On an issue that has sharply divided Stanford students, the university's Faculty Senate Thursday voted decisively to invite the Reserve Officers' Training Corps back onto campus for the first time since the 1970s.
On a vote of 28 to 9 with 3 abstentions, the elected faculty representatives backed the return of the officers' training program under supervision by a faculty committee, stipulating that the military classes must be open to all Stanford students -- not just ROTC candidates.
"Our country needs innovative, broadly educated military leaders and we believe that Stanford -- as one of the nation's leading universities -- has a responsibility to help prepare them," Stanford President John Hennessy said in a statement after the vote.
The return of ROTC also will benefit Stanford by giving all students "opportunities for discussion about civic responsibility, human rights and the role of the military," Hennessy added.
The vote affirmed the unanimous recommendation of a committee, composed of seven professors and two undergraduates, to investigate "Stanford's role in preparing students for leadership in the military." The committee was convened following last year's repeal of the Defense Department's "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy.
This year's campus debate over ROTC, which dominated a recent student government election, has been a far cry from antiwar fervor of 1970, when the Faculty Senate voted 36 to 8 to terminate academic credit for ROTC.
This time, the major stated objection to ROTC was not opposition to war but to military policies that ROTC opponents said amount to discrimination against transgendered recruits, not covered under the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell.
"I ask you to vote against ROTC, not as a statement against the military and against war, but as a statement for justice and for our community," said Michael Cruz, a Stanford junior recently elected to head student government next year.
"As an Asian-American student, 60 years ago I would not have been allowed to join ROTC due to my race," Cruz said, asking the faculty to extend the same protections to transgendered students it extends to gay and minority students.
Besides the transgender points, professors skeptical of ROTC questioned the degree of Stanford oversight and critical rigor of prospective courses offered through ROTC, as well as how Stanford would measure success or failure of the program.
But the faculty appeared more persuaded by the arguments of Stanford sophomore Imani Franklin, one of the student members of the committee recommending the return of ROTC.
Imani argued in favor of the "civic education" that ROTC would contribute to campus.
"Right now, wars are happening and someone has to fight them," Franklin said.
"Every single one of us in this room benefits from the military.... To support ROTC is to support exposing our community to that entire segment of this country ... and engage us in these hard conversations around military service that this community needs to have," she said.
Former U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry, a retired Stanford professor of management science and engineering, was a key player in the move to consider a return of ROTC to Stanford.
Perry said educated military leaders contribute to enlightened military policies, noting that top generals including former Joint Chiefs Chairman John Shalikashvili and former Defense Secretary Colin Powell -- as well as he himself -- are ROTC graduates.
"Stanford does have an opportunity to help create the military leaders who will make enlightened decisions of the future," said Perry, who served in the Clinton administration.
"Bringing ROTC back is the single most important opportunity you will have at Stanford to seize that opportunity," he told the faculty.
Another organizer behind the debate, retired history professor David Kennedy, told the faculty Thursday, "The military provides us all with a public service and a public good -- it's called national security.
"We'd have a high argument to maintain that Stanford should continue to be a free rider ... particularly when, as an institution, we're so well-positioned to contribute to the education of the officers corps," Kennedy said.
Thursday's vote formally instructed Hennessy to begin conversations with military branches about the process for re-establishing ROTC at Stanford.
The 15 or so Stanford students who currently participate in ROTC must travel to Santa Clara University, San Jose State University or the University of California at Berkeley -- depending on their service branch -- to attend classes and drills.