The Fight Against Compulsory R.O.T.C on UC Berkeley Campus (Rossman Report - fall 1964)

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       The Morrill Land Grant Act of 1862 gave lands to the states, the sale of which would provide funds to maintain state colleges. It required that courses in mechanics, agriculture and military tactics be offered. The latter was inserted parenthetically and did not actually appear in the original act. (1) Nevertheless, the Morrill Act provided the foundation for compulsory ROTC -- although stipulating that military training be offered, not necessarily required. The State Organic Act or 1868, however, made ROTC compulsory at the University of California. In 1918, the situation was changed again when an amendment to the state Constitution put the responsibility for such matters into the hands of a Board of Regents -- where it remains today. (2)

       Protests against compulsory ROTC took place intermittently after its inception in 1862. Student referendums and demonstrations, faculty and administration committees, and Defense Department decisions contributed to a reversal in University policy that was finally instituted in 1962. The sequence of events which led to this 1962 decision began with a student referendum in the winter of 1956.

       A Committee for Voluntary ROTC was formed in the first week of December, 1956. Its purpose was to effect the passage of a referendum calling for voluntary ROTC. (3) The Committee, headed by Hank di Suvero, immediately ran into difficulties. That week, the administration refused them permission to pass out a leaflet which advocated voluntary ROTC. The Dean of Students (Stone) said that it would litter the campus and burden the janitorial staff. He later changed his stand, stating that the leaflet was neither an official piece of University literature nor something endorsed by the ASUC, and, therefore, it would need the sanction of the Executive Committee of the ASUC (now known as the ASUC Senate). Di Suvero took his case to Ex Com asking that it support the distribution of leaflets presenting either side of the issue. Ex Com turned down di Suvero's request by a 8-6 vote. (4)

       The Administration's ruling on the distribution of ROTC literature did not prevent, however, the Military Department's distribution of pro-compulsory ROTC pamphlets in all of its classes. (5) Among other interesting developments was a Student Civil Liberties Union sponsored debate pitting two members of the Military Science Department against di Suvero and a professor of Philosophy, Edward R. Strong. Previously, with Strong as chairman, the faculty Committee on Educational Policy had put itself on record as opposing compulsory ROTC. The SCLU had also issued a statement at this time criticizing the loyalty oath requirements of the ROTC program. Those who strongly objected to loyalty oaths were thus barred from entering U.C. as freshmen. (6)

       In spite of the Dean's ruling, on December 10 leaflets were distributed, but off-campus. (7) The referendum with only men students voting passed -- 1,591 to 715. (8) The passing of the referendum marks the beginning of a five and a half year fight. In the spring semester of 1957, Ex Com could not decide how the results of the referendum should be presented to the Regents. Imitating the administration's methods, it set up a committee headed by Roger Muldavin to work out this problem. (9) In late 1957, the Regents finally received the referendum and promptly responded by referring it to their Committee on Educational Policy for study. (10)

       A bit of history is quite relevant here. For this is not the first time the Regents were confronted with the ROTC question as their referring it for study might suggest.

1936 - petition of 3,000 mothers for voluntary ROTC (11)
         - student referendum 5-2 against compulsory ROTC (12)
         - Regents unanimous for compulsory ROTC (13)

1939 - Ex Com 9-4 for voluntary ROTC (14)
         - Regents against voluntary ROTC 14-2 (15)

1940 - Poll of students 3-1 for voluntary ROTC (15)
         - Regents against voluntary ROTC

1956 - Student referendum 2-1 for voluntary ROTC

       After the referendum of December, 1956 and the subsequent events of early 1957, from the fall of 1957 to the fall of 1959 the issue lay dormant in the hands of the Regents in Committee. In this period, the faculty Committee on Educational Policy condemned compulsory ROTC as "wasteful and inequitable". (16) The most significant event of the period was the publication of the Lyons and Masland report on the ROTC (1959). This report was generally recognized as a thorough and competent study of the problem. (17) The authors concluded that the compulsory program was costing more than it was worth and that a voluntary program (1) more than met the needs of national defense and (2) would produce more qualified officers with a higher morale. (18) (In February, 1960 Assistant Secretary of Defense, Charles C. Finucane, concurred with the Lyons-Masland report, and went on record as favoring "freedom of choice" when land grant colleges were confronted with the issue of whether or not to have compulsory ROTC. (19) )

