Berkeley-breaking the military stigma
January 15, 2014
FORT KNOX, Ky.,--Late in 2012 the academic community saw the return of ROTC to several college campuses where it was perceived to have been unwelcome. But for all of its Vietnam era stigma, the University of California, Berkeley has been welcoming the military for several years now.
Dr. Kathryn Scott, director of physical education at the university, said that although the Vietnam War protests may have given the school an anti-military label, such was not really the case. And Scott should know. Not only is she a UCB graduate, she has been on the faculty since 1970 and for the last 11 years as a member of the Military Officers' Education Committee that is charged with the academic oversight of the ROTC programs.
"Berkeley was part of the original (group) of universities that came into being in 1916 with the founding of the Army ROTC program," she explained. "The protests (of the Vietnam War) were not against ROTC, but rather the war. Today, the three ROTC programs on campus are viewed in a positive way and are very visible to the entire campus community."
She said when ROTC instructors and cadre are assigned to the school they do so with apprehension because they expect a negative climate.
"However (the cadre) have been pleasantly surprised when (they are) actually immersed in the campus community. Many find general students taking the Military Affairs courses alongside the Cadets and Midshipmen," she said.
To illustrate her point about the positive relationships ROTC now has on campus, Scott tells a story about an event that happened 12 years ago and how instead of protesting ROTCs presence another UCB group acted to defend it.
During the campus' annual community day--Cal Day--all the departments, programs and organizations showcased their activities for the families, students, prospects and alumni. Each of the ROTC programs had set up tables--adjacent to where the Cal Band was playing.
"At the end of the day as everything was closing down and the band students were putting away their instruments, a protester of the 60s-era started marching around in front of the ROTC groups, shouting in a megaphone for the military to be off campus," she said. "Without anything being said, the band members unpacked their instruments and began playing quite loudly to drown out the protester and continued to do so until (the protester) was packed up."
While perceptions of UCBs relationship with the military have improved, Scott is always looking for ways to help the program. Recently she was in San Antonio to attend the 2014 Army All-American Bowl and gather with other community leaders and educators to discuss advocacy ideas for Army ROTC.
The trip was educational, she said, because the other Army CLEs with whom she was paired during group discussion were from outside academia and included different disciplines. From these discussions she was able to learn how other CLEs are trying to accommodate, influence and be involved. One of the areas they discussed is what holds young people back from choosing one of the many career options in the Army.
"Some of the considerations and problems we discussed are parallel to the general student population on campus," she explained. "One of those things is parents. We run into the same things, in parallel, on campus with parents who say 'You need to be a doctor you don't need to be sociology major…' There is this parental pressure."
Scott said that the parents' understanding of the opportunities in the Army, like any other career field, is important if students are going to consider all the options available.
She came to San Antonio for a similar gathering five years ago and said the most important thing she left with was a sense of connection and a deeper understanding of the Soldiers, the Army value system and the culture. Scott said her visit to the Center for the Intrepid and various other Soldier engagements showed her who they are, what they do, and what types of support programs are in place for them.
"This time I leave here with a working knowledge of what we can do to advocate for the Soldier and for the Army," Scott said. "I have a better idea of what a Cadet's plan A and plan B should be after graduation and that will help me."
Helping students learn about the culture around them, providing role models and mentorship is where a good community leader or educator can assist, Scott added. It's a role that blends well with her position as a member of the MOEC providing support for the department on campus and ensuring the academic quality of the cadre and of the academic standards.
And it's those Army ROTC standards of which Scott said she whole-heartedly approves, such as teaching students how think, not what to think. She explained that critical thinking is important because once a student is out of college they must function, whether in the military or the general public.
"From an educator's perspective, the use of 'teachable moments' is primary to helping a young person become successful, whether it is in a positive moment or a questionable situation," Scott said. "Helping and guiding young people to discover and then learn through their own thought process -- not just being told -- will make the outcome more meaningful. 'Tell me and I will forget, show me and I might remember, involve me and I will learn.'"
Scott said that today's young people face the same challenges of responsibility, accountability, leadership and integrity that were expected of young people in the past, "and ROTC is one of the ways young people can successfully meet those challenges."