Four decades after Vietnam War protesters cheered the departure of ROTC programs from some Ivy League universities, their return is bringing little more than a symbolic change to campuses where a new generation of students is neither organizing against them nor lining up to enlist.

Yale, Harvard and Columbia have signed agreements this year to bring back ROTC. The antagonism with elite universities faded with the end of the draft, and much of the lingering opposition to the military dissolved with the repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on homosexuality.

A tiny number of students at these schools pursue ROTC – a total of three at Yale and five at Columbia do so through off-campus arrangements – and those numbers are not expected to rise dramatically anytime soon. But the agreements to revive ROTC are important to the schools, which once produced many of America’s most decorated military officers, and the armed services, which are regaining a presence at some of the country’s best-known universities.

Stanford University’s faculty also voted this year to invite ROTC back to campus, but it has not reached agreements with any of the service branches. Other prominent schools including Princeton, Cornell and theUniversity of Pennsylvania already host units.

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