Monday, October 25, 2004

ICRA growing up and beyond me

What I founded, nurtured, chaired and knew as the Independent Committee for ROTC Advocacy (ICRA) at Columbia University is now the robust Advocates for Columbia ROTC, under the hard-working and productive Sean Wilkes.

I've never fathered and raised a son or daughter, yet I imagine this is the kind of pride I would feel watching my child grow beyond me. I am profoundly grateful to Sean Wilkes for shouldering the mantle of ICRA-turned-ACR and taking ROTC advocacy at Columbia forward in my absence. In a year and a half, he has exceeded my expectations. Honestly, I don't think I could have made the same degree of progress in his place - which I would have been otherwise. There's more to do to support ROTC at CU, and if our work takes root, to one day bring it back to Columbia. I hope Sean is up to it. Why not? He has been so far.

From the ACR's website:

Advocates for Columbia ROTC
Sponsored by Students United for America (one of my other babies)

Columbia University has a long and storied history of partnership and support for the armed forces. Reminders around Columbia's campus speak silently of a proud tradition of military service. The helmeted bust of Pallas Athena, the Greek goddess of war, a patron Columbia shares with West Point, stands prominently in the foyer of Low Memorial Library. Colonel Alexander Hamilton's statue stands guard in front of Hamilton Hall. The portrait of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, graduate and former university president, looks down the main stairwell in Butler Library. Outside Butler Library, a plaque commemorates the 23,000 Navy midshipmen who trained at Columbia and served in World War II. A memorial to Columbia graduate John Mitchell, a combat pilot who died in World War I, rests on the outside wall of Hamilton Hall.

Before the Vietnam War, Columbia cadets had peacefully coexisted with their classmates since the inception of ROTC in 1916. Indeed, the university reached the point where it produced more Navy Ensigns per year than even the U.S. Naval Academy. In spite of Columbia's military tradition, the administration expelled ROTC programs from the campus to appease students protesting against the Vietnam War. When the war ended in 1975, students resumed their studies, and, aside from a few stubborn radicals, the protests faded away. Columbia's ban on ROTC, however, has remained to this day.

The goal of Advocates for Columbia ROTC, the brainchild of Columbia's Students United for America, and organized to be similar in scope to Harvard's long-standing advocacy movement, is to generate support at Columbia for ROTC and the corps of cadets. Currently cadets must travel to other, host institutions in the Bronx to take part in the ROTC classes and labs at least once a week. Yet, despite this extensive time commitment, Columbia does little to support its cadets or assist them with the inevitable scheduling and logistical conflicts. Furthermore, Columbia neither grants credit for ROTC courses nor recognizes them as an official part of the students curriculum. It is our aim to change this, and to return to Columbia its proud status as a source of great military leadership.

Please join us in our efforts!

Sean Wilkes at *

- Eric



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