United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
Talwani United States District Judge.
Michael Collins challenges an Army Board for Correction of
Military Records (“ABCMR”) decision denying his
request for correction of his military record to reflect that
he was wrongfully disenrolled from the Army Senior Reserve
Officers' Training Corps (“ROTC”) Program.
Before the court are Collins' Motion for Judgment on
the Pleadings [#24], the Secretary of the Army's
(“Secretary”) Motion to Affirm ABCMR's
Decision [#27], and the Secretary's Motion to
Supplement the Record [#26]. For the reasons that
follow, Collins' motion is ALLOWED in part and DENIED in
part, and the Secretary's motions are DENIED. The
decision of the ABCMR is VACATED, and this matter is REMANDED
to the ABCMR so that it may promptly conduct further
proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.
The Army ROTC Scholarship Cadet Contract
September 2005, Collins signed an Army ROTC Scholarship Cadet
Contract (“Contract”). Administrative Record
(hereinafter “R. [page no.]”) 47 [#15]. The
Contract represented an agreement between the Army and
Collins for Collins to participate in the Army ROTC program.
R. 40, 47.
to the Contract, the Army agreed to provide scholarship
benefits to Collins while he attended Northeastern
University, contingent upon Collins' adherence to
numerous terms. Id. at 45. One term of important
note is the Contract's “Full-Time Student
Agreement” provision, which states:
I agree to remain a full-time student in good standing at the
educational institution named above until I receive my
degree. A full-time student is defined as one enrolled in
sufficient academic courses to obtain sophomore, junior, and
senior academic status at the end of each appropriate
one-academic-year increment for the duration of the
scholarship. This includes the required Army ROTC classes,
which may be part of or in addition to those courses required
for my degree.
Id. at 42. Moreover, the Contract provides:
I understand that I may be deemed to have failed to comply
with the terms and conditions of this contract (breach of
contract) regardless of whether I knew that the failure
violated the contract and regardless of whether the failure
was the result of an act or omission on my part made with a
specific intent to avoid responsibilities under the contract.
Id. at 45.
cadet's failure to comply with any term of the Contract
entitles the Army to initiate that cadet's disenrollment
from the ROTC Program. Id. at 45. The Contract
specifies certain consequences of disenrollment from the
program for “breach of contractual terms or any other
disenrollment criteria . . . .” Id. First, a
subsection on the cadet's agreement to serve on enlisted
active duty provides that the Secretary “may order me
to active duty as an enlisted soldier, if I am qualified, for
a period of not more than four (4) years if I fail to
complete the ROTC program.” Id. Another
If I am offered the opportunity to repay my advanced
educational assistance in lieu of being ordered to active
duty, I will be required to reimburse the United States
government through repayment of an amount of money, plus
interest, equal to the entire amount of financial assistance
. . . paid by the United States for my advanced education
from the commencement of this contractual agreement to the
date of my disenrollment or refusal to accept a commission.
Id. As between repayment and active duty, the
reimbursement section further provides: “If I am
disenrolled from ROTC, I understand the Secretary of the
Army, or his or her designee, retains the prerogative to
either order me to active duty or order monetary repayment of
my scholarship benefits.” Id.
subsection provides that “whether voluntarily or
because of misconduct, ” a cadet's failure to begin
or complete active duty or duty in reserve status would also
trigger a reimbursement requirement. Id.
“Complete Agreement and Severability” provision
appearing near the end of the Contract states, “I
understand the provisions in the contract contain the only
binding promises by and to both parties. This agreement
controls over any conflicting advice or information that I
may have received orally or in writing from Cadet Command, my
[Professor of Military Science], other cadre, cadets or
others regarding my obligations and agreements to the
Army.” Id. at 46.
the Contract provides scholarship benefits for a period of
four academic years, the Contract also states that the date
the education would commence was September 7, 2005, and the
date of completion was May 30, 2010, id. at 40, a
five-year period. Collins' signature appears at the end
of the Contract. Id. at 47.
Collins' Academic Program at Northeastern University
through the Disenrollment Proceedings
began a five-year program at Northeastern University in
September 2005. Northeastern University's five-year
program allows students to engage in co-op experiences during
some semesters while attending regular courses during other
semesters. Compl. ¶¶ 6-7 [#1]. It also provides for
an additional “middler” year beyond the
traditional four-year curriculum. Id. ¶ 10.
Collins' transcript reflects that he completed 18
semester hours in Fall 2005, 17 semester hours in Spring
2006, 11 semester hours in Summer 2006, 20 semester hours in
Fall 2006, 12 semester hours in Spring 2007 during his Co-op,
6 semester hours in Summer 2007 during his Co-op, and 16
semester hours in Fall 2007 during his middler year. R. 48.
In Spring 2008, Collins incurred grades reflecting incomplete
performance and received credit for only one course, totaling
four credits. R. 29.
to an August 2008 memorandum from Collins' Assistant
Professor of Military Science to Collins, the ROTC had
counseled Collins in April 2008 that he had until July 2008
to rectify any and all issues in the incomplete Spring 2008
classes, and to draft an essay on the importance of meeting
all assigned tasks in a timely manner. Id. Over the
summer of 2008, Collins failed to complete his American
Military History class, failed to rectify the academic issues
from his Spring 2008 semester, and failed to draft the
required essay. Id. at 56. The August 2008
memorandum stated that unless Collins met with the Army by
September 5, 2008, the Army would “initiate
disenrollment action for breach of contract for failure to
maintain full time student status.” Id.
Professor of Military Science initiated a disenrollment
action in November 2008. Id. at 57. A memorandum
informed Collins that this action was pursuant to Army
Regulation 145-1, paragraph 3-43a(16), which provides for
disenrollment based on breach of contract. See
Def.'s Mem. in Support of Def.'s Mot. to Affirm Ex. 1
(“Army Regulation 145-1”) [#28-1]. According to
the memorandum, Collins breached his contract based on his
“failure to maintain full-time student status in Spring
2008 as defined by Northeastern University.” R. 57. The
memorandum stated that Collins' “official
transcripts show you taking a total of 8 credit hours, 4
hours of which was your ROTC class. This act constitutes a
breach of contract.” Id. The memorandum
informed Collins of his right to request a hearing in front
of a board of officers. Id.
replied to the November 2008 disenrollment memorandum by
completing and returning an enclosed “Acknowledgment of
Cadet” form. On that form, Collins requested a hearing
at which he could personally appear and respond regarding his