March 9, 2006
The Wisdom of Solomon
Law schools that challenged the Solomon Amendment, a federal law
passed in 1994 that eliminates federal funding to universities that
deny equal access to military recruiters, tried to hide behind noble
motives. The Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights, for example,
claimed that its support of academic freedom and nondiscrimination
required law schools to bar military recruiters from campus because
of the military's discriminatory "don't ask, don't tell"
policy on gays.
the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the lawsuit unanimously. As the
opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts noted, the Solomon
Amendment doesn't, in any way, limit universities' rights to protest
"don't ask, don't tell." If universities cannot abide
by the policy, Roberts wrote, they are "free to decline the
see, this lawsuit was all about letting academia have it both
ways. Clearly the law-school litigants believe they have a constitutional
right to thumb their nose at military policies, while burning
through tax dollars paid by voters who, as a rule, hold those
who serve in the military in high esteem -- and no doubt respect
soldiers more than they respect lawyers.
well, lawyer-like for academics to argue that they have deeply
held convictions -- but that doesn't mean they should have to
pay any consequences for them.
where is the academic freedom in barring recruiters from campus?
Freedom should mean that military recruiters have their platform.
Students are free to enlist, if they so choose, or not enlist
if they do not. Critics are free to protest against Pentagon practices.
It's called a free exchange of ideas.
be a good place to mention that I think "don't ask, don't
tell" is a foolish policy. I believe the military should
welcome gays, that it is wrong-headed to assume gay officers will
misbehave and that existing rules can address any wrongful actions
of any gay or straight officers or enlistees.)
it. If the Bushies wanted to bar Muslim recruiting on campus,
academics would be hollering -- despite Islam's hostility toward
homosexuality. The big dif here is that fellow academics have
decided who cannot speak freely on campus.
rules discriminate against women by barring all women from serving
in certain combat positions. I wondered: If ivory-tower elites
truly oppose discrimination, why didn't they challenge the Solomon
Amendment on military policies that discriminate against all women?
Michael Rooke-Ley, a law prof at Santa Clara University, answered
that military recruiters will interview females, but they won't
interview gay students. I reply that the military will interview
gay law students who don't announce that they are homosexual.
Rooke-Ley believes no institution should expect applicants to
deny a fundamental fact about themselves. You can't argue that
it is acceptable to discriminate against Jews because someone
can deny being Jewish, he said. The same goes for homosexuality.
sees the lawsuit as a way to fight "hypocrisy on campus"
-- that law schools can't preach against discrimination, then
allow recruiters that discriminate.
I see the
suit itself as the height of hypocrisy. In a truly free academic
environment, students would accept the presence of those with
whom they disagree, while exercising their right to speak against
them. In barring the military, law students and faculty are working
to marginalize not only recruits, but also any students who support
military policy. It's not enough to protest recruiters. Only a
solid ban will do to let students interested in military service
understand that, in the university, they are the freaks.
care that, to the extent that this is a free country, you can
thank the military.
2006 Creators Syndicate