Inside and Out: Perceptions of the Corps

Cadets and non-regs discuss student perception of the Corps

By Megan Rodriguez @MeganLRodriguez

While everyone at Texas A&M has a unique college experience, the most evident differences seem to exist between members of the Corps of Cadets and non-Corps students.

For 2,500 cadets, leadership training, waking up before dawn and meeting rigorous fitness standards to remain in the organization completely shapes their time in Aggieland. However, there are about 65,000 other students on campus who will never wear a uniform to class and often hold a completely different view of the Corps.

So, over the last few weeks I have conducted interviews with cadets and other students to better understand viewpoints surrounding the Corps. Part of this process was led by Battalion multimedia editor Daoud Qamar whose video project asked students to write one word on a chalkboard that came to mind when they thought of the Corps.

Answers on the board varied greatly. For some, their first thoughts included hazing and discrimination, while others wrote about tradition and commitment. There is not one particular way that members and non-members view the organization. As with anything, there are different life experiences and interactions that have shaped each person’s perceptions, but it is important to take note of what students are saying. There are questions that non-cadets want answered and misconceptions that cadets want clarified.

Students were asked to write what comes to mind when they think of the Corps of Cadets.

Students were asked to write what comes to mind when they think of the Corps of Cadets.

Kinesiology sophomore Raven Stegall said she appreciates the contributions that Corps members bring to the university but has always wondered if everyone in the organization pursues a military career after graduation.

“I feel like they keep traditions strong,” Stegall said. “If people are ignoring traditions, there is always the Corps that won’t be ignoring them and will be implementing them.”

Finance junior Madeline Sumner has friends in the Corps who she said frequently complain about the challenges of being a cadet. Even so, Sumner said she sees the benefits that members gain from the Corps and their influence at the university.

“I think it teaches them discipline with how early they’re up,” Sumner said. “I don’t know too much about it, but it definitely seems like something I would want to do if I was mentally strong enough to do so. … It has definitely promoted tradition and recognition. I think whenever people think of A&M they associate that with the Corps and the armed forces. I think that’s a good thing.”

Poultry science junior Sean Cook said that while he sometimes hears students talk about how “intense” cadets can be, his cousin’s membership in the Corps has brought the family closer together.

“Since he joined, it has been a more family thing,” Cook said. “His family started to come up here more and they started to participate in school events like family weekend and football games. They are more involved, and I think that is one thing that the Corps does — is it gets more people involved.”

Even with support from many non-Corps students, member of Squadron 18 and university studies junior Austin Sweeney said there are times it feels like there are barriers between cadets and other Aggies.

“It is hard to feel like a normal student because you are in the uniform, and it feels like sometimes that is all people see,” Sweeney said. “I would encourage people to talk to a cadet because typically they are pretty cool people.”

This distinction from the rest of the student body is understandable since the Corps is a military leadership organization unlike those at most universities. While more than 1,700 schools offer ROTC programs, A&M is the largest of the nation’s six senior military colleges. This sets A&M apart as one of the most prestigious military programs in the nation. SMCs are similar to Military Service Academies like West Point in that each cadet receives a combination of military instruction and higher education. However, they are set apart from service academies by the fact that most cadets are not obligated to join the military upon graduation.  

The Citadel is the second largest SMC in the U.S., and one in three of their 2,291 cadets earn commission after graduation. At A&M, approximately 40 to 45 percent of the 2,500 cadets pursue military service.

Sweeney said it is common to encounter students who wrongly assume that everyone in the Corps enters the military after graduation and others who don’t realize that the Corps has a lot of different outfits which are all unique from each other.

“A lot of people forget that cadets are people too,” Sweeney said. “I feel like that is partially on the cadets too. I feel like they can do a better job of reaching out to non-cadets, being more involved with the university outside of the Corps because most cadets aren’t and I know I’m not.”

The idea that there is a lot of hazing in the Corps of Cadets is a common misconception, according to political science senior in Company D2 Trey Coley. He said that while there are isolated incidents, the organization as a whole has come a long way since the early 2000s. Along with curbing hazing, Coley said that cadets do their best to uphold campus traditions.

“I think the Corps has maintained the relevancy of traditions,” Coley said. “For example, I don’t know many non-regs who go to Silver Taps but all 2,500 cadets attend. I see a lot more cadets than I see non-regs and that is just a small example.”

Recreation, park and tourism sciences senior Hank Manson said there often seems to be a major divide between the Corps and non-Corps students. After spending four years in the Corps, Manson is now completing his final credits to graduate but said he still feels a connection to the organization and hopes that students in and out of the Corps can see past their differences.

“I think a lot of people think if you’re in the Corps, you’re a Corps guy, and if you’re not then you’re a non-reg or they think about if you’re a traditional student or a non traditional student,” Manson said. “It is good to be proud of what you are, but at the end of the day we are all Aggies, regardless of whether you are in the Corps or just a regular student at A&M. If we close ourselves off to one another, we lose that.”