Proposed ROTC unit at UMBC protested

May 09, 2008|By Gadi Dechter | Gadi Dechter,Sun Reporter

Faculty and other members of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County community have started circulating an online petition to protest a proposed ROTC unit at the Catonsville campus, which could open this fall.

According to faculty senate President Terrance L. Worchesky, the U.S. Army proposed establishing the ROTC unit during an April 25 meeting of campus leaders. The unit, which would be housed in an unused campus building, would function as a Department of Military Science, said Worchesky, who was present at the meeting.

Campus officials last night confirmed the Army's proposal and said that responses from student government leaders have been positive, but that campuswide meetings will be held next week to give the entire UMBC community an opportunity to weigh in.

"There has been a desire on the part of students and prospective students, and also the Army, to establish an ROTC program here at UMBC," said spokeswoman Lisa Akchin.

The Army offers college scholarships to some ROTC participants, who receive basic military training while in school. Scholarship recipients must commit to military service in the regular Army, U.S. Army Reserve or Army National Guard.

About 21 UMBC students participated in the ROTC program this academic year, Akchin said, but did their training at the Johns Hopkins University, which has a permanent unit on the Homewood campus in Charles Village.

"Having a program on this campus would open up a higher degree of scholarship opportunities for students," Akchin said, as well as make the program more convenient for participating students. She said that though UMBC students constitute nearly half of the participants in the Hopkins unit, they receive fewer scholarships because the Army gives priority to Hopkins students in that program.

As of last night, more than 50 people had signed an online petition protesting the ROTC expansion to Catonsville. The petition says the Army's treatment of homosexual soldiers conflicts with the university's nondiscrimination policy, and also declares concern about "militarization" of the student body. Worchesky said the petition is "part of the joy of being at a university. Everyone gets to voice their opinion, and we listen to each other."

gadi.dechter@baltsun.com

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