ROTC advocates for school policy change

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ROTC students pose for a photo in the midst of their busy schedules. Photo courtesy of James Klatt.

Senior biology major and Army ROTC student Emily LaFrance starts her day at 5:30 a.m. to work out, while most students of the University of Dallas are still sound asleep. She also commutes regularly to the University of Texas at Arlington for military science classes. However, she is unable to receive credit for many of these classes due to current UD academic policies.

LaFrance is one of eleven ROTC students at UD struggling to juggle both programs, according to Registrar Katherine McGraw, and she hopes to affect change in order to smooth the track for future ROTC students.  

ROTC students accumulate a total of 31 military science credits from the University of Texas at Arlington, which is double the amount of most concentrations at UD, LaFrance said. The students at UD keep eight credits, which is the maximum number that can be counted under general studies. However, the other 23 credits are not counted, because they do not fit into any program.

Provost Dr. Jonathan Sanford confirmed that this is the current credit transfer situation for ROTC students.

“Eight is the number that says, ‘well this is valued, this is important,’ but we can’t transfer them in as Core courses,” Sanford said. “And we can’t transfer them in as major courses. So what are they doing? We just don’t have that kind of program at the University of Dallas.”

Sanford said that the administration is currently exploring ways to better accommodate ROTC students, including creating a concentration in order to accept more of their transfer credits and possibly even offering these classes at UD.

“I do sympathize with the challenge, and I have been talking to the deans about finding ways to make ROTC more attractive here, and I’m beginning to explore what it would look like to have it centered here, [and] whether that is even possible,” Sanford said. “And working with our admissions team also to find ways to promote it … because these tend to be really outstanding, hardworking students.”

“I wish the community knew our story,” LaFrance wrote in an email. “We spend hours in traffic commuting to UTA multiple times a week to attend our ROTC classes.”

“Now graduating from University of Dallas having done the ROTC program my four years, I would have never chosen University of Dallas,” LaFrance said. “If I had known that 23 credits, all the credits I worked for in my Military Science program, would go completely unaccounted for in my academic transcript — nobody wants that, that is devastating … that’s like taking two concentrations and never getting credit for it.”

On Jan. 30, LaFrance posted on her Facebook page that she has “struggled for four years against adverse opinions and policies to even complete my basic requirements … Now that I am finally in a senior position to have some valid weight and experience to attribute to my arguments against the way UD handles their ROTC students, I have decided to approach the university about making some positive changes that will improve their relationship with Cadet Command and all ROTC students that may call UD their school.”

LaFrance is primarily advocating for a military science concentration at UD and advisors who understand the ROTC process.

“Often, our advisors have no idea what the Army ROTC program even consists of,” LaFrance wrote. “There needs to be a more widespread education of the program among faculty/staff and student body alike.”

The Army pays for the contracted ROTC students’ tuition, LaFrance said. In LaFrance’s case, the Army will pay UD more than $160,000 towards her tuition.

“Does UD really want to lose out on the tuition profit that each Army ROTC scholarship student provides, simply because they don’t want to make an academic change to accept our credits?” LaFrance asked.

LaFrance is not the first student to advocate for better policies for ROTC students. Mary Glen, biology ’18, who is stationed at Fort Riley, said that, prior to graduation, she and other ROTC students heard a rumor that their credits would not be counted.

“But that was never reflected on our transcripts,” Glen said. “Every year, our credits were still populating until a month before graduation, and then all a sudden 18 credits were dropped from our transcripts.”

Glen said that in May of 2017, she reached out to administration about the credits and was told that they would look into it.

Unlike UD, Southern Methodist University and Texas A&M give full credit for these military science classes, Glen said.

“Our Colonel at UTA was shocked to hear that we weren’t getting credit for it,” Glen added.

Since graduation, Glen has followed up twice with Associate Dean of Constantin College Dr. David Andrews about this issue.

Andrews confirmed in an email that he is currently working “to make UD a little more ROTC friendly.”

Glen explained why she’s so passionate about helping ROTC students at UD.

“We are investing in the future of people who are fighting for the future of the country,” Glen said. “That is an investment that matters to me.”

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