It’s not always easy to be ROTC on a campus with an anti-war history.
UW-Madison’s Reserve Officer Training Corps made it through the tumultuous Vietnam War protests. They survived an effort by faculty in 1989 to kick the programs off campus because of their refusal to admit gay and lesbian cadets.
But the latest question isn’t about whether ROTC programs belong, it’s about where to put them.
The three ROTC units — Army, Navy/Marine Corps and Air Force — are housed in temporary digs with no drill space. A faculty committee is recommending they be consolidated into one new building.
Where the money would come from and how soon that could occur are still unanswered questions, but an early plan calls for the facility to be built on Lot 16, south of the UW Police Department building on Monroe Street.
“We really could use a new facility,” said James Johannes, director of Officer Education Programs and a business professor. “UW-Madison prides itself on doing everything well. I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t do ROTC as well as we can.”
The topic will be presented Monday at a meeting of the UW‑Madison Faculty Senate.
UW-Madison offers students the opportunity to earn an Army, Air Force or Naval commission through its ROTC programs. The units allow UW-Madison to fulfill its requirement as a land-grant university to teach “military tactics.”
The three programs never have been housed together. They were shuffled around campus as new construction bumps them out of old spaces.
“It’s kind of been like musical chairs for ROTC units,” Johannes said.
The most imminent threat is to the Navy/Marine Corps program at 1610 University Ave. The second phase of construction at the neighboring Wisconsin Energy Institute, 1552 University Ave., will require the program to move.
It’s unclear when that will be because the university has not secured money for that phase of the project, said Doug Rose, director of the university’s space management office.
The Army and Air Force programs also are in temporary space: Army ROTC is located on the west side of campus at 1910 Linden Drive, and the Air Force ROTC is located at 1433 Monroe St., across from Camp Randall.
None of the three units has a dedicated drill space or firing range, so cadets must borrow space at other facilities on campus for training and travel to off-campus firing ranges. Another problem is the antiquated classrooms, Johannes said.
He said it makes sense for the three units to be combined into one building so they can share training and educational space.
Plans for the new facility will be presented to the Campus Planning Committee next year for consideration in the 2015-2017 campus budget, according to the Faculty Senate document.
There are about 400 students enrolled in ROTC classes, though some are from UW-Whitewater, Edgewood College and Maranatha Baptist Bible College in Watertown.
The programs get more than $3.3 million each year in federal funds for student scholarships, salaries of officers, enlisted staff and supplies. The university contributes about $200,000 a year in support.