The UC establishes in 1870 a military department to provide all male students with four years of military education. The Cadet Corps becomes a fixture of student life; uniformed soldiers are a regular sight on campus. Organized into a battalion, they participate for two hours a week in drills to learn “tactics, dismounted drill, marksmanship, camp duty, military engineering and fortifications.” In the Berkeley hills, the Cadets sometimes practice before crowds of civilian spectators.
By 1873, a makeshift campus armory in North Hall stores and maintains training weapons for student cadets. As enrollment grows, the armory will move to the new Harmon Gymnasium.
Some Cadets participate enthusiastically in the required military training, but as early as 1877, others object to a military component at a university. In 1904, the head of the Cadet Corps, Capt. John T. Nance, is “pelted with clods and grass,” the San Francisco Call reports, by students who oppose his style of regimentation. Nance requires that they march into his tactics classes in military order.
That same year, the Academic Senate reduces the number of years of required military training from four to two. This is consistent with changes made by the U.S. Department of War. Some 850 male students are on campus at this time.
Also in 1904, the U.S Army begins offering military commissions – formal documents naming a person as a commissioned officer – of second lieutenant to distinguished students in the Cadet Corps. It becomes a tradition for the governor of California to hand out these documents at graduation.