Editor's Note: The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of University of Richmond Army ROTC, 4th Brigade or Cadet Command.
When my peers and I put together a formal request to obtain early registration for contracted Army ROTC cadets at the University of Richmond in order to accommodate our class schedules with our training schedule, we expected to defend the merits of the proposal.
We did not expect to need to defend the intrinsic value of a group of students who made the uncommon commitment to take the path of becoming U.S. Army officers and serve our nation.
Our proposal was for a reasonable accommodation in registering early because of the nearly 15 hours of mandatory training per week already built into our schedules. Unlike a typical undergraduate student who can quit an obligation if it becomes a burden, a cadet cannot drop ROTC. Once we contract and sign on the dotted line, we’re in. We raise our right hand and sign that contract willingly and with a desire to serve and sacrifice for our nation.
This request was not without an existing example at UR: Student-athletes already receive early registration to better coordinate their classes with their practice and game schedules.
Additionally, similar academic institutions such as the University of Virginia and the College of William & Mary grant their students in ROTC early registration as well. With precedent supporting our request, we thought we had a strong and valid argument for obtaining early registration.
The response we received to our proposal from Timothy Hamilton, the chair of the University Academic Program Committee, was that students in ROTC were time constrained “no more so than a typical undergraduate student at the University of Richmond,” according to an email found in the April 26 Faculty Senate agenda. Hamilton also said that questions remained as to whether Army ROTC “is something we do really value at the university as a core component.”
We hoped that our university would be able to understand our commitment and not force us to choose between academics and military training. The training we receive directly impacts the jobs we get in the Army after graduation as well as how effectively we lead America’s sons and daughters in future conflicts.
My concerns extended beyond the committee's decision. In an article in The Collegian on Oct. 21, Shahan Mufti, a journalism professor and former member of the University Academic Program Committee that rejected our proposal, was quoted as saying, “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.”
It’s extremely disconcerting that Mufti would make his decision by pejoratively equating a program training future U.S. Army officers to the negative connotations associated with the term “militarism.” The usage of such a term regarding the entire military establishment suggests Mufti’s qualm with the early registration of just nine ROTC cadets is misplaced and lies primarily with his views of the military establishment writ large.
Mufti also maintained a clear anti-military bias and resorted to that proclivity in his decision-making process by openly denouncing military service and our decision to serve. Mufti is certainly entitled to his personal biases, but those biases should not permeate a decision like this one.
Our program is made up of students who will work as Army doctors and lawyers as well as infantry and intelligence officers. Contracted Army ROTC cadets should not have to choose between academics and training to support their future careers of service.
We are not making this case out of a mere desire for special recognition; that’s not what we are about. We are just seeking a reasonable accommodation to balance our military training with our academic classes.
I ask students, faculty members and alumni to make their own determinations on this matter and to voice their opinions and engage with university leadership about this request and the value of military service.
Contact contributor Connor Frascati at email@example.com.