NMU ROTC cut by Army, appeal planned

Brice Burge

Northern Michigan University’s ROTC program will be shut down by the United States Army, effective at the end of the 2014-2015 school year.

“The university has lots of questions,” Director of Communications Cindy Paavola said. “The decision-making factors are not very obvious right now.”

President Haynes said NMU is one of 13 of 273 ROTC programs across the country that will be closed.

“We’re still trying to gather information from the United States Army,” Haynes said. “We do not have from them yet the rational and the data as to what they used to base that on. So this isn’t a battle with the army but working with them to find out what the criteria is and what kind of data was used to see if may be we can help to keep this program open.”

Most of the programs are rural schools in the upper Midwest or the South. NMU’s ROTC is the only program to be shut down out of Michigan’s seven army programs.

Through its 44-year history, Haynes said the ROTC has had a large impact on campus.

“We have a rich history of support in the ROTC over the years,” Haynes said.  “We were told that we were in the top 15 percent of programs and that speaks to the history of cadets that went through this program. We want to keep that tradition and keep this as an option for students.”

Rep. Dan Beneshek (R, Mich-1) has signed a letter — along with the other 12 Congressional representatives of the programs being closed — to the Secretary of the United States Army, John McHugh. In the letter, the congressmen cite the willingness of potential ROTC cadets in rural areas. These individuals, they say, “chose to enlist immediately after high school, rather than wait four years to join the fight in defense of their country.” The representatives demanded that McHugh answer nine questions regarding the criteria of closure, ranging from prior notice of failure to meet standards, estimated cost and savings from closing the programs and cadet performance at the Leader Development Assessment Course.

“I’m shocked by the proposed closure of NMU’s ROTC program,” Benishek said in a press release sent to the North Wind. “I believe NMU and its students deserve transparency and some answers on why this decision was made.”

In addition to Benishek’s work in the House, resources from Michigan Senators Carl Levin (D) and Debbie Stabenow (D) are being used in NMU’s attempt to save the program said Haynes and the university is working within the community  and government for more support.

“We’re lobbying in Washington, setting up meetings with the various veteran organizations in this region, and we’re reaching out to the Michigan governor,” Haynes said. “We’re also trying to arrange a phone call right now with all 13 presidents impacted by the cut.”

Haynes said his concern lies with with the student population who relies on these programs to get an education.

“Forty-two of the 65 students in the ROTC are from the Upper Peninsula. For many of them it is the only way they will get an education. They need the ROTC and the university scholarships to finish school.

“Many of these students’ incomes and family incomes won’t allow them to transfer to another ROTC program below the bridge.  Of all the ROTC programs in Michigan our university has the lowest tuition and also gives a special scholarship to help reduce their tuition costs.”

NMU’s net tuition is the lowest of all Michigan schools and second lowest for in-state tuition behind Eastern Michigan University. Facilities and resources like the Superior Dome are also key to ROTC’s financial stability.

“We do everything we can to make university facilities and resources available at little or no cost,” Paavola said. “Other universities aren’t able to do that and we make it very affordable to train here.”

Former Professor of Military Science and Commander of the NMU ROTC Kyle Rambo said he was shocked by the news of the closure. Rambo retired from the U.S. Army before the start of the 2013-2014 school year, after serving as commander from 2009-2013.

“You start to ask why and then you feel like it’s your fault,” Rambo said. “You see the faces of the people you worked with, recruited and trained and see how disappointed they are.”

Rambo – who had a meeting with NMU Provost Paul Lang on the issue – said that it wasn’t one factor in the closing, but a culmination of different aspects ranging from diversity and major programs at NMU to budget cuts and the size of the Army at a national level.

Of the 13 schools with ROTC programs set to be eliminated, three are located in Tennessee with five more in neighboring states. Rambo, who attended the University of Tennessee, said he believed that these schools would fill the same model of smaller and rural universities like NMU.

“If you applied the same model (to the other 12 universities), you would see a similar situation to Northern,” Rambo said. “It’s very, very unfortunate.”

Though the program will not be close until the 2014-2015 school year Haynes recommends students to stick with the program.

“I suspect that students will make their own minds up in the end. But I just ask them to give the army, Congressman Benichek , the United States Senators and the university a little bit of time to figure this out.”