       In the fall of 1959, action on the issue was revived by the students. ASUC President, David Armor, announced that he was going to write to student body presidents of all land grant colleges in the United States to solicit opinions and suggestions for obtaining voluntary ROTC. (20) A week later, Assemblyman Nicholas Petris (Dem-Oakland) in an interview suggested ways in which the State Legislature might handle the issue. (21) Then, at 7:45 A.M., Monday, October-19, 1959, an entering Freshman from Virginia walked onto the steps of Sproul Hall (the administration building) with a two-page statement, a petition, and a home-made sign that read: "Non-Compulsory ROTC. This seven day fast is undertaken to express my belief that the University of California should respect conscience." This was Fred Moore. His statement read in part:

...I filed an exemption form asking to be excused from the military requirements. I gave as my reason: I am a conscientious objector...I object to killing and any action aiding war or the purpose of war due to my religious and conscientious beliefs. It was rejected...I went to the Dean of Students' Office and explained my reasons for not wanting to take ROTC. They showed me a list stating the exemptions. My case did not fall under any of the exemptions. (Exemptions were: physical disability, previous military training or service, or foreign citizenship...) The Dean of Students made it quite clear that I either sign up and take ROTC, or withdraw from the University. Through fasting for seven days, I hope to help bring about action which will result in a provision making the ROTC voluntary or exempting students who cannot participate in military training due to their religious and conscientious beliefs. This fast is undertaken to show my earnestness concerning the problem."

       At 10:30, Moore was handed a message saying that Dean of Students, William Shepard, would like to see him. He returned at 11:15 saying that he made a call to his mother who was very upset. Then to a student reporter, he stated: "If I am forced to leave my place on the Sproul Hall steps, it will be because of circumstances beyond my control and not because my convictions have altered or changed." Moore also said that he was not a member of any organized religion or political party. About his father who was an Air Force Colonel, he said: "My father knows about this and does not approve. I am not doing this to hurt him...we just do not agree about the purpose of the military." (22)

       Moore's fast lasted two days and two nights, and his petition had 1,300 signatures. His father then accompanied him to his Arlington, Virginia home. The father's comment on his son's actions may well be heeded by our educators: "This is his business; I have raised my children to make their own decisions." (23)

       Moore's fast had permanent effects. The fact that his father was an Air Force Colonel gave the story national news coverage. The San Francisco Chronicle in an editorial came out against compulsory ROTC. So did Governor Brown on October 27. (24) More important was the fact that at the Regents' meeting on October 23, Kerr appointed a faculty committee headed by Robert Brode to do a study for a possible change in the ROTC program. The report was to be sent to the Department of Defense and if the latter made no recommendations within a reasonable amount of time, Kerr would submit the matter to the Regents. (25)

       The dispute simmered for a few months until SLATE announced on February 5, 1960 that it would put out a petition calling for the end of ROTC and the petition would go to Governor Brown. (26) By the end of February, 3,000 students had signed the petition on the Berkeley campus. (27) Meanwhile, the Department of Defense announced that it was up to the universities whether or not they would have compulsory ROTC. The Department of the Army, however, desired that ROTC be compulsory. (28) On March 16, the SLATE petition with 7,000 signatures of Cal and UCLA students was presented to Governor Brown. (29)

       The ROTC dispute had become worthy once again of national news coverage. On March 29, NBC asked permission of the Administration to film the various views prevalent on campus about the ROTC. The request was made on Tuesday, and an answer desired by Friday. Deans Shepard, Sheriffs, Silar, and Wilkes met and announced that "the University has not enough time to reach a decision." (30) But they had had time; the decision not to make a decision in effect denied permission.

