U Law School students look to ban recruiters

Cati Vanden Breul

University Law School students will present faculty members with a petition today urging them to take action against the Solomon Amendment.

Law schools around the country have deemed the amendment – which allows the government to withhold funds from colleges that do not grant access to military recruiters – unconstitutional, and many have taken legal action.

In 2003, the Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights, a group of 26 law schools, sued the Department of Defense, claiming the Solomon Amendment violated the schools’ right to free speech.

Law schools, including Yale Law School and Harvard Law School, have condemned the amendment, because the military does not allow openly gay people in its ranks. That policy goes against the schools’ nondiscrimination policies.

A federal appeals court ruled in November that the amendment was unconstitutional but has delayed enforcement of the ruling until the Supreme Court decides whether to hear the case.

Third-year University of Minnesota Law School student James Fleming said it is important to start discussion about the amendment on campus.

“We are petitioning to ask faculty to put the issue on the table, to open discussion,” Fleming said.

He said the petition has received approximately 350 signatures from University of Minnesota Law School students, a significant portion of the school’s 830 students.

Many law schools have already taken action, and as a progressive institution, the University of Minnesota Law School should too, Fleming said.

Luke Garrett, co-president of the National Lawyers Guild student chapter at the University of Minnesota, said he hopes that after the petition is formally presented to the faculty, discussion will begin about what to do next.

“Hopefully, they will come up with options regarding opposition and some kind of public stance,” Garrett said.

That could include joining the lawsuit against the Department of Defense, he said.

But Garrett said faculty members might hesitate to take legal action.

“Some don’t want to rock the boat if they don’t have to,” he said.

Not all students said they are comfortable with the University of Minnesota Law School taking action, either.

First-year University of Minnesota law student Bill Laramy said that he became concerned after he received an e-mail last week asking students to sign the petition.

Laramy said students should discuss the consequences of legal action before giving a signed petition to faculty members.

“Students haven’t even had discussion,” he said. “We need that before we give the issue to faculty to discuss.”

The movement is escalating too quickly, and students should take their time, Laramy said.

The students could be in a hurry to join the lawsuit because other schools are already participating, he said.

“They might just want to jump on and sue somebody,” he said.

Students should contact members of Congress with their opinions, Laramy said.

“One of the best things about going to the (University of Minnesota) Law School is we have a lot of contact with some very influential people,” he said.

Garrett said faculty members might engage in a teach-in or at the very least express a clear message about the University of Minnesota Law School’s anti-discrimination policies.

“If I ended up with a homosexual child, I would not want them to be discriminated against in this way,” he said.

Fleming said he thinks the military will eventually allow gay people to openly serve.

“It’s projects like ours that add grease to those rusty and slow-turning wheels of change,” he said.