• Rumors of unfair privileges – such as free parking for non-USF ROTC cadets – surround the Joint Military Center’s recent opening.
• University students and faculty opposed to war have long made ROTC programs across the United States objects of protest.
ROTC administrators on the USF campus feel their organization is unfairly targeted. They think the ROTC merely trains the next generation of American military leaders.
Criticisms of the ROTC’s presence on the USF campus extend beyond anti-war protests, however, and include rather routine complaints about fairness, such as allegations of special treatment of cadets and claims that the C.W. Bill Young Hall housing the program is an unneeded building.
War worries, recruitment concerns
Some question whether the new ROTC building is a foothold for military recruiting on campus.
E.J. Ford, a doctoral candidate in the College of Business, took issue with the fact that ROTC is sending students off to fight in a war he described negatively.
“I think that service to your country is a wonderful thing and that people – young men and women – who commit to public service should be honored and respected,” he said.
“About the only negative thing that I will say about the ROTC is that I don’t particularly appreciate the fact that the national military policy seems to be grooming these kids for the current war. It is unfortunate that any university spends resources on expanding the corps of personnel to be sent abroad to this illegal and immoral war in Iraq.”
Sarao and others within ROTC don’t see the point of directing anti-war opposition towards the ROTC.
“The military is one instrument of the U.S. Government,” he said. “You also have to look at the Department of State, the economy, politics and all that are part of U.S. policy.”
ROTC staffers also insist that military recruitment on campus will not increase with the new building. The University administration places no limits on ROTC recruitment on
campus, however, and the ROTC sets its own quotas.
Currently, the Army ROTC program has 150 cadets. Botters said its goal is to “take it up to about 200” cadets.
Military recruiters from the Army and other branches who occasionally frequent the Bull Market on Wednesdays are not affiliated with ROTC, he said.
“We’re selling a different product,” said Botters of those recruiters. The ROTC program offers benefits that military recruiters do not.
Sarao believes that campuses – even those where there is anti-ROTC sentiment – are a great place for cadets because of the diversity of ideas. “I think a public university is a great place for this training,” he said.
“On a public university, the students are exposed to all types of thinking. When they’re in the armed forces, they represent the whole country. To become well-rounded at a public university is good for them.”
Botters stressed that the program worked at training well-rounded cadets.
“We don’t want this to be a fortress on the University; we don’t want the cadets to not be interacting with the students,” he said. “We’re not zombies.”
Some students and faculty said the ROTC cadets receive special parking privileges, including free parking. Parking and Transportation Services (PTS) allowed non-USF ROTC cadets to park in the Sun Dome lot for free without a permit, according to Lt. Col. Botters of the USF Army ROTC.
USF’s ROTC services students from seven area colleges and universities, including Eckerd College.
Manuel Lopez, director of PTS, confirmed that non-USF ROTC students received free parking, but said that the policy was cancelled this year because of the lack of parking space.
“We used to be able to afford giving free or discounted parking, but, as I hope you can see, the parking situation is not the same today as it was a few years ago,” he said.
Lopez said PTS negotiated a new agreement with non-USF cadets. The new agreement allows non-USF cadets to purchase a non-resident annual or semester permit or a Park-n-Ride permit.