Columbia University

When I was a student at Columbia University in the 2000s, I was involved in a years-long campaign/struggle to return ROTC to campus, after the program was kicked out during the semi-famous riots of 1968. The effort was led by my friend and student-activist Eric Chen, who logged countless hours outside on College Walk gathering signatures, and countless more hours planning, writing, and speaking to students, faculty, administrators, and alumni to gather support.

Eric was the founding force behind what is now known as the Columbia MilVets, and the driving force behind returning ROTC to Columbia’s campus.

The effort was successful in the end, though not while I was there and able to witness it, unfortunately. But it was an important and formative experience teaching me about politics and activism.

Below are some of my thoughts and writing from that era.

This was an incident that involved a Columbia professor calling for US troops to “frag” their officers in Iraq, and wishing for “A Million Mogadishus” at a protest rally in 2003. As veterans, many of us found this sort of commentary and language deeply troubling, and we decided to make our thoughts known to President Lee Bollinger and the university at large.

Once a group of MilVets who were concerned about this issue met to gather our thoughts and coordinate action, several of us gathered to issue a draft statement. Myself and Eric Chen were the primary draftees, while several other members helped us brainstorm and refine our approach and wording. Once the first draft was completed, Eric and I worked late into the night refining and polishing, and met early in the morning to continue and complete our work.

Here are some things I wrote and a couple pieces that covered our activism during that time.

  1. An editorial I wrote for the college newspaper debunking some of the most common arguments made against ROTC
  2. A much longer letter I wrote to a task force the school put together to “examine the issue” before presenting findings to the University Senate to make a decision on the matter of ROTC
  3. An article that I published in the New York Daily News immediately after the vote in the Senate refusing to allow Columbia students to attend ROTC on campus
  4. A letter that I wrote to the Columbia University Senate one year after their embarrassing show trial sham of a vote
  5. An article the school newspaper published several years later on the history of the Columbia MilVets organization
  6. A New York Times profile on the matter done just before the Senate vote

More recently, I had an article published commenting on the recent decision by Columbia University to make admissions test-optional for undergrads, thereby eliminating the SAT and ACT as a requirement. I’ll have a lot more to say about this, but this is my opening salvo: