Army recruiter law stalls

A federal appeals court postponed enforcing a ruling allowing law schools to bar recruiters.

Cati Vanden Breul

A law that prevents colleges from barring military recruiters could be in limbo.

A federal appeals court decided last week to postpone enforcing its November ruling that would let law schools bar military recruiters. The ruling will not take effect until the Supreme Court decides whether it will hear the case.

The law, known as the Solomon Amendment, allows the government to withhold funds from colleges that do not grant the military complete access to their campuses. Some law schools, such as Yale Law School and Harvard Law School, took issue with the amendment, because the military does not allow openly gay people in its ranks, which the colleges argue conflicts with their nondiscrimination policies.

Although the University of Minnesota is under the jurisdiction of a different appeals court, if the Supreme Court hears the case, its decision would affect the University of Minnesota, said Craig Swan, vice provost for undergraduate education.

“If the Supreme Court makes a ruling, there will definitely be discussion here on campus,” Swan said.

But Yale Law School students and faculty members took matters into their own hands.

The school recently won a lawsuit against the Department of Defense when a U.S. District Court judge decided the amendment went against the school’s constitutional right to free speech.

“If we have nondiscrimination policies, we want to be able to enforce them,” said Janna Freed, a Yale Law School student.

Freed, party to the lawsuit, said the law school decided to pursue legal action when the government threatened to withhold funds from the entire university if the school did not comply fully with the amendment.

Freed said she would have no problem allowing recruiters on campus if they did not discriminate based on sexual orientation.

“Our end goal is that no employer would discriminate based on sexuality,” Freed said.

But not everyone sees the military as a discriminatory organization.

Joel Johnson, president of the University of Minnesota’s Law School Republicans, said the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy actually helps gays and lesbians join the military.

“Its goal is to allow gays to be in the military,” Johnson said. “It’s saying we’re not going to discriminate; we don’t think it needs to be brought up.”

Johnson also said the government should have the right to withhold funds from colleges that do not give access to military recruiters.

“I have no problem with the federal government saying, ‘if you want federal funds, you can’t expressly prohibit recruiters on campus,’ ” he said.

The Queer Student Cultural Center has historically been against having military recruiters on campus, co-chairwoman Emily Souza said.

Souza said she was surprised the court ruled in favor of the law schools.

“More power to them,” she said.

Others said they think the military has a right to be on campus.

“They have the same right as anyone else to be here,” said Brian Edstrom, a third-year computer engineering student.

If the Supreme Court gives law schools the right to ban military recruiters, Edstrom said, he would be in favor of keeping the military at the University of Minnesota.

“We already have ROTC. We should keep them on campus,” Edstrom said.