The idea of coupling military training and university education originated in 1783. New York Governor George Clinton proposed that civilian colleges, one in each state of the union, offer military training to students. The construct is remarkably similar to what happens today at our nation’s colleges and universities.
In the early 1800’s universities established military units on campuses, and began to integrate the discipline of military training with the freedom of intellectual inquiry for the benefit of the nation. The national military academies are important to the armed forces. They produce a great number of officers for all branches of the military, however, they do not put as many men and women in uniform as do the civilian colleges of the nation. This is the way it must be in a free society.
The work of the ROTC is central to the work of our nation. Our armed services protect freedom and independence, and therefore the fundamental work of the university, the pursuit of truth unvarnished by politics, pressure from the church, the work of industry and other forces of the social milieu in which universities are embedded.
Eight of the ten best universities in the world have opportunity for military training on campus according the Academic Ranking of World Universities. And the same eight are located within the borders of the United States. There is a basic relationship between a strong sense of freedom of expression – the hedges and guards that are required to sustain and preserve it – and what happens at the best academic institutions in the world. The armed forces help provide an environment that nourishes this relationship.
It is healthy and natural that the presence of the ROTC on university campuses is integral to the intellectual life of the university. Lacking physical security and a sense of safety, intellectual freedom is nearly impossible to attain and, when achieved, it comes at great cost. Alexandr Solzhenitsyn’s life embodies the price of intellectual freedom in a nation with a military driven by its own engine, rather than civilian minds of men and women educated and trained to think of freedom, its benefit, and the burden of its absence.
This happens in great universities.
At our university ROTC programs affect the lives of many students, and provide opportunities otherwise unavailable to them. They are educated in mind like all other students, and trained in the discipline to serve our nation through the military. This powerful combination is good for the student, but beyond good, essential, for the nation in the preservation of a free society. In a truly free and thoughtful society what benefits the individual sustains the state.
The genesis for this powerful combination of free inquiry and military training was established as canon when the Morrill Act of 1862 was signed by Abraham Lincoln. Its’ conception can be traced to Illinois College and the work of Jonathan Baldwin Turner, a professor there, a full decade before its adoption. The Act stipulated in part that,
… one college where the leading object shall be, without excluding other scientific and classical studies, and including military tactics…, in order to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions in life
The Reserved Officers Training Corp is an integral part of Our University, for the benefit of individual and state.