As a USF student and ROTC cadet, I was shocked by the allegations of sexual assault against one of our former cadets. In the wake of these accusations, I am happy to know that both the University and the Army took quick action and almost immediately struck his name from our rosters, opening the door for a formal investigation into the alleged crimes. Since the publication of these most unfortunate events, people have cried out for varied solutions, and there is still an ongoing debate concerning whether or not a military program is “appropriate” at a Catholic university. The April 8 issue of the Foghorn showcased a letter from “Concerned Students of the University of San Francisco” which asks Fr. Privett and the Board of Trustees to impose a mandatory “leadership and certification program on gender and sexual violence” for all students in ROTC.
This type of approach is unfair to our cadets. USF ROTC students already engage in mandatory training concerning equal opportunity, sexual harassment and assault, consideration of others, suicide prevention, and other such issues throughout their four years here. In many cases, our normal training curriculum is suspended and replaced with even more obligatory educational seminars. Just a few weeks ago, we had to cut our tactical training short in order to accommodate an immediately-mandated Army-wide suicide prevention training course. At 6:00 AM on April 13 and 14, instead of conducting our normal physical training sessions, we attended mandatory behavior modification training.
All USF students are engaged in rigorous curricula working towards a degree, and cadets are no different. We are also involved in ROTC, a program which, taking into account all our concurrent military training, requires more extracurricular time commitment than any other sport or organization on campus. The proposal of “four seminar classes” per semester “which would run an hour in a half”, requiring “lecture, discussion, and written assessment” is an unjust proposition for students already carrying strenuous burdens both in their rucksacks and in their transcripts.
The writers of the letter point out that such a “special program” is especially appropriate for cadets because “the average USF student will never experience what [students in] ROTC will be subjected to”, as if the social justice-oriented curriculum of USF will be the only moral-ethical formation we will ever undergo as soldiers before a tour of duty. We will not be immediately sent to a combat unit and deploy to Iraq or Afghanistan shortly after graduation. ROTC is only the first step of a three-tier officer development process. After graduation and commissioning, we get more training not only on the tactical side and in the administrative side, which includes dealing with concrete problems such as sexual assault and suicide prevention. There could be 12-16 months of training after graduation before we ever take command of platoons. Throughout careers, officers are always gaining and renewing qualifications that allow them to deal with these complex and unfortunate problems.
I am not denying that the rate of sexual assault in the military is well above the civilian average. But imposing this type of program solely on cadets is not the way to go. If we in ROTC must undertake this special curriculum because the military is a context of higher risk for sexual assault, then I submit that USF students who come from rural and inner-city areas must also undergo some similar certification, for these are also locations where misogyny, sexual assault, and violent crimes in general are more prevalent when compared to suburban areas. (Lewis, S. 2003. Unspoken Crimes: Sexual Assault in Rural America.) The armed forces should not be singled out when its deplorable problems are the sme ones that similarly pervade other parts of society.
Finally, the suggestion of the “eight areas of education” in the proposed program for cadets must have been made by someone who has never opened any of our military science books, attended our military science seminars, or sat in our military science classes. I will not explicitly enumerate these eight areas, for which the reader can refer to the last issue. I will only say that it is preposterous to suggest amendments or additions to our curriculum without having examined in detail what our workload covers. I invite anybody to clear any misconceptions they might have about ROTC by taking a more-than-cursory peek into our experience as cadets.
Joey Belleza is a junior theology major.