East Tennessee State University’s endangered ROTC program has been given one last chance to improve graduation rates before being shuttered completely, according to Tennessee’s representatives.
In a Wednesday media release, U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-1st, announced a reversal of the Department of Army’s decision to close the program by the 2014-15 academic year, and said the program will now be under a twoyear probationary period.
“We are encouraged by this news and wish to thank Congressman Roe, Senator Alexander, Senator Corker, otherelected officials who assisted us, as well as the many individuals who have stepped forward to voice their support for our ROTC program,” ETSU President Brian Noland said. “While we have not been given a chance to review the specific criteria, we are confident that we will meet and exceed any requirements that will allow us to keep the ROTC program at ETSU.”
The ROTC program must commission 15 officers in a 3-, 5- or 10-year average to avoid being closed at the end of those two years.
“ETSU’s ROTC program is highly valued by both the university and the community, and I am proud we were able to work to reverse this decision,” Roe said in the release. “Since we first learned that the Army’s Cadet Command was reviewing ETSU’s ROTC program, I have been working with President (Brian) Noland to prevent a possible closure of this excellent program. ETSU is lucky to have Dr. Noland and I thank him for his leadership on this very important issue.”
In a similar emailed statement, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., applauded the joint effort by him and his fellow congressmen to keep the program at ETSU, and two other institutions in Tennessee, alive.
“These programs have produced some of our nation’s outstanding military leaders,” Alexander said in his statement. “This is a major victory for students at these Tennessee schools, and I thank Congressmen Roe, (Diane) Black and (Stephen) Fincher and Sen. (Bob) Corker for their leadership.”
A Roe spokesman said Wednesday night that the congressman’s office had not yet received official paperwork on the extension, but said word of the probationary period came from a legislative liaison in the Pentagon.
Earlier this year, the Army announced that ETSU’s ROTC program, along with 12 others across the country, would close by the end of the 2014-15 academic year because of poor graduation rates.
Soon after the announcement, Noland denounced the closure plan as bad figuring, and asked for more time to prove the value of the program.
The program’s past alumni and current instructors and students organized last month in hopes of a campaign to keep the program open.
Well-wishes and congratulations began pouring into the Keep ETSU ROTC’s Facebook group’s page shortly after the announcement.
Cadets and leaders will attend a pre-scheduled re-dedication ceremony this morning at the ETSU memorial in honor of Veterans Day.