For Veterans Day this year, a panel featuring Pulitzer Prize-winning military journalist Thomas Ricks, security studies students, a member of Georgetown’s ROTC, and student-veterans discussed the divide on campus between members of the military and the civilians they fight on behalf of.
The student-veterans—Colby Howard (SFS ’11), who served as a Marine for eight years, and William Quinn (SFS ’10), who acted as an interrogator in Korea and Iraq for five years—talked about the frustration of having to constantly explain their experiences in the military.
Quinn said his classmates often ask him how many people he tortured or waterboarded, and don’t believe him when he says none. Howard said he’s frequently asked how many people he has killed.
“There’s a time and a place for that,” Howard said. “But it’s not when you’re introducing yourself to your philosophy class.”
Quinn and Howard said the stereotype they encounter most frequently at Georgetown is that members of the military aren’t intelligent. Quinn said the underlying assumption is that “the military is too blue collar for Georgetown.”
Many panelists and audience members said that the general civil-military gap that is prevalent throughout the country is exacerbated at Georgetown due to socioeconomic divisions.
When the topic of having an on-campus ROTC program was raised, one audience member said he thought it was especially important to have ROTC at Georgetown because “[students] are all rich” and “most people join the military because they’re not rich.”
When Ricks asked the panelists what they thought Georgetown could do to improve the student experience for members of the military, there were quite a few suggestions.
Panelist Tim Swenson (COL ’10), a member of Georgetown’s ROTC program, said a big problem is that military science classes only count as .5 credits—not the usual three—forcing ROTC students to take heavy course loads. Another panelist, Galen Weber (SFS ’13), who has done reporting on the benefits Georgetown gives to student-veterans for the Voice, said he was shocked by the University’s lack of a veterans’ affairs office and limited scholarship benefits.
Elizabeth Stanley, a professor of security studies at Georgetown, said there continues to be a bias in academia against teaching military history and theory. Instead, international relations programs largely focus on foreign policy theory. Stanley said this problem largely stems from the fact that many of the people in charge of hiring decisions at universities have “leftover Vietnam issues.”
Ricks frequently polled the audience to gauge their opinions on the topics being debated. Everyone in the audience supported having the ROTC program on campus, and an overwhelming majority thought military science classes should count for a full three credits. About thirty to forty percent said they would support a draft.