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THE often tenuous relationship between the military and academia has certainly evolved beyond what can be called the dark days of the Vietnam era.
It was during that controversial conflict that campus rioters burned university buildings that housed ROTC (Reserve Officers Training Corps) offices and some universities banned uniformed personnel from their campuses.
Contrast that attitude with a news report in The Republic earlier this month that three local colleges — IUPUC, Ivy Tech Community College-Columbus/Franklin and Harrison College — were cited in a national publication as “Military Friendly Schools.”
The recognition was given to the local schools by G.I. Jobs magazine, a publication that caters to active duty service members and veterans.
The welcoming attitude shown the military on many college campuses today is an outgrowth of the spirit of patriotism that was awakened by the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York City, Washington, D.C and rural Pennsylvania.
But it is also a reflection of the responsibility assumed by many college and university administrators to see that those who do volunteer for service are not cheated of any opportunities and are afforded the rights to begin or continue their educations.
Leaders on the three local campuses have been in the forefront of this movement. All three offer resources to help veterans and their families gain admission and to assist in applying for benefits that will pay for a portion or all of their post-secondary education.
All three schools have on-site professionals specifically tasked with assisting veterans and their families with financial-aid issues.
Harrison College has a flexible withdrawal policy for service members who get deployed and also has a military advisory board.
The veterans also benefit from student networks established by fellow veterans. IUPUC, Ivy Tech and Purdue School of Technology have branches of a Student Veterans Military Association, which affords veterans the opportunity to interact with other veterans and deal with issues unique to their service.
Instead of feeling alienated on local college campuses, a number of returning veterans have described the local atmosphere as “phenomenal.” Indeed, it can be described as a partnership between the schools and the veterans, one that is centered on the recognition of the sacrifices made by these men and women in uniform.
We have, indeed, come a long way since the Vietnam War.
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