Radford, April 22 -- The board of visitors of Virginia Polytechnic Institute reaffirmed today the corps of cadets is and will continue to be the integral part of the Institute, refuting rumors circulated at the school that the board was considering abolishing the corps.
In a move to make the cadet program stronger, the Board approved the employment of a "full-time commandant of cadets, to be responsible only to the Administration. The commandant shall have had military experience and demonstrated ability directing young men in educational and military programs," the Board said in a statement.
The Board's statement went on to say that "considerable dissension and unrest has recently been caused at VPI and among the alumni by unauthorized and misleading letters circulated to the alumni; by over-publicized meetings of small groups of students, and by follow up press releases, all indicating that the Board of Visitors was considering the abolition of the Corps of Cadets and would vote on this abolition at its scheduled April meeting."
But the Board's statement also said that there had been "criticism generally based on dissension over the Corps and in some instances on criticism of the administration in its failure to gain complete cooperation between the various groups at VPI."
There have been reports of meetings at the school at which civilian students charged that the administration was showing favoritism to the Cadet Corps.
The key points made in the Board's statement, indicating that the Institute has been and will continue to try to maintain a balance between the military and the civilian, were:
"Therefore, to clarify its position and to explain its constructive action regarding the place of military at VPI, the Board of Visitors confirmed its action of April 11, 1950, in which it was asserted that VPI is primarily a State institution of higher learning; that the Corps of Cadets will be continued with such regulations as to insure the Institution's contribution to our national defense; that a Civilian Student Body is a necessary part of the Institution in fulfilling its responsibility to our rapidly expanding State industries and agriculture."
"At no time has the Board considered the abolition of the corps of cadets. Its valued contribution to the development of the Virginia youth, its assistance in providing leaders to our armed forces, and its fine tradition of accomplishment in the school has made it most valued asset which the Board wishes continually to improve and enlarge."
The cadet corps at VPI is under the administration of the institute, although it is affiliated with the Army in that the actual job of training and teaching is mostly done by Army personnel.
It works this way: All students entering VPI, except in certain cases of age, or health, previous military service or several other reasons are obliged to join the cadet corps for the first two years of their schooling. They take their military training along with their schooling. At the end of the two years, they can either stay in, or leave, the corps, as they choose.
They wear uniforms all the time and are subject to military discipline. However, they are entitled to second lieutenant reserve commissions. And they are exempt from the draft as long as they stay in it.
Under the present setup at VPI, the cadet corps is commanded by an officer sent to the institute under the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) of the Army as head of the Department of Military Science and Tactics at the school. He is Col. W. S. Merritt.
He serves as cadet corps commandant in addition to his teaching and ROTC administrative duties. But he serves as cadet corps commandant by agreement, not by law.
Under the new setup, the cadet corps will have its own commandant. Board members wouldn't comment on a possible choice. The school would continue to have an ROTC professor of military science and tactics.
The cadet corps has been a part of VPI since 1872, when it was founded as a Federal land grant college by the Federal Government and Virginia. That is, the Federal Government granted the land for the school and contributed some financial aid for a time.
The Board's statement also said: "The Board further directs the administration (of the institute) to take the necessary steps to assure complete cooperation among the various departments of the institution in carrying into operation" the strengthening of the traditional policy on the cadet corps and the civilian student body.
"The Board directed the Administration to proceed with plans for setting up a basic first-year program for entering students similar to the plan that has proved successful at Texas A&M, wherein freshmen are provided with educational and personal guidance and are housed in units under the supervision of upper-classmen and adult counselors.
"Further, that the Administration will submit from time to time such recommendations as seem desirable for the improvement of the Corps of Cadets and the Civilian Student Body."
VPI is a State-supported institution and the tuition for resident Virginia students is less expensive there because of that help.
In other actions, the Board authorized the offering of a "cooperative engineering program" at VPI, to be worked in conjunction with the Naval Shipyards at Norfolk. The student would take his first two years of college work at the Norfolk Extension of the College of William and Mary, located at Norfolk, and in which VPI has a two-year engineering department. The Norfolk Extension College is a junior college.
He would go to school and train on the job for the first two years, which would require three years of total time, and would go to VPI for resident study for the last two years or one year. One year is the minimum resident study time permitted for a degree by VPI.
According to Dr. Walter S. Newman, president of VPI, the Board also "re-defined the duties and responsibilities of the position of Dean of Agriculture at VPI, in order to see that the person holding the position serves as coordinator of the three phases of the agriculture program: (1) resident instruction; (2) research, and (3) extension.
The Board also approved faculty membership on the administrative council of VPI, with one elected faculty member to serve on the council from each of the three major divisions of the Institute: agriculture, engineering and academic science-business administration, said Dr. Newman.