Barack Obama has once again disappointed a core group of his enthusiasts. It happened at Columbia University open forum where both he and Senator McCain spoke and which attracted some 7500 students. In the ordinary course of events, McCain came out for reinstating ROTC as a program on the Columbia campus and under the jurisdiction of the Columbia faculty. He was roundly booed. What would you expect.
But, then, Obama also spoke on the issue, and he said pretty much what McCain said. This did not surprise me at all. It is an expression of his understanding the essentials of democratic life. That we need a military is axiomatic. That we need a bright and curious military follows from this first principle. Columbia does not allow ROTC on campus. It was banished from the Morningside Heights when the trustees, under pressure from (violent) students caved and simply caved. Columbia students who want some military training must go to Fordham University for their classes. Do you wonder why many Roman Catholics think that the educated elite are not shouldering their rightful burden? At Harvard, 40 years ago, as a member of the faculty I dimply recall also voting for a similar exile for ROTC students, who had to go to MIT to fulfill their responsibilities. Faculties used to be craven. Now, they are merely prone to cling to their old and unjust biases.
In 2003, students at Columbia voted 65% to restore ROTC, the "roar lion roar." When the matter came before the Columbia senate in 2005, Lee Bollinger, the squirmy academic caught between generations, joined the professoriate in rejecting the very notion. All of this is described in an article by Bari Weiss in today's Sun.
There is nothing surprising about Bollinger's position. He's scared of his faculty. What's more: he is stuck in the sixties. He's for almost every retro idea that still poisons universities.
Two more points:
1. The "don't ask, don't tell" ignominy has very much complicated the issue of patriotism on the campus. It is an issue, however, that should be fought on its own since it applies to every military institution in the country. And I want to know what MCain and Obama think about this one. It goes to the very principle of equality of rights and equality of duties.
2. A few years back ran two articles about campuses without professors who have served in the military and fought in wars. Andrew Delbanco wrote about Columbia and Anthony Grafton wrote about Princeton.