Black and Gold... and Army Green

  • Christopher Charles Colletta Vanderbilt University


This essay investigates the rise and sudden fall of Vanderbilt’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps unit around the time of World War I, and illustrates how it serves as an example of general trends in higher education that were occurring in other universities across America while being decidedly exceptional. With information pulled almost entirely from primary sources such as Chancellor James H. Kirkland’s handwritten letters and contemporary issues of The Hustler, it becomes clear that the administration saw the ROTC program as a way to replace the Methodist Episcopal Church, South as a source of moral education while establishing an ideological bulwark against perceived Bolshevik influences. While Kirkland was successful in bringing an ROTC unit to campus like many of his counterparts at other universities, Vanderbilt’s story is almost entirely unique in that the students revolted en masse, ending the program only a few short years after it had been established. In examining the evidence, it was Kirkland’s personality that led to his administration’s hasty implementation of the program, forcing seemingly un- necessary mandatory military training on the student body without considering its opinion first, a student body already weary from wartime training in a program called the Students’ Army Training Corps. In a gritty battle of wills between the Chancellor and the student body, the lifeblood of any ROTC unit, these students stuck to their guns and refused to participate, and the administration simply had to accede to their demands. As soon as it appeared, Vanderbilt’s first ROTC unit vanished.

Author Biography

Christopher Charles Colletta, Vanderbilt University
Senior Cadet in Army ROTC, European History and Asian Studies double major
How to Cite
COLLETTA, Christopher Charles. Black and Gold... and Army Green. Vanderbilt Undergraduate Research Journal, [S.l.], v. 9, aug. 2013. ISSN 1555-788X. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 20 aug. 2019. doi:
Humanities and Social Sciences


Vanderbilt; Army; ROTC;