GW students in the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps are lobbying the University to receive three credits for their ROTC classes, but the University is still determining if the coursework merits the credit increase.
Currently, 49 GW cadets take Army ROTC classes through a program at Georgetown. Cadets receive half a credit a semester for each once-a-week class – rather than the usual three credits per course – and class period lengths vary. Typically, the cadets take one class per semester, though multiple classes are offered. In addition to class, cadets participate in physical training three times a week, labs held on Saturdays and a three-day overnight field training exercise held once a semester.
Army ROTC cadet Giovanni Tomasi has been working with the Student Association and the University to change the program, because he thinks the current policy discourages students from serving their country.
“If GW truly seeks to support those who serve their communities and nation, they can start by doing everything in their power to fix this injustice,” said Tomasi, a sophomore.
In a document sent to the University, Tomasi said that GW has made “tremendous steps” toward making the campus military friendly, but it will mean “nothing if GW’s administration turns their backs to those who seek to be tomorrow’s leaders.”
Executive Vice President of the Student Association Jason Lifton said he began working on the issue after Tomasi, currently an SA senator from the Elliott School of International Affairs, approached him about the situation last fall.
“Army ROTC students are being treated unfairly by the University and we will continue to work to fix that until the situation is appropriately rectified,” Lifton said.
Associate Vice President for Academic Operations Jeffrey Lenn met with Lifton before winter break and has been gathering additional information about the increase to present to the University. He said he plans on presenting his findings to Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Donald Lehman within the next two weeks for “his review and decision.”
Lehman, who was in the Air Force ROTC and served in the Air Force, said that the issue is not “simply solvable.” The courses need to be academically rigorous enough to receive three credits, and time spent in training and drills does not count as academic work.
“The actual ROTC courses, they are academic at a certain level but it is a question, is it really three credits worth of academic work versus one credit,” Lehman said. “If it is an academic issue as to the expectations of the course, from the viewpoint of work load and the number of hours spent in the classroom, most likely it won’t change.”
Tim Swenson, an Army ROTC cadet at Georgetown, said the lack of credits dates to the Vietnam era, “when Georgetown severely cut military studies on campus to protest the war.” Since then, Army ROTC has struggled to regain its former recognition. Swenson said only recently did Georgetown award half a credit a semester to underclassmen.
Sophomore Lauren Emmi, a GW Army ROTC cadet, said participating in the program is a “huge, huge time commitment.” The military science class meets once a week, Emmi said, making it longer than some three-credit classes.
“It seems unfair in a free country to discourage college students from joining the military,” she said.
Tomasi estimates that cadets spend 10 hours a week in class or on class work, as well as in participation in the training, weekend labs, and other exercises. These are factored into their final grade.
He said for the cadets, there is more at stake than receiving college credit. Cadets can have lower GPAs because they do not receive three credits, which may reduce the number of points cadets receive toward their GPA. This could jeopardize their future in the military, as students who receive three credits for their ROTC courses will get “preferred jobs in the Army” over GW cadets because of their higher GPAs, Tomasi said.