Where to start? What to say? What do you even do when someone tells you all of your well thought out plans are now irrelevant? This is what many of our students in the Tennessee Tech University R.O.T.C. program were told about three weeks ago.
Even though we have all heard by now what the Army is planning to do, we are still reeling from the suddenness of this decision. This decision will shift programs from smaller universities to larger ones, in order to increase diversity and the number of commissioned officers.
President Oldham is doing what he can to reverse this decision or is at least trying to figure out some other way for these students to be able to remain here and finish their education.
R.O.T.C. shouldn’t only be about how many commissioned officers the Army is supposed to have; it should be about the quality of the education, not diversity or numbers. Quality over quantity is better than having nothing at all.
The worst part about this shutdown is how this affects the students. Don’t kid yourself; this will affect students not in the R.O.T.C. program. We go to classes with these students, take the same tests, cheer on the same team. They are a part of this school community and they are being taken away from us.
If you are anything like me, you hold on to your family even when you don’t really know them. Your extended family is still important to you. People you go to the coffee shop with or attend church with, no matter what they are a part of you and the affect you in ways you may never understand.
In the recent article in the New York Times an economist was quoted basically calling people in the south usually overweight with no inclination to exercise. She is claiming that we have no inclination to even try and meet the Army’s high standards for physical fitness and education because we are rural and in the South.
Here is what I say to her, just because you study for years doesn’t mean you actually know anything. I can honestly say this, I have been in college for six and a half years and I have found that you can never truly know the people you don’t have a personal investment in.
This school has a personal investment in the students in the ROTC program. It is dedicated to giving them an extremely high standard in education and pushes them into a vigorous physical fitness program that helps each and everyone of them strive for more.
We are one of the top-ranked schools in the South and we have a long history with high-ranking officers in the Army. The reasons behind this closure still baffle me.
I am proud to say this, the students in the ROTC program are handling this better than most of us. Most are adamant about staying their course and continuing at a different school if they must. Some are sure they will not leave this school.
My only prayer is that the ones who were relying on the scholarships they receive don’t end up having to drop out of school. They may possibly go directly into the military and be deployed. Some will never come back and finish their degrees. Some may not come back at all. This shutdown makes a vicious cycle continue in the South. One where a high school diploma is all that they will get, just like their parents and grandparents.
Carl W. Stiner, an alumni of the TTU R.O.T.C. program, who is now a retired four-star general, said it best in the New York Times article, “I don’t believe in shifting, just to get more people of different backgrounds, at the expense of these R.O.T.C. programs…You will deny people who want to be commissioned through the R.O.T.C. program and serve their country.”
My thoughts on this shutdown will forever be against it but Army officials aren’t elected; however I will not sit and take it. These students deserve to be here and they work very hard. Those in our program may be few but they are mighty and I am proud to know they come from Tech.