Academia vs. the Military, Again

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

When Sen. Zell Miller, D-GA, told the 2004 Republican convention, “It is the soldier, not the agitator, who has given us the freedom to protest,” he struck a responsive chord in America, outside of Academia.

Sen. Miller’s exhortation was met in the Ivory Tower by ambivalence, at best. “We honor groups by race, we honor groups by gender, we honor groups by ethnicity, and we honor groups by their sexual orientation,” Montclair (N. J.) State University professor George Zilbergeld told the audience at Accuracy in Academia’s summer conference last July. “But there’s one group we never, ever honor on our campus, and that’s the American military.”

Three years after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, one-fifth of all American colleges and universities offer Reserve Officer Training Corps (R.O.T.C.) programs to their students, according to figures from the Chronicle of Higher Education.
And with students willing to travel 75 miles to complete ROTC training at a participating school, as Yalies do when they drive to the University of Connecticut, demand is definitely outstripping supply.

Although the number of schools nationwide offering ROTC is double what it was a decade ago, the proportion of colleges and universities that support the program falls far short of the academic solidarity with American troops during World War II. The Second World War in the aftermath of the Pearl Harbor attacks serves as a useful comparison to America after the 9/11 attacks, which claimed more American lives than the December 7, 1941 assault.

Indeed, it literally took an act of Congress, namely the Solomon Act of 1996, to force college administrators to allow Army recruiters on their campuses on recruiting forays. Although failure to accommodate Army recruiters in their hallowed halls carries with it the threat of the loss of federal funding, many institutions of higher education still roll up the welcome mat on men and women in uniform.

One federal court recently invalidated the Solomon Act while several other suits against the law remain pending. Meanwhile, both houses of Congress passed another version of the law. The new law is not affected by the recent court decision, according to the U. S. Senate Armed Services Committee.

Students, and faculty, who want to serve their country, in turn, can expect to traverse a metaphoric obstacle course laid out by college administrators before running on a real one for their drill instructors. These volunteers might find the latter course easier to run than the administrative process.

Brian Parsons certainly did. When the part-time media adviser at the University of North Florida (UNF) joined the Army Reserves, he knew that he would have to complete Basic Combat Training (BCT). His supervisors gave him the green light to complete BCT, Parsons remembers.

Parsons reported for duty at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri. “After arriving at BCT, I received a letter stating that I had been ‘let go’ from my job,” Parsons remembers.

“I was told that I knew it was a ‘temporary position’ when I was hired and that someone else would be performing my job as adviser. For starters, I was never told it was a temporary position and, secondly, I could have just as easily been informed before going to BCT.”

The reservist’s supervisor at UNF, Thom Van Schor, says that the adviser’s one-year contract ran out at the end of the last school year and the school chose not to renew it. The part-time adviser’s decision to join the Army reserves had no effect on the school’s decision, VanSchor says.

Parsons had been working part-time at UNF for about a year. After completing his college education in the early 1990s, Parsons worked in new media in Great Britain for the better part of the past decade.

In this case, Parsons ran afoul of liberal students whom he was working with at Osprey TV, the television station on campus. Those students objected to his patriotism and his conservatism.

Parsons recalls numerous occasions on which the young student manager at Osprey TV attempted to convince him of the wisdom of partial birth abortion and other liberal causes. The former media advisor said that he tried to avoid such politically-charged conversations.

That student who managed the TV station that Parsons advised told the advisor’s supervisor that Brian never came in to work. That student said he never saw Parsons. Parsons, for his part, recalls numerous attempts to meet with the young man only to find said student manager unavailable.

Currently, Parsons, who also runs his own business, is seeking the advice of state and federal government caseworkersl.