       Finally, the Brode Committee submitted its report for the April Regents' meeting. At that meeting, three student body presidents from the University of California (Berkeley, Los Angeles and Davis) argued for voluntary ROTC. One argued against (Santa Barbara). Then Kerr presented the Status Report on the ROTC. This said that no final decision on ROTC could be reached until after a meeting between representatives of U.C. and some forty other leading universities with officials from the Department of Defense (Navy, Army and Air Force). (NB: This is two months after the Department of Defense had recommended that the universities decide.) (31) This meeting was scheduled for the summer at Ohio State University. Before this meeting took place, Kerr and university officials knew that the Department of Defense, Navy and Air Force were for voluntary ROTC while the Army was strongly opposed. After the summer meeting, their views remained unchanged. (32) There was no word about compulsory ROTC from the Regents or Kerr until October. On October 13, the Daily Cal. quoted Regent Naffziger: "The issue (ROTC) could have been decided a month ago -- simple procrastination." (33) But at the Regents Meeting of October 17, ROTC was not discussed; instead, Proposition 4, calling for more funds for schools, was endorsed. (34) Unfortunately, the Regents were sidetracked by a political issue. In any case, it now appeared that Kerr had changed his stand. Defense Department approval was no longer sufficient; the recalcitrant Army had to concur. (35)

       After the Regents had ignored the ROTC issue for several months, SLATE decided to picket in front of ROTC drill field on the day before the December 1961 meeting of the Regents. (36) SLATE, like Fred Moore, wanted to impress upon the Regents the urgency of the problem. And, as in Moore's case, SLATE had used all accepted channels of communication. Direct action, as Moore's, appeared to be the only way to make the Regents appreciate students' rights and students' desires. Jim Creighton, the chairman of the SLATE committee on ROTC, assured the administration that the demonstration would be conducted in an orderly fashion and not disrupt classes. (38) Nevertheless, the head of the Department of Military Science, Colonel Malloy, warned that: "If I or any of my staff find anyone picketing in uniform, that student may find it very difficult to pass the course." (40)

       The next day, the Regents decided to discuss ROTC. In one positive action, they voted to allow student exemptions from the ROTC on the same basis as non-student exemptions are allowed in selective service regulations. Conscientious objectors, for the first time, could register as Freshmen at U.C. The Regents still refused to act on the main issue: voluntary ROTC. They gave as their reason the Kennedy administration's plan to reorganize the Department of Defense, and consequently the role of the ROTC in the nation's military needs. The Regents requested Kerr to report no later than spring 1962 on Kennedy's reappraisal. Kerr said that the Board of Regents hoped the reappraisal would result in a unified stand by all the services, and that it was now faced with conflicting advice from the Department of Defense and Army. The Army had stated that it "cannot meet its quantitative or qualitative officer requirements from the ROTC without the currently required basic course." (41) This was in conflict with the Lyons-Masland report, statements by the Department of Defense, and the findings of a U.C. faculty committee. Apparently the Regents were waiting for the new administration to coerce the Army into agreeing with the Department of Defense. (It is anyone's guess why the Regents awaited Army approval. They already had positive response from the rest of the Armed Services, faculty, students and independent studies.)

       At the end of the semester, Creighton received an F grade. The grade in ROTC is based on point totals from classroom work and merits or demerits assessed on the drill field. Honor student Creigton was not allowed to look at his total. It was soon revealed that Creigton's instructors (Gray and Mann) after conference with Colonel Malloy, had given him 100 demerits for picketing in uniform - thus lowering his grade from a B to an F. Creighton petitioned the Academic Senate to have his grade changed from an F to a B on the grounds that the grade was punitive. (42) Professor Jacobus ten Broek took up his case in the Academic Senate. He argued that when the Department of Military Science was established, it was specifically required that the program be conducted in accord with "institutional rules, regulations, and customs". (43) For example, a Military Science instructor is, with respect to the student, an instructor and not an officer, and that grades cannot be used as a tool of punishment. On the other hand, Malloy argued that Creighton had violated an ROTC regulation: "The uniform will be worn with dignity and honor at all times. It will never be worn under conditions that can bring disgrace or dishonor to the individual or the Service. It must never be associated with any controversial or independent organization, but will represent the United States Government Department to which it belongs." (44) There is an obvious conflict in the two positions.

