Concise Encyclopedia of Tufts HistorySauer, Anne
The Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC) was established at Tufts in 1942, in order to help train reserve soldiers for duty in the Second World War.
During the First World War, Tufts established a branch of the Student Army Training Corps because of the need to train a large number of soldiers in a short amount of time. At the end of the war, the Tufts program was rated one of the five most effective in the country. Drawing from this experience, Tufts President Leonard Carmichael suggested that Tufts establish something similar to support American involvement in the new conflict.
In 1941, Carmichael officially requested the allocation of a Naval ROTC unit to Tufts. Almost immediately, the request was granted, and Tufts became one of the eight colleges to establish an NROTC program during the 1941-42 academic year. The program was headquartered in the old AMRAD wing of . The program staff consisted of three commissioned officers and a non-commissioned staff. The first of these officers to come to Tufts was Captain C.H.J. Keppler, who had previously been the head of the NROTC program at Brown University. Keppler arrived at Tufts in 1941 to oversee the organization of the program, and was given the title of Professor of Naval Sciences. In 1942, Captain Preston B. Haines became the commander of the Tufts program, a position he held until 1945.
Originally, enrollment in the program was limited to one hundred freshmen from either liberal arts or engineering. Students took one course each year in the newly established the Department of Naval Science and Tactics. During their schooling, students were classified as V-1, putting them on inactive duty so they could complete their studies. After completing the four-year course, students could then take the appropriate exams and receive commissions as either ensigns in the Naval Reserve, or second lieutenants in the Marine Corps Reserve. Membership in the NROTC was voluntary, but Carmichael was certain that all freshmen males would want to participate.
The purpose of the NROTC program was to produce technically trained personnel, schooled in wide subject areas. Therefore, Tufts worked to integrate the NROTC program into the rest of the college, allowing NROTC courses to substitute for some requirements, and setting up a Committee for Visitors.
On July 1, 1943, with the war escalating, Tufts became a host school for the V-12 program, meaning that the campus would now host trainees on active duty. One thousand new trainees arrived on campus, and all of the students already enrolled in the program were switched from V-1 to V-12. The School for War Service was established to administer the program, and by late summer, all of the Tufts NROTC programs were functional. By 1944, Tufts had trained more men directly from civilian life to commissions in the Naval Reserve than any other New England college.
As the Second World War came to and end, the administration decided that the NROTC should be established permanently at Tufts. The request was approved by the Navy, which at the same time was ending its wartime V-12 programs and switching back to the pre-war NROTC programs.
In the fall of 1945, with an enrollment quota of 571 students, the NROTC program began its first peacetime year. At first, students had difficulty fulfilling all of the Tufts distribution requirements while taking the NROTC courses, and the administration was forced to set up an alternate degree program. Students participating in the NROTC were awarded a Bachelor of Naval Science degree. Within a year, the Navy had readjusted the program, and none of the new degrees were awarded after 1946.
For the next few years, the NROTC program continued to expand. In 1949, seeing the popularity of the NROTC unit, an Air Force ROTC program began operation at Tufts. At the same time, Army ROTC programs were in full swing at both the medical and dental schools. During the Korean War, almost seventy percent of the Tufts male population was enrolled in either the NROTC or the AFROTC. In fact, the ROTC population at Tufts had grown so large that in 1952 the trustees voted to construct a building devoted to the ROTC program. The building, Sweet Hall, was opened in 1954, and served as headquarters to the ROTC programs for the rest of their tenure at Tufts.
Although the early 1950s was one of the strongest periods for the NROTC at Tufts, by 1958, the program was lagging. In order to spark interest in the program, the College of Engineering restructured its requirements so that NROTC courses took the place of the humanities requirement. This caused much controversy, and in 1966, the faculty finally formed a concrete policy, making NROTC courses count as free electives, not humanities courses.
The program was also in financial trouble. With the cost of college tuition rising, it was becoming more difficult for the Navy to cover all of its trainees' college costs. They reduced the student limit in all of their ROTC programs, prompting objections from college administrators.
The NROTC and AFROTC programs, through the 1950s, had been quite successful at Tufts, and had not been questioned by non-ROTC students. This all changed with the outbreak of the Vietnam War. The AFROTC program began to face its own problems by 1964. Enrollment was so low between 1964 and 1967 that in 1968, AFROTC officials announced the program would cease operation in 1972, when its current trainees had graduated. The NROTC problem, though facing low enrollment, had enough students to successfully continue. By 1968, however, the NROTC was facing pressure from students and faculty who began to question the place of military institutions on college campuses.
During the 1968-1969 academic year, much campus discussion focused on the NROTC program. In fact, the disagreements became so intense that on April 16, 1969, administrators cancelled afternoon classes in order to hold a meeting about the future of the ROTC programs. Twenty-five students were allowed into Ballou Hall to argue the matter in front of the entire faculty. A loudspeaker was set up outside to allow the rest of the student body to listen in. After three and a half hours of debate, the faculty put forward the recommendation that the NROTC be discontinued immediately, but that enrolled students should be allowed to complete their programs and graduate. They ignored the AFROTC program because it had already announced its cancellation without student pressure. The vote divided the liberal arts and engineering faculty, as many engineers felt the program was extremely useful, and also angered a large number of Tufts alumni.
Due to the overwhelming alumni response, the trustees met to discuss the NROTC issue. At first, the faculty recommendation was voted down 9-13. They petitioned the Navy to change the program and make it an extracurricular activity, and found that the Navy had been planning on closing the Tufts program anyway. In December, 1969, taking into consideration the Navy's plans for the program, the trustees upheld the faculty proposal and the program was ended after the final class graduated in 1973.
The NROTC issue did not remain quiet for long. In the fall of 1976, after a number of student petitions, the faculty voted to allow students to register for ROTC courses at MIT. No Tufts faculty members were involved, and Tufts would not accept ROTC courses for credit. The trustees approved the faculty vote, and Tufts students began training at MIT.
As of 2001, Tufts still has no ROTC program, but interested students continue to participate through the MIT program.
Source: LOH1, LOH2
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