Columbia University was "the heart of the Vietnam-era student movement" in the 1960s, and their antimilitary rage ended up banning R.O.T.C. from campus, according to an article from the New York Times. However, the University Senate has voted to bring R.O.T.C. back.
New York Times reporter Alan Feuer led his article with a long, wordy lede that I had to read a couple of times before grasping the point, which made it lose some impact.
More than four decades after Columbia University, the heart of the Vietnam-era student movement, banned R.O.T.C. from campus in a moment of 1960s antimilitary rage, the University Senate voted overwhelmingly on Friday to support efforts to bring the group back.
To clean it up a bit, I would have led with something like the following: "Columbia University banned R.O.T.C. from campus in 1960s in response to antimilitary rage, but a the University Senate is now supporting efforts to bring the group back." There is not as much detail, but everything mentioned in Feuer's lede is restated later.
As the article went on, Feuer got caught in the classic toss-up of deciding which side to mention first.
Feuer started with facts. The University Senate overwhelmingly supported a resolution that would "explore mutually beneficial relationships with the armed forces of the United States, including participation in the programs of the Reserve Officers Training Corps."
Feuer then made an interesting connection to President Obama's signing the bill that repealed the "don't ask don't tell" policy, saying it drove the University Senate's "impetus," which is similar to momentum. As a general rule, newspapers are expected to write around an eighth grade reading level, and, to understand Feuer's word choice here, one would need an extensive vocabulary. (Perhaps the New York Times holds itself to higher standards?) Feuer later mentioned that the University Senate voted against a similar measure six years ago.
Feuer continued writing the facts, but peppered the article with opposing viewpoints. Fact and opposition consumed about three-fourths of the article. Columbia's history with the military is largely defined by the R.O.T.C. ban in 1968, so there was a plethura of nostalgic voices to be heard. One such voice came from a former member of a campus left-wing radical group that Feuer ironically describes as "militant."
"The U.S. armed forces are a blight on the planet," Mr. Flanagan said. " I don't support soldiers–I think they're war criminals. So obviously, I'm against R.O.T.C. coming back."
That was a bold quote to place in a story that had not shown any voices from the other side. Many times in journalism, it is so easy to get caught up in the problem areas in our stories rather than presenting well-rounded and well-distributed writing. My speculation is that opinions, like the one above, bring more of a shock factor that gets people reading. However, from an inverted-pyramid style point-of-view, this article was not organized well. What if a reader stopped after reading 13 grafs? They would not have gotten the full story.
Although distributing the information unequally, Feuer presented good information with interesting bits that made the story more credible.
For example, Feuer pointed out that the Univeristy Senate helps set university policy. I would not have understood the significance of the article if he had not mentioned that because my University Senate does not have that power. Also, to support his earlier suspicison that the Senate approved R.O.T.C. to come back to campus partially due to the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell," Feuer mentioned that other universities, such as Harvard University, have also formally recognized R.O.T.C. since the repeal in Decemeber.
Overall, Feuer's article was intriguing and complete with good information and sources from both sides of the issue.