       The real issue was whether or not the Academic Senate would exercise its authority to make the Department of Military Science adhere to the common procedures of teaching and grading. A committee was set up to handle Creighton's petition after a warning by Dean Shepard that the Academic Senate should be cautious about condemning any Department. (45)

       Eight months later in October, 1961, the Committee gave its report to the Academic Senate. Ten Broek then made two motions: first, to change Creighton's grade from an F to a B, and second, to investigate the grading policies of the Military Science Department in order to bring it into conformity with the "rules, regulations, and customs" of the University of California. (46) The Academic (47) Senate defeated the first motion 143-80, and the second motion 112-87. In connection with this refusal of the Academic Senate it is interesting to note the letter of the Head of the ROTC Lt. Col. Edward A. Owsley to Ernest Besig of the American Civil Liberties Union back in January of that year. This letter as much as confirmed that the grade given Creighton was punitive. "Because we are so firmly convinced that the basic course (ROTC) should be required, the Army views with great concern the endeavor of a vocal minority to induce educational institutions to adopt an elective ROTC course. Accordingly, we must adopt counter-measures and make our position clear regarding this program." (48)

       By the summer of 1961, the Department of the Army had finally agreed with the Departments of Defense. Navy and Air Force that the university should determine whether or not to have compulsory ROTC. With this, ROTC became voluntary at Michigan State, Ohio State, and Washington State, but not at U.C.

       After two more Ex Com votes to request voluntary ROTC from the Regents (on October 25, 1961 and March 7, 1962), it was rumored that Kerr in the May meeting of the Regents in 1962 would ask for voluntary ROTC. (49) At that meeting, Kerr recommended abolishing the entire lower division ROTC program, and offering only a voluntary two-year upper division program. The Regents postponed action on the recommendation for a month of study! (50)

       Then, on June 29, 1962, in Los Angeles the Regents voted to end compulsory ROTC, beginning with the fall semester of 1962. The Regents said that the Defense Department advised them that "compulsory basic ROTC was not needed to meet quality standards nor to produce numbers of officers required." Kerr stated that the action was taken "responsive to student petitions", but added that the proposal had confronted the Regents since 1877. (51) On the 19th of September, 1962, the Chairman of the Military Science Department said that ROTC enrollment had declined 90%. (52)

       The struggle against compulsory ROTC was conducted in a number of ways. Students made full use of formal channels of communication with the administration: referendums, petitions, and student government resolutions. The administration did not respond in a sincere way -- it procrastinated in reaction to outside pressure, and sometimes harassed the students by preventing them from presenting their point of view freely. Two instances of direct action the Moore and Creighton cases) spurred the Administration to action -- i.e. got the issue out of committees. But when there was a lull in student activity, the issues were again buried. This was a sad and sometimes ludicrous story. Its moral is clear.

-- Robert Johnson Grad., Math
   Elsa Johnson Grad., Slavic
   Eve Clarke Grad., City Planning


[See also the Bibliography, below.]

(1) Militarizing Our Youth, Roswell P. Barnes, New York, 1927, pp. 28-29.

(2) Daily Californian, 11 Feb 60 p.1.

(3) Ibid, 4 Dec 56 p.1.

(4) Ibid, 6 Dec 56 p.8. Latter to editor by Dave Jones and Hank di Suvero.

(5) Ibid, 10 Dec 56 p.1.

(6) Ibid, 5 Dec 56 p.1.

(7) Ibid, 7 Dec 56 p.1.

(8) Ibid, 19 Apr 60 p.1.

