UCI ROTC: “The Zot Offensive”

Jason Davis | Staff Photographer

With President Obama’s December repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, a clause banning homosexuality in the nation’s armed forces, UCI ROTC Battalion Commander Christian Peralta, veteran David Curry, California State Director of Student Veterans of America and ASUCI Veterans Liaison Alex Louie, met last Monday with Chancellor Drake and other administrative leaders to propose the university’s first ROTC program under the School of Social Ecology.

In April 2010, ASUCI Legislation voted 14-0-1 in support of advancing a proposal for an ROTC Military Science program. Cadet Peralta, among other supporters, rallied the School of Social Ecology for support. After several meetings, the School of Social Ecology, toeing the bureaucratic line with the Ivies like Harvard and Columbia, rejected the proposal based on DADT’s discrimination to “students that identify with being lesbian, gay, transgender, or queer.”

But with the repeal of DADT signed into law, ROTC advocates enthusiastically approached ASUCI to meet with the chancellor.

That optimism ended prematurely, however, as Chancellor Drake nixed the plan, citing budget constraints from new Governor Jerry Brown’s proposed cuts to education.

“Based on our financial budget crisis assessment,” said Chancellor Drake, “we cannot further add new services to the existing services and programs we have today.”

According to Cadet Peralta, the military provides everything the university would need, including military science instructors, office furniture and equipment, including technology and computers, student textbooks, uniforms, transportation to training sites, scholarships, room and board and stipends while complying with all applicable university and school policies.

The setback came as a surprise to the cadets, but it is just the latest in a string of administrative curiosities that date back to April 2009. After receiving a letter of recommendation from then Vice Chancellor Manuel Gomez last year, ROTC advocates were redirected to the Academic Senate. There, Associate Executive Vice Chancellor Arias, Vice Chancellor Brase (May 2009), Executive Vice Chancellor Gottfredson (May 2009), Associate Executive Vice Chancellor Tomcheck (May 2009), Director Umali of Dean of Students (September 2009) and Associate Dean Tyagi (March 2010) could not be reached for further comment.

In June 2009, ROTC received a letter of recommendation from Dean Salinger of Undergraduate Education, regarding course credit approval for Military Science classes. By October though, ASUCI External Affairs denied the cadets’ request for university space during the Student Center renovation.

“If we just had a small room for instruction, or a place to store our gear,” said Peralta. “That would be a great first step.”
UCLA, UC Berkeley, UC Davis and UC Santa Barbara all have ROTC programs, but the 25 UCI ROTC cadets have to enroll in Military Science courses at Cal State Long Beach. And while the cadets could choose to go to school elsewhere, each has specifically chosen UCI.

“When I left West Point for UCI, there were around 5 cadets,” said Peralta. “We’ve doubled our numbers every year that I’ve been here.”

Because UCI’s ROTC is not officially sanctioned, growth of the campus club is determined by limited funds from private donations. Peralta fears if he and others cannot win over the administration, including Chancellor Drake, that ROTC will decrease in size while demand, as a result of heightened fees, will only increase.

“We’ve had over 70 e-mail inquiries for 2010-2011,” said Peralta, “and that doesn’t include the interest from students coming up to the booths during Welcome Week.”

Now, in a time when even the Ivy League schools are making progress after the repeal of DADT, UCI has the opportunity to correct the initial wrongdoing. ROTC cannot function as a club without support and recognition by the school, and until it gets that, it won’t be recognized by the military. Without an officially recognized program, the club will not get scholarship money from the military, and the club will continue to turn down qualified applicants.

“The question that has yet to be answered by our administration or Academic Senate is if the objection to a Department of Defense funded ROTC program has a moral basis in regards to the recently repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. If so, then why has the campus willingly accepted millions of dollars in DOD research funding annually the entire time the policy was in effect?

“You have to keep in mind that Orange County is a conservative county largely due to the high number of veterans that settled when the county was first being developed (El Toro MCAS in Irvine and Tustin MCAS in Tustin). Many of those same people are likely donors to the institution. What does it say to them if UC Irvine comes off as elitist compared to Berkeley and UCLA who already have ROTC programs?”

“We just need a home,” said Peralta, “but I think they’re just waiting for Dave (Curry) and I to graduate. We’ve been the most vocal students and what will happen when we leave?”