ROTC training will affect more than just students' job opportunities, Frascati said.
“Any way you cut it, whether you’re active duty, National Guard or reserve, lives are on the line depending upon how well you do and how well you’ve been trained,” Frascati said.
Lt. Col. Cecil D. Stinnie, professor of military science, said he allowed cadets to leave military science courses early to help with conflicts. However, a more defined solution has not been reached.
“We only offer one section for the military science instruction, and because there’s such a small number of University of Richmond cadets, we can’t offer multiple sections,” Stinnie said.
Stinnie said he had researched what UR considers a student athlete to see whether ROTC students’ schedules are comparable to those of athletes.
“Having to compete with the academic rigor here at the University of Richmond and then to add those additional 15 hours of mandatory requirements, that’s just day to day,” he said. “We also have weekend training opportunities that they must attend as well. When you compile all that, I don’t see what’s different from a student-athlete.”
Several other local schools grant priority registration to ROTC students, including the College of William & Mary, Virginia Commonwealth University, Randolph-Macon College and the University of Virginia, as listed in the Faculty Senate meeting minutes.
VCU ROTC student Nathanael Gaines, a junior, has priority registration.
“It pretty much eliminates the excuse of having a scheduling conflict with ROTC, especially as far as the ROTC lab goes,” Gaines said. “When you’re contracted, they put the lab as part of a class in the VCU system where you can’t register for classes in that spot, which cadets would try to do. So in response to that, they had to make sure we had priority registration.”
Associate Professor of Journalism Shahan Mufti, who was a committee member last academic year, said the point that other nearby universities gave ROTC students priority registration was the most compelling argument in the petition.
But he ultimately did not see it as a reason to grant priority registration.
“I had a problem with the University of Richmond recognizing that somehow militarism is a more honorable, important profession for our students to be headed toward,” he said.
Mufti said he understood why athletes were given priority registration.
“Student-athletes are giving something to the institution very tangibly that ROTC is not,” he said.
Mufti said this topic involved philosophical questions about the value of money and the measurement of value.
“This is a small part of a huge bureaucracy,” he said.
Frascati said he was willing to re-offer the proposal, but Hamilton said the petition was no longer being considered.
“Right now, we don’t want to grant this privilege,” Hamilton said, “but perhaps this is a discussion we need to have if this is something we do really value at the university as a core component.”
Contact news writer Emma Davis at email@example.com.