Students Fight for Military Service ELAW


Experiencing the Liberal Arts in the World, or ELAW, is something that all SMCM students have to consider. The pre-approved ways to fulfill this graduation requirement as listed on the SMCM website are: “A study tour, or a semester- or year-long study abroad program; A credit-bearing internship; A service or experiential learning class; By petition, through certain kinds of independent studies or off-campus research experiences that help students meet the goals of the requirement.” These learning objectives are pretty clear, and, to paraphrase the website, include gaining firsthand knowledge beyond the college campus or outside academia, participating in activities that are worthy of at least four credits, developing broader educational goals, gaining exposure to other perspectives, and critically evaluating these experiences.
Bradley Putnam, a US Marine, and a student here at SMCM, believes his military service should count as an ELAW experience; however, the school does not have military service on the list of pre-approved ELAW options. Bradley believes that his mission on his 7 month deployment to Afghanistan, as part of Operation Enduring Freedom, was, above all else, a mission to promote and ensure peace: “Our main tasks were to interact with and protect the local population, and to train them to defend themselves.” This, in Bradley’s mind, fulfills the requirements for ELAW credit.
Thankfully, Bradley did not have to go through this process alone. Bradley reached out to the College Democrats here on campus who have been supporting Bradley through the process of petitioning. Brendan Benge of the College Democrats said, “We at the club were unaware of the school’s policy against ELAW credit for military service, so we jumped at the chance to help him.” The College Dems, recognizing this as a bipartisan issue of proper recognition of military service, reached out to the College Republican’s exec board, and the two clubs together wrote a letter to the academic policy board. Benge spoke for the club and said, “We here at the College Democrats feel so strongly about this issue, because a simple change in this schools policy can help our nation’s veterans graduate more easily,” adding, “While allowing military service to count towards ELAW credit is a small step towards achieving this goal, it remains an important one for veterans such as Bradley.”
The SMCM Academic Policy Committee approved Bradley Putnam’s petition on  January 29th, which is another step towards becoming more veteran friendly for SMCM. The school is already a Yellow Ribbon school, a program created to assist veterans using the Post-9/11 GI Bill to pay for school. Bradley told The Point News that he’d “like to thank everyone who signed the online petition, and especially Roderick Lewis and the work he did with the student Democratic and Republican Societies writing a letter of support on my behalf.” Bradley is glad of his petitions approval partially because he is a “big supporter of the ELAW requirement of the core curriculum,” and hopes that his petition will “set a precedent and encourage other veterans at SMCM with abroad experience to apply for ELAW credit.”