Local universities have been disputing with military recruiters about how much access recruiters have to college campuses.
The dispute focuses on whether military recruiters should be permitted to recruit on college campuses without violating nondiscrimination policies. Written policies and philosophies that prohibit sexually-oriented discrimination at many universities, such as Temple, Penn, Widener and Rutgers-Camden, appear to contradict the military policy of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” A case that questions civil rights and military willingness will be reviewed by the Supreme Court.
“Although many college students cannot even fathom the degree to which hypocrisy plagues our government and especially our military, we cannot deny, nor should we be astounded that the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy exists,” sophomore Joshua Lamaina said.
Temple’s nondiscrimination policy does not apply to on-campus military recruiters and the ROTC program.
“I am appalled that Temple University allows recruiting that discriminates against certain demographics on campus,” said student Ryan Cherlin.
In order to change that, the trustees must vote on it, according to Robert J. Reinstein, vice president and dean of Beasley Law School.
Another issue in question is whether or not it is justified for the military to deny funding to colleges and universities unless they allow them to discriminate openly on our campuses when recruiting.
If the universities do not comply, the government will implