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Naval ROTC Navigation class taught by Lt. Sean Simmons. Credit: Ari Friedman , Ari Friedman

The Undergraduate Assembly announced late last month that it will not lobby for ROTC courses to count toward degree requirements in the College, but the program's leader is not ready to give up the fight.

Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps students in the College of Arts of Sciences do not receive credit toward their degrees for the courses they are required to take through the ROTC program. ROTC students enrolled in Penn’s other undergraduate schools can count some ROTC courses toward degree requirements.

According to Colonel Andrew Wilcox, ”the commanding officer for Penn’s ROTC program, NROTC has been lobbying to receive credit for courses since the 1960s. Wilcox strongly believes that ROTC students should receive credit toward their degrees.

All Navy ROTC students must take eight ROTC courses in addition to their major, general and elective requirements. For most students, this translates to taking five or six classes a semester. Two of the eight ROTC classes fulfill Wharton requirements, four fulfill requirements in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and two count toward Nursing degrees. However, none of the classes count toward a College degree.

Last February, ROTC and College junior Mary Brass and ROTC and College senior Lydia Miller approached the Undergraduate Assembly for help in changing the College’s unacceptance of ROTC courses for credit.

The UA cited recent analysis of ROTC curricula by the Council of Undergraduate Deans as its reason for dropping the project. In 2012, the CUD reviewed a report by ROTC students and decided not to award credit because the ROTC program’s courses do not fit into the College’s curriculum, according to Student Committee on Undergraduate Education chair and College senior Lucas Siegmund . CUD did not solicit Wilcox’s input before announcing their decision, according to Wilcox.

“Penn has a policy that all credit given at Penn has to line up with a course offered, or has to line up with a general requirement,” Siegmund said.

In explaining why ROTC courses do not count for College credit, College Dean Dennis DeTurck wrote in 2013 that ROTC “is an extra-University activity for which credit should not be granted.” DeTurck noted in his letter that the decision was not “meant to devalue the importance of ROTC courses.”

“There would still be university without ROTC,” Wharton and ROTC senior Matthew Weber said. “But from my student perspective, ROTC is a lot more than an extracurricular activity. It’s an integral part of my day. It’s what I do and how I go about my life.”

Wilcox disagrees with the idea that just because ROTC falls outside of the University’s usual curriculum, its courses should not count for credit. “What extra-University program ... requires 16 credit units, including two units of calculus and two units of physics?” he said. He also questioned the College’s policy because peer institutions like Temple and Drexel universities, whose ROTC programs he also commands, grant credit for ROTC courses.

Since there has been no change in Penn’s or ROTC’s curricula since that decision, the UA felt it could not contribute to a policy change this year, according to UA representative Andrew Gegios , a College and Wharton sophomore.

Siegmund added that the the ROTC program’s requisite courses align more with Wharton and Engineering requirements because they focus on leadership, physics and calculus.

Brass, a Math major in the College, said that her Seapower and Maritime Affairs class covers similar concepts as her War, Strategy and Politics class in the College, so she does believe that credit should be given.

“I’m sitting next to somebody who is doing the exact same workload I’m doing, so why does the fact that one of us is in Engineering and the other one is in a math major in the College make us different?” Brass said. “We are doing the exact same work and learning the exact same things.”

Siegmund said that when students enter ROTC, they are aware of the extra requirements they have to complete in addition to their required classes.

ROTC is still pushing for the College to award credit for specific classes that Wilcox believes most closely fit with the curriculum of college classes.

“Marines don’t quit,” Wilcox said.

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