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Woodson Research Center - Fondren Library -  Rice University

Wartime on Rice Campus

Under the National Defense Act of 1916, the Rice Institute was granted a Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC).

The act of June 3, 1916 issued regulations regarding the implementation of the ROTC on college campuses.

Excerpt from Sec. 40:

The President is hereby authorized to establish and maintain in civil, educational institutions a Reserve Officers' Training Corps, which shall consist of a senior division reorganized at Universities and colleges requiring four years of collegiate study for a degree... 

The general principles governing training, establishment, and the organization of the program were outlined. Applications were to be submitted  to the Committee on Education and Special Training at the War Department by institutions who were interested in hosting a unit of the ROTC.

Students attending class in the fall of 1917 returned to a different Rice Institute.

Following the declaration of war against Germany in April 1917, and the enlistment of many members of the student body and faculty thereafter, the Rice Institute now had an ROTC on campus. Male students enrolled in courses taught by professors of military science and tactics assigned to each participating campus by the War Department.

Major Joseph Frazier of the United States Army was assigned by the War Department to the Rice campus as professor of military science and tactics. Upon completion of the military training course in theory and practice, students were to be elegible for examination to obtain officers' commissions.

Female students enrolled in modified war courses, which included physical training, hygiene, and first aid. They were also required to wear a standard uniform of khaki dresses, brown shoes, and a regulation army hat, and they performed daily drills on campus.

Not long after the arrival of the ROTC, the War Department granted Rice a unit of the Students’ Army Training Corps (SATC).

On July 10, 1918, the War Department released a statement about a plan they were prepared to offer to college students 18 years or older — an opportunity to enlist in military service and to receive training in colleges. Administered by the Committee on Education and Special Training, the goal of the Students' Army Training Corps (SATC) was to provide for the “very important needs of the army for highly trained men as officers, engineers, doctors, chemists and administrators” and to “prevent the premature enlistment for active service of these men who could by extending the period of their college training multiply manifold their value to the country.”

This unit was a way for the War Department to control the number of men enlisting in the army, as not to deplete the population of students on college campuses. It allowed students to receive military training on campus, along with their intended studies, and when or if the time came for them to serve, the government could decide if they should remain in school or attend officers’ training. 

Letter to President Lovett from JT McCants, Rice Institute

Letter to Pres. Lovett from J.T. McCants, 1918

In a handwritten letter addressed to President Lovett, his secretary, J.T. McCants, shares details as to the implementation of schedules and regulations for voluntary enlistment of men into the SATC. Dated August 30 1918, the letter outlines a tight schedule for students, not much unlike the schedule in place under the ROTC:

reveille, 6:45; breakfast, 7:00; drill 7:30-9:30; academic work, 9:30-12:00; mess, 12:15; academic work, 1:00-4:00; athletics; 4:30-5:30; retreat, 6:00; ‘supervised’ study, 7:30-9:30

The letter goes on to emphasize, per the request of Colonel R.I. Rees, Brigadier General, U.S.A., that professors be urged to remain on campus as they and the universities have become “an essential part of the war machine.”

The following is an excerpt from the War Department’s letter to the Rice Institute (as published by the Houston Post on August 19, 1918) explaining the objective of the SATC:

“The students’ army training corps is intended, as an emergency measure, greatly to increase the scope of military instruction at colleges and so to provide a larger number of educated and trained men for the army’s needs. At the same time it is intended to discourage hasty and premature enlistment for active service on the part of young men who, though governed by patriotic motives, would serve the nation better by continuing their education until called to the colors in due course.”

The SATC absorbed the functions and members of the ROTC.