Professor protests military recruitment

Amy Hackbarth

The Society of American Law Teachers – an organization headed by University law professor Carol Chomsky – has been criticized for protesting military recruitment of law students on college campuses.

An outpouring of patriotism and support for the military since Sept. 11 has fueled criticism from the organization, which works to eliminate sexual orientation discrimination in the military, Chomsky said.

“People think that we’re discouraging law students from entering the military, but we’re really trying to discourage the military from discriminating against gays and lesbians,” she said.

A Pentagon-issued order discouraging the military discharge of gays and lesbians until the attacks in Afghanistan end adds to the conflict, Chomsky said.

Lt. Jason Lien of the Judge Advocate General Corps, speaking on his own behalf, said society’s effects are hypocritical and unpatriotic.

“For law professors to impose their views on law students is hypocritical,” the University Law School graduate said. “Right now our country is in need of the brightest people to serve our country.”

Military recruitment on law school and college campuses is tied to federal funding for schools by the Solomon amendments passed by Congress in the 1990s. According to the amendments, any school prohibiting military recruitment on campus will lose its federal funding.

But a 1997 repeal of one of the amendments allows schools that refuse military recruitment to keep their federal scholarship funds. Those schools – along with their affiliated universities – lose rights to all other federal dollars.

The University stands to forfeit $290 million if the Law School stanches military recruitment on campus.

Because of the amount of funding at stake, the Law School is not planning to ban military recruitment, Chomsky said.

Private law schools such as William Mitchell College of Law, which only receives federal scholarship funds, are unaffected by the amendments. Most private schools do not allow military recruitment on campus.

A policy by the American Association of Law Schools complicates the issue further by requiring law schools that don’t prohibit military recruitment to actively protest the military’s sexual discrimination policies.

Law schools such as the University’s try to balance between refusing and allowing military recruitment on campus.

The Society of American Law Teachers “gives substance to the AALS’ policy,” Chomsky said. The society recommends actions such as informing students of the military’s discrimination policies and providing a support system to students.

The Lambda Law Student Association, an organization for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender University law students, has worked with the Career Services Office at the Law School to inform students about the military’s sexual orientation policies, said former Lambda President Phil Duran.

Duran, now a legal program coordinator for the GLBT advocacy organization OutFront Minnesota, said Lambda worked with the organization to put disclaimers on all University-made posters and ads for military recruitment on campus. The disclaimer, written by the Career Services Office at the Law School, mentions the difference in military and University sexual orientation discrimination policies.

Lambda President Jenny Ryan said the association did not actively protest the issue this semester but might do something in the spring.

Resisting military recruitment is more important after Sept. 11, Duran said.

Less than two weeks after the attacks, the Pentagon issued a “stop loss” order meant to dissuade military administrators from discharging gays and lesbians during times of war.

The only other stop loss order was issued during the Persian Gulf War, and many gays and lesbians were discharged after the war ended, Chomsky said.

“Basically, they just want gays and lesbians to do the grunt work during the war, to stand in the line of fire, and when it’s over the military will tell them to go home,” Duran said. “That makes what we’re trying to do pretty significant.”

Amy Hackbarth welcomes comments at [email protected]