ROTC Students Want To End SDSU Trips

By Katlin Sweeney

Students currently enrolled in ROTC must travel 60 miles round-trip from CSUSM to SDSU to take the appropriate classes, which has sparked the debate over whether military science courses should be offered on campus.

A favorable vote from the Academic Senate would allow ROTC members, as well as any students interested in the subject material, to take military science courses at CSUSM. The classes would focus on leadership skills while having military principals.

Students can participate in ROTC at CSUSM, however the courses that are required for them to take are cross-enrolled through SDSU. ROTC students are required to commute to San Diego on Tuesdays for an outdoors leadership lab and on Thursdays for work in the classroom. The program is extremely time intensive, some participants commuting up to four times a week for extra training to help them excel.

Proponents for military science courses say that making them available at CSUSM will save ROTC members currently driving to SDSU on a weekly basis drastic amounts of time and money.

In the case of former ROTC member Jeff Gutowski, commuting to San Diego cost him $2000 a semester in gas. While financial aid was able to help with the expenses, Gutowski says that many members have to drop out of the program because they cannot afford the gas on their own.

A student that wants to complete the ROTC program must finish it within four years, or five years if they have an approved special major. This adds an even greater sense of urgency for students to build the rest of their class schedule around when the ROTC courses they need are offered. However, students must also graduate with a college degree in order to ensure that they meet all qualifications necessary for pursuing a job in the armed forces post-graduation.

“I had to quit because I didn’t have enough time to graduate, and because of the cost factor,” Gutowski said. “I’m such an advocate [of ROTC] because it is such a good program. It teaches you things you can’t get around school. But some students have to be down to SDSU by 6 a.m. They are there for three hours and then have to rush back to CSUSM for a 10:15 class, and are on campus as late as 8 p.m. so that they can get the rest of their classes they need. The commute limits their ability to actually invest in the program.”

David Casas, who has stayed in the program and still commutes to SDSU on a regular basis, echoed similar sentiments about how the time and financial burden have negatively impacted his experience. Casas, who graduates this semester, is working towards a career in the Air Force.

“To compete, you have to put in extra time and effort to your responsibilities and take the initiative to get them done. The day you join, you’re in charge of people. Learning to manage people requires a lot of face time, so I have be there for three hours, twice a week,” Casas said. “It’s a lot of management right off the back. And you have to make sure that you yourself are competitive so that you can work towards a career as a pilot, nurse, or any other professional career you want. You have to promote yourself so that they see that you are worth the Air Force’s dollar for them to invest in you.”

Critics of having military science courses on campus argue that integrating them into the university course catalogue would be a step in the wrong direction. Opponents say that the military’s message of bloodshed and violence are not as productive on a college campus as offering nonmilitary and diplomatic solutions.

“[CSUSM] has a different purpose for our existence. We are not about military engagements. I’m always sympathetic to students of how difficult it is to piece together work, classes, family and personal time. It’s not that I totally don’t hear that issue,” Sociology Dept. Chair, Dr. Sharon Elise, said. “But that’s not what the CSU means or what we came here to build. This is the people’s university and we can show people other options they have besides being trained in the art of killing. How does that fit with what I do as a faculty member?”

The Cougar Chronicle recently surveyed 240 students about their opinion of military science courses and whether or not they should be allowed on campus. An overwhelming majority was found in favor of Army ROTC, and many participants were open to military science courses being offered on campus. However, there was no unanimous agreement to either entity.

Out of 240 students, 201 participants answered that they were very or somewhat familiar with Army ROTC, whereas 39 participants were not at all familiar. 213 participants answered that they thought there should be an Army ROTC program on campus, 5 participants were opposed to it and 20 participants did not feel informed enough to answer.

When asked about their familiarity with military science courses, 103 participants answered that they had heard of these classes, 70 participants had taken them in the past and 66 participants were not familiar with military science courses at all. After receiving a brief definition of what military science courses are, 110 participants said that they would be interested in taking the courses, 56 participants answered that the classes were of no interest and 73 participants said they would want to learn more information about them before deciding.

Finally, participants were asked if they would be opposed to other CSUSM students taking military science courses. 232 participants answered that they were not opposed, and seven participants answered that they were opposed. Two students chose to comment on the last question, one participant stating that they were neither for nor against military science courses because there had not been sufficient communication and information provided about the classes.

“We have enough military all around the world. Plus, we’re in the Marines’ backyard. I hope CSUSM is one place the students can get away from military influence. As a veteran, I see this as propaganda,” the other anonymous survey participant wrote.

The Academic Senate is comprised of approximately 50 members, ranging from faculty to administrators to students. The diverse range of opinions about military science will be the crucial deciding factor in whether they will vote for or against bringing the courses to campus.

“The Academic Senate at CSUSM will hold a discussion about ROTC on campus sometime this spring. We value, and will take into account, student opinion when we hold our discussion,” Academic Senate Chair, Dr. Vivienne Bennett, said. “We will use the responses to this survey as a measure of student interest and support for or opposition to ROTC and/or military science courses on campus.”

The Cougar Chronicle The independent student news site of California