Military recruiters break campus policy

Our community and its leaders must join the fight against the Solomon Amendment.

The University does not allow employers who practice otherwise unacceptable discrimination to recruit on campus. The Law School, for example, closely monitors all on-campus recruiting. Employers whose hiring practices do not comport with the school’s policy and even employers whose recruiters have inconsistent personal biases, cannot recruit on campus.

But the Law School and the University make an exception for the U.S. military. Military recruiters are accommodated even though they patently discriminate against a portion of the University’s students: gays and lesbians (except those that are conveniently closeted and plan to remain so). Like any other employer, the U.S. military should be turned away so long as it discriminates.

Although the University’s anti-discrimination policy protects gays and lesbians, even those of us who are open and honest, recruiters are allowed on campus because of the Solomon Amendment. The law gives the federal government the power to withhold significant funding from any college or university that bars military recruiters.

The military’s policy is, at best, tenuously related to promoting national security, and it may even be a detriment to it. Many argue forcing gays and lesbians to remain in the closet only weakens the very unit cohesion – by causing distrust and suspicion – that the policy is supposed to foster. Also preventing openly gay lawyers from practicing in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps, for example, limits the military’s hiring pool, and for what gain?

The military’s ridiculous policy serves no greater aim than to anesthetize fragile homophobic sensibilities. The very controversy surrounds the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy suggests its rationale is weak. The military cannot enforce baseless policies to placate archaic fears of “getting caught in the foxhole with a gay,” expecting the civilian world to throw aside its values. I am neither attacking the military nor military recruiting. The military’s old school policy is the problem, not the University’s desire to provide a safe campus for gay and lesbian students.

The Solomon Amendment allows schools to take only ineffectual ameliorative steps in response to the problem. The Law School Career Services Office, for example, laboriously posts a disclaimer and the relevant portion of the Law School’s anti-discrimination policy on all notices regarding military hiring.

These feeble allowances are a preposterous substitute for an environment in which equality is the essence of every policy. The University’s anti-discrimination policy is the cornerstone of an environment free from prejudice and bigotry. The University is richly diverse and is nationally recognized for the quality and variety of its faculty and students. It serves as the state’s most invaluable refuge, where persons of every ethnicity, creed and lifestyle can take cover from prejudice that plagues society. These merits exist, in no small part, because a notable history of always tolerating and nearly always appreciating diversity.

The University must be allowed to provide a campus free from the discrimination its rules forbid, and not repugnant to the values of equality and justice that its regents, students and faculty hold dear.

Many students have begun to investigate joining already- successful legal action initiated by other schools. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit recently found some applications of the Solomon Amendment unconstitutional. The Law School faculty should join the lawsuit, and the University administration should clear the way for the Law School’s effort. Those who face discriminators must work harder. The rest should be angry too. Your values have been defaced. Recent hate crimes indicate prejudice continues to affect our peace and safety, but our leaders’ hands are tied. We need to stand together to free the University from the Solomon Amendment’s grip and restore the University’s ability to provide an environment free from discrimination.

Jimmy Fleming is a law student and the Lambda Law Student Association secretary and spokesman. Please send comments to [email protected]