(9) Ibid, 16 May 57 p.1.

(10) Ibid, 3 Oct 58 p.1.

(11) Minutes of the Board of Regents Meeting, February, 1936, p.223.

(12) Daily Californian, 22 Apr 60 p.1.

(13) Ibid, 13 Dec 60 p.1.

(14) Ibid, 22 Apr 60 p.1.

(15) Minutes of Regents Meeting, October, 1940, p.509.

(16) Daily Californian, 27 Oct 59 p.8.

Cites Committee on Educational Policy Academic Senate report of May, 1958 which was first released as part of Kerr's report to the Regents. This undoubtedly took place at Executive Session in Santa Barbara on September, 1959 for which minutes are not open to the public.

(17) Daily Californian, 27 Oct 59 p.8.

(18) Education and Military Leadership, Gene M. Lyons and John W. Masland, Princeton, 1959, pp. 209-242.

(19) The Campus Protest Against R O T C, Allan Brick, Dartmouth College, 1960.

He quotes from letter written by Assistant Secretary of Defense Charles Finucane to Trustees of Michigan State University on February 15, 1960.

(20) Daily Californian, 29 Sept 59 p.1.

(21) Ibid, 7 Oct 59 p.1.

(22) Student, David Horowitz, New York, 1962, pp. 23-26.

(23) Daily Californian 20,21 Oct 59

(24) Ibid, 28 Oct 59 p.9.

(25) Ibid, 23 Oct 59 p.8.; 26 Oct 59 p.11.

(26) Ibid, 5 Feb 60 p.21/p>

(27) Ibid, 25 Feb 60 p.1.

(28) Minutes of Regents Meeting, December, 1960.

(29) Daily Californian, 16 Mar 60 p.1.

(30) Ibid, 29 Mar 60 p.1.

(31) Minutes of Regents Meeting, April, 1960.

(32) Daily Californian, 27 Sept 60 p.1.

(33) Ibid, 13 Oct 60 p.1.

(34) Ibid, 13 Oct 60 p.1.

(35) Ibid, 3 May 62 p.1.

This is noted in review of history of ROTC fight on eve of reversal in policy.

(36) Daily Californian, 14 Dec 60 p.1.

(37) Student, p. 116.

(38) Daily Californian, 15 Dec 60 p.1.

(39) Ibid, 14 Feb 61 p.1.

(40) Student, p. 119.

(41) Daily Californian 16 Dec 60 p.1.

(42) The Creighton Petition, A Statement by Jacobus ten Broek.

Presented to Academic Senate on May 1, 1961. p.1.

(43) Ibid, p.2.

Here ten Broek is referring to Chapter IX of By-laws and Standing Orders of the Regents, which gave them power with respect to Military training units on campus; Academic Senate Regulation 1275 dealing with grades; and University Regulation 25 concerned with disciplinary powers of committees, administration officials, and instructors.

(44) Army Regulation 145-421.

(45) Daily Californian, 15 Feb. 1961

(46) The Creighton Case, A Statement by Jacobus ten Broek before the Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate, October 9, 1961, p.5.

(47) Daily Californian, 10 Oct 61 p.1.

(48) Ibid, 3 May 62 p.1.

Recapitulation of history of fight.

(49) Ibid, 3 May 62 p.1.

(50) Ibid,19 Jun 62 p.1.

(51) Ibid, 29 Jun 62 p.1.

(52) Ibid, 19 Sept 62 p.1.


(1) Militarizing Our Youth, Roswell P. Barnes, New York, 1927.

(2) Daily Californian, from 1956 to 1962.

(3) Minutes of Regents meetings (located in University Hall).

(4) Education And Military Leadership, Gene M. Lyons and John W. Masland, Princeton, 1959.

(5) The Campus Protest Against ROTC, Allan Brick, Dartmouth, 1960.

(6) Student, David Horowitz, Ballantine, 1962.

(7) The Creighton Petition and The Creighton Case, Jacobus ten Broek (in files of Ken Cloke).


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