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Adele McConnell

Provost Michael Bernstein’s order to move the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps to an off-campus location, which was issued May 22, has been placed on indefinite hold.

The organization will remain in its current building at the intersection of Freret Street and McAlister Place for the beginning of the academic term.

Bernstein called a meeting with NROTC Capt. Anthony Chatham, Dean MacLaren and other Tulane officials to discuss a university-wide plan to maximize available space on campus in late May. The initiative grew out of the post-Hurricane Katrina campus renewal plan.

The plan’s “space strategy” objectives drafted in August 2006 describe the NROTC building as an underutilized space that would better suit the offices of Career Services, Office of International Students and Scholars, or the Tulane University Legal Assistant Program.

Chatham said that Bernstein ordered NROTC to move temporarily to a space at the Uptown Square satellite campus to make room for the occupants of Fogelman Arena that would soon be displaced by construction. Both the Army and Air Force ROTC units currently reside in buildings at Uptown Square on a permanent basis, and Chatham said that he thought a temporary relocation to the satellite campus would fall under NROTC’s longstanding contract with Tulane.

“I said I needed to go back and talk to my bosses in order to review the agreement,” Chatham said. “After a few weeks, I got back with the Provost… We had some concerns.”

Chatham said that the Navy was adamant about returning the NROTC unit back to its current building after construction proceedings ceased. At that point, all discussion of moving the unit to Uptown Square came to an indefinite halt.

Bernstein said that the administration has not reached a decision concerning the building’s long-term use.

“I can’t speculate about the future,” Bernstein said.

Chatham said that bad communication accoutns for the disparities that separate his unit’s view of the future from that of the administration.

“You’ll see some of those [planning maps] that identify Building 31-that’s us-as no longer being Naval ROTC space,” Chatham said. “I think the provost and his team, in good faith, were just trying to execute the plan that they had evidently been discussing since Katrina, but had not brought some other folks like us to the table to discuss it.”

The NROTC alumni responded quickly and with indignation to the potential move, citing the organization’s historically positive presence on campus as grounds for a more respectful and open line of communication from the provost. Alumnus C.J. Lorio, class of 1983, summarizes the concerns of more than 1,500 alumni who reacted forcefully to the possibility of removing NROTC from its current location.

“They add a visible element of diversity to the campus,” Lorio said. “These guys are in and out of that building, pursuing something different than a lot of the kids at school do. If they can’t stay at that location, let’s figure out a permanent plan for them on campus.”

Senior midshipman Daryl Dietsche said he thinks that moving the unit to Uptown Square would make the daily responsibilities of NROTC students more difficult.

“Having an on campus location is essential because the majority of our time is spent there,” Dietsche said. “We spend 40 hours a week training and taking classes with schedules that are built around getting to the building quickly. Transporting 70 students to and from the satellite campus before 5 a.m. and after 10 p.m. seems like a big hurdle, and walking or biking is unsafe.”

Currently, any talk of moving NROTC to Uptown Square has been put on hold, but Chatham said that he is realistic about the unavoidable changes that come with a growing Tulane student population.

“I don’t think there was a plan B,” Chatham said. “So when there’s no plan B and plan A falls apart, then you have to take a few steps back and regroup. I think we’re in the regroup phase.”