Corps vs. Civvies: Norwich’s split personality could use a makeover

After more than two decades, a divide still exists between corps students and civilians who were first enrolled in 1994. Guidon staffer Ethan Miller thinks it’s time for both sides to respect each other. Norwich University photo



Baseball has the Yankees and the Red Sox, racism has the oppressed and the oppressors, and Norwich, well Norwich has the Corps and Civilians. Sure, there are fights in all of them, but hey, at least Norwich has more middle fingers.

Unless you just got to campus, you’ve definitely seen the tension between the corps and the civvies. I was on my way to history of civilization one day, talking to a few guys, just messing around while we walked, when a corps kid walks up to us and tells us that we’re a bunch of “sissy no-brained civvies,” and then walks away. The next day I’m headed to chow with a couple of civvy chicks, when a different corps kid sees the chicks and yells “Hey ladies, you want to chase these boots?” But hey, maybe that kind of stuff only happens when I’m around.

When I first got to this college, I looked around at all of the corps members in uniforms and short hair and thought, “Huh, this seems like a serious college,” but I soon learned it’s not as serious as it looks. I started to realize what shenanigans went on around campus, whether it was the weird kid from down the hall who would run around with condoms on his face to the basic white girls getting drunk and throwing their half-filled Mikes (Hard Lemonade) out of their windows. I began to see that the school had a more party vibe than they had on the outside.

This actually is way tamed down from the old days. Norwich University began as an all Corps of Cadets college at its beginning in 1819, and the campus used to be pretty rambunctious before the civvies got here. There have been many wonderful corps stories passed down regarding the campus, such as how in the 1940s the college had been an armored cavalry training school, which contained wicked drunk tankers, who would drive their tanks around completely inebriated resulting in several arrests. One of the many notable events that occurred is how one of the tank commanders got drunk in town and was arrested for drunkeness in public and then got in a brawl. When his crew heard about him being arrested, they (who were also drunk,) climbed into their tank and steamed off towards the Northfield police station. Where they smashed the wall to free their CO.

Those days (there was a war going on by the way) have vanished (along with the tanks). But the campus definitely changed flavor when the college let civilians into the college, in 1994. Instead of being a Corps of Cadets military school, the civvies brought a new vibe (some might say it’s a dull one). Currently there are nearly 2,400 students enrolled at Norwich University, about two thirds of which are enrolled in the Corps of Cadets. Since the introduction of civvies in 1994, many of the corps members tend to wander over to the civilian dorms to let loose and try to flirt with all the civvy chicks. While most of them fail, many of the civvy chicks do like to date the corps guys (when the rules allow! The corps members are allowed to eat with any civvy after their second year on campus. The Corps first year on campus, when they are lowly “rooks,” they are forced to eat on the second floor of the dining hall – think of it as a social quarantine).

But after that look out. Many of the newly promoted rooks went on an ego trip after their recognition on Feb. 11. Which is odd, because, I mean getting promoted to a private is equivalent to upgrading from an IPhone 6 to an IPhone 6S. After earning a simple achievement that is just a stepping stone in the rooks’ new way of life, they feel like they are better than all the civvies.

Now, I admit, the rooks do go through a lot physically to get promoted and to get respected by their upperclassmen, but while trying to earn the respect of their classmates, they tend to treat other people like crap. On the first day being recognized, the newly ordained privates’ egos grew as big as their shaven heads. Several came up to me and a couple other people in West Hall and started calling us “basic white civvies.”

Just about every term used by the civvies and the corps about each other aren’t listed on the Norwich Website or in the handbook because, well, no one wants to admit that the whole kumbaya military academy thing is not as it seems. All the websites and handbooks say about Norwich is that it is like any other college, all sports loving and kumbaya singing, except that in reality in some ways it can be the complete opposite. Most of the terms used to describe corps members, while humorous, really go against the whole leadership thing that Norwich has going on. Some of these terms are Blue Falcon, Plebe, and Play Army Guy’s, and some others I probably can’t print.

While civvy terms make fun of the fact that corps life is just a bunch of pretend-army guys, the terms used against civvies are more directed more toward the fact that we’re all just a bunch of pot-smoking alcoholics, such as: “basic white corps whores,” “can’t do a pushup,” “pogs,” “boot chasers,” and more. These derogatory terms undermine the supposed equality of the corps and the civilians, though you could probably argue these terms are appropriate for both sides (I mean, you think only civvies smoke pot and drink alcohol?) Since these terms are used by many people, it just goes to show how even though this school is meant to produce leaders, that isn’t always the case.

Now I’m only a freshman, but maybe I can see things with fresh eyes so here’s my view. Norwich University is a well-known college for training people to be well-rounded leaders. Many of these so called “leaders” on campus, whether they are a part of the civvy side or the corps side, have been against each other for the sole reason that they don’t respect each other. Many in the corps still don’t think that the civvies should be at this school so they just treat civvies with constant disrespect. Which means many of the civvies end up thinking that the corps kids are just pretentious a-holes who take the whole ROTC thing way too seriously.

But, really, in the end we’re all students, equals in the classroom at the very least, and hopefully one day we can come together to realize just how irrelevant it is to define ourselves by a lifestyle. I don’t have all the answers, I’m just here to say what’s up. And please, don’t shoot the messenger (cause I know y’all corps got guns).

Ethan Miller is a freshman architecture major and copy editor on the Guidon staff.


  1. Steven P Robinson, NUCC 79 says:

    Good essay Ethan, though we did have civilian students on campus when I was on the Hill.

    It is a social divide, folks with different life goals crammed together in a fairly small college in an out of the way corner of rural New England. Back then the bigger social “target” was Cadets versus Townies.

    The respect can start with small things like your article, getting a few people to refuse to use the less than mannerly references to the Others. They infect a few with their better manners…

    Best of luck and welcome to the Norwich family.

  2. Gerard Cogliano says:

    I am very impressed with your article. I am from the Class of 78. We were the Class that had the first females in the Corp and civilian girls living together in Gerard Hall. It was a huge success from many angles. I have been concerned about what you are describing I hope Norwich gets it figured out. Great article hold your head high it is not easy speaking out but it is easy to defend if it is the truth.

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