The date was April 15, 1970 when Miami University students stormed Rowan Hall, the U.S. Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) building, to protest against militarism and the war in Vietnam. Student frustration and tension regarding the war boiled to this pivotal moment in Miami’s history. The students initially demanded three things: immediate cancelling of academic credit for ROTC classes, promise of abolishing ROTC from Miami and the granting of the Black Student Action Association (BSAA) terms regarding racial equality. The Rowan Hall sit-in lasted more than six hours with approximately 160 students arrested for refusing to vacate Rowan Hall, on charges of trespassing.
The Hamilton State Highway Patrol, the Butler County Sheriff’s Office and auxiliaries were called in for crowd control outside the seized building. The police resorted to spraying mace, tossing canisters of tear gas and using half-leashed police dogs to disperse the crowd. The day marked the beginning of a series of student strikes against the university demanding amnesty for suspended students, revamping of racial admissions inconsistencies and the condemnation of police action.
After these events took place, though the ROTC remained on campus, it was decided that the organization headquarters be relocated so as to discourage future conflict.
The program headquarters were brought to the basement of Millett Assembly Hall. The new location accommodates the full ROTC unit, with offices for all the military branches. The U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force and U.S. Army are represented to provide a constructive environment for future commissioning military officers, said Lt. Ryan Bush, U.S. Navy Submarine and Nuclear Power officer.
“All services are represented here. It’s a commissioning source for officers in the military,” he said.
The unknown world below the basketball courts, the Commencement stage and the floor for Career Fair is the home to the site for interested students to inquire about ROTC programs and eventually join in the ranks with fellow college students training to become military leaders.
ROTC is a college-based program for students seeking a career as an officer in the military.
But underneath the floors of Millett Hall are academic classrooms, conference rooms, a workout gym, storage for sailboats and a shooting range.
Senior Michael Derr, an Air Force ROTC cadet, answered the call to join the military at an early age. He joined ROTC during his fourth semester at Miami.
“It all started on Sept. 11, when I was 12 and in sixth grade,” Derr said. “Watching the planes fly into the towers was an experience I hope to never experience again. I describe that day as the day I woke up and I recognized that day that the world is a lot bigger than Little League Baseball and the small town of Bellbrook, Ohio.”
The division used the unique facilities located under Millett Hall to cater to the specific needs of ROTC members. The shooting range is run by the Marines and provides guided lessons and training for the ROTC, but it is also open to the university. Clubs and organizations can use the facility after proper procedures and guidelines are met.
“It’s open to those who request to use it,” Bush said.
NROTC (Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps) stores six sailboats for the sailing program that teaches midshipmen how to sail.
The ROTC programs utilize its forced space as best it can, but only so much can be taught in the indoor facility. Bush said the location allows the units to improvise when specific types of training are needed.
“It’s kind of on the outskirts of campus and provides us access to trails and a lot of open spaces that we can perform the functions that we need,” Bush said. “I think we’d fit in anywhere, but we do have access to some wide-open grass spaces. We work functions like parking for football games and hockey games and things like that. So it gives us a nice home base right here in the basement of Millett.”
Miami’s ROTC program works because it immerses students like Derr into an atmosphere of discipline, high physical fitness and academic leadership.
“ROTC is beneficial because it allows students to take advantage of college opportunities such as student organizations, fraternities, sports, etc. while training to become officers in the military,” Derr said. “Other avenues such as military academies do not allow for such a diverse education and experience.”