The Anti-military Bias On Campus

Jerry Coffee
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Wednesday - November 23, 2005
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Historically, college campuses have been the lightening rod for anti-military sentiment and violence. This has ranged from peaceful candlelight vigils to the occupation of administrative buildings, from the torching of ROTC facilities to the tragic deaths of students at Kent State during the Vietnam war. Even now there is strife on America’s campuses between academia and the military.

Now pending on the Supreme Court’s docket is the issue of campus recruiting by the military. Some “elite” East Coast universities showed their anti-military bias by banning military recruiters from their campuses alongside corporate recruiters. The Feds said fine, no recruiting, no federal funding. Since most campuses have reasonable nondiscrimination (equal opportunity) requirements for corporations recruiting on them, the American Taliban (aka the ACLU) jumped in and has tried to justify the ban on military recruiters based upon “the military’s discrimination against homosexuals” - a reference to the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which basically means that homosexuals are welcome to serve in the military so long as they keep their sexual lives private. Many join and do.

Our own University of Hawaii is certainly no exception to this phenomenon.

I recently spent a couple of days on the Manoa campus attending sessions of the four-day symposium on “Literature and Film of the Vietnam War,” a potentially useful and enriching experience sponsored and very effectively organized by the English Department. Presenters included Denby Fawcett of KITV and Tad Bartimus of Hana, both of whom gave excellent teaching examples of how even much of their current writing is informed by their experiences as news correspondents in Vietnam. Unfortunately, they were more the exception than the rule as presenter after presenter drifted into angry and faithless anti-war/anti-military politicization of their presentations, if not by diatribe, then by constant innuendo.

The obvious “darling” of the symposium was Tim O’Brien, the prolific author of several Vietnam-based novels. He is talented and had much to teach in his keynote address, “Thirty Years After.” But, sadly, he frequently couldn’t resist politicizing his material with irrelevant anti-Iraq and anti-Bush rhetoric. And even when he did resist, fawning students or faculty in the audience would draw it out of him with their leading questions to which they already knew his answers.

Gen. Eric Shinseki, U.S. Army (Ret.) spoke one evening to an overflow crowd at the Campus Center. He spoke of his upbringing on Kauai and his Army career which culminated as the Chief of Staff of the Army. Apparently, his speech was not partisan enough for the audience comprised mostly of students and faculty, who had obviously expected him to air his well-publicized differences with the Bush administration on appropriate troop levels in Iraq. After his formal remarks, a long line formed for Q&A. Most of the questions were preceded by mini “speeches of opportunity” with anti-military undertones. But try as they may, the general refused to be sucked in - a form of diplomacy well-honed in a long, successful military career.

The current point of contention at Manoa is the pending establishment of the University Affiliated Research Center (UARC), a formal University-Navy research partnership with “win-win” written all over it. The partnership would facilitate joint projects with national security applications, most of which would have civilian applications as well. Nevertheless, the UARC was the catalyst for the illegal, weeklong student-faculty occupation of the president’s office last spring, and is still being portrayed as an evil monster octopus with tentacles probing and encircling every aspect of Manoa’s academic life.

Anti-UARC articles by Beverly Keever, professor of journalism at UH-Manoa, were passed out at the Shinseki event. After misrepresenting later emerging details of the UH-Navy contract as a diabolical coverup, she concludes, “These surprises ... are likely to stoke rising tensions on UH’s flagship campus” - a prophecy she no doubt intends to help come true.

Granted, college is the time for idealism and hope, the time we enjoy before having to actually deal with the real world. But that doesn’t excuse university faculty - who are supposed to already be in the real world, and wiser than their students - from making and teaching the connection between academic freedom and the source of that freedom - our Constitution - which our military is sworn to “protect and defend.”

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