When UC Irvine’s dean of undergraduate education, Sharon Salinger, began talking with the U.S. Army during the 2009-10 academic year about establishing an ROTC program on campus, the importance of having such a program for students and constituents was clear. UCI students who wanted to participate in ROTC had been traveling to other programs at California State University, Fullerton; California State University, Long Beach; or the University of Southern California. “But it was also important to the campus that the ROTC experience be open to all our students,” Salinger said.

She enlisted help from Kirsten Quanbeck, assistant executive vice chancellor and director of UCI’s Office of Equal Opportunity & Diversity, who agreed that if ROTC came to campus in the fall, it would have to comply with the University of California’s full nondiscrimination policy. It prohibits discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, gender identity, pregnancy, physical or mental disability, medical condition (cancer-related or genetic characteristics), ancestry, marital status, age, sexual orientation, citizenship, or service in the uniformed services. That was problematic considering the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which in 1993 had ended criminal investigations and prosecutions of gays and lesbians in the military (“Don’t Ask”) but had not ended the prohibition on their serving in the military (“Don’t Tell”).

But on Dec. 22, 2010, when President Obama signed the bill repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Salinger, Quanbeck and Kyhm Penfil, campus counsel, knew that regulations officially dismantling the policy would follow. In light of the pending repeal, Salinger began working closely with student and Army representatives to establish the first UCI ROTC program, to begin in fall 2011. Included in UCI’s agreement with the Army is the university-wide nondiscrimination policy – making the campus perhaps the first in the nation to have an ROTC program with such a broad nondiscrimination statement.

On Sept. 20, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was officially repealed. That same week, UCI’s inaugural class of ROTC cadets began participating in the campus’s new program, which Salinger is proud to say is open to all.

UCI alumnus Christian Peralta, battalion commander for the program, said he is glad the hard work and good relationships forged among cadets, campus military veterans, student government leaders, and key administrators and faculty members paid off. Now, with an established program in place, Peralta said he wants to help mentor and develop the kind of strong, ethical leaders needed in today’s military.

“UCI graduates intelligent and adaptable students needed to be successful in today’s world,” he said. “The military needs capable, intelligent and adaptable leaders, so one of the aims of establishing a program was to create a connection between UCI students and officer leadership in the military.”

About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UCI is a top-ranked university dedicated to research, scholarship and community service. Led by Chancellor Michael Drake since 2005, UCI is among the most dynamic campuses in the University of California system, with nearly 28,000 undergraduate and graduate students, 1,100 faculty and 9,000 staff. Orange County’s largest employer, UCI contributes an annual economic impact of $4.2 billion. For more UCI news, visit www.today.uci.edu.

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