On March 8, the Law School faculty got political. Overwhelmingly voting to join the Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights, a coalition of law schools, professors and students who filed suit against the Department of Defense in September over the Solomon Amendment, the Law School faculty also publicly stated its opposition to the federal statute. The faculty’s resolution is unfortunate and problematic.
The Solomon Amendment requires schools receiving federal funding to assist military recruiters, including judge advocate general corps recruiters, in the same way schools assist any other employer recruiting on campus. The federal statute indirectly clashes with the standard law school policy barring employers with “discriminatory” sexual orientation hiring policies from recruiting on campus.
Essentially, the Solomon Amendment presents public law schools, which are part of institutions swimming in federal funds, with a difficult choice: allow military recruiters on campus or take an authentic stand and forego Uncle Sam’s favors.
Unwilling to take such a stand, the Law School faculty publicly complained. Put simply, the resolution stated, “Boo hoo, boo hoo. We want our cake and we want to eat it too, we don’t like the Solomon Amendment, we want to bar judge advocate general corps recruiters from campus and we want the federal dollars too. Boo hoo, boo hoo.”
Markedly, the faculty did not join pending litigation against the federal government, the decision was simply one to “go public,” as one professor put it. It is unclear whether their actions will ever have any effect on our campus.
As an initial matter, the Law School faculty vote was poorly orchestrated. The vote, which declared a political position for the Law School as a whole, was conducted with no meaningful student discussion, notice and/or input (unless of course you consider a herdlike petition process meaningful student discussion). More disturbing, but unsurprising, is the fact that the few students who were present at the faculty meeting all represented the faculty majority position.
Students should ask whether such a vote, with one-sided student representation and negligible publicity, really contributes to a climate in which contentious issues are debated in an effective and open marketplace of ideas.
Does such a vote truly contribute to the legitimate goal of respecting ideological diversity at a public university?
But the means by which the vote was effectuated only confirms what conservatives have known all along. In the ivory tower, diversity really only means diversity of one stripe, the progressive politically correct stripe.
Following the vote, faculty members and The Minnesota Daily’s editorial board were quick to strike a diplomatic pose stating that the faculty decision was not “anti-military.” But this conclusion is remarkably disingenuous. While the Law School faculty chose to maintain military recruiting on campus, its public resolution makes clear it does so grudgingly and only because barring recruiters from campus is an untenable financial decision.
More disturbing than the law faculty’s political whining is its intermediate goal, to bar judge advocate general recruiting from law schools. This goal, a means to the higher purpose of reversing the U.S. military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, is at best an indirect means through which to deal with the ultimate substantive issue. The faculty agenda should be rethought for at least two reasons.
First, barring recruiters from campus inhibits the U.S. armed forces from effectively providing for the country’s national security. (This line of attack, of course, assumes faculty members actually value the organization charged with sacrificially providing national security for the greater public.) That tenuous assumption aside, judge advocate general officers fulfill indispensable roles in the U.S. military by administering the military justice system, defending enemy combatants, advising military personnel in regard to personal legal matters and advising commanders in regard to international law.
The importance of military officers should not be underestimated. Barring military recruiters from the University Law School, one of the country’s best law schools, only serves to hinder the efficiency and quality of the nation’s most important governmental institution, all the while negligibly addressing the ultimate policy issue.
Second, barring military recruiters from campus hurts law students interested in serving in the U.S. military and censors student choice. As surprising as it might be for the Law School faculty to learn, there are students at the University who view military career opportunities as honorable and advantageous public service. Barring recruiters from campus hurts those students by making it more difficult for interested students to explore military careers and to ultimately secure positions with the military corps.
Moreover, the faculty goal disrespects student autonomy in typical elitist fashion. The U.S. military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy is not a clearly immoral or undesirable policy, one over which reasonable people can differ, and a policy that has been upheld in the federal courts. With such a difficult and contentious issue, it makes more sense for the faculty to allow students to exercise their own decisions in regards to the policy rather than wholly remove the decision from students in typical Big Brother fashion.
In the end, the overwhelming majority of faculty members opposed to the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy is unsurprising. What is unfortunate is its indirect agenda for reversing the policy, an indirect agenda which evinces a total disregard for the good of the armed forces. The faculty stance seeks to use the Law School and the military as a means to an end. It is a stance that should be rethought.
Bryan Freeman welcomes comments at [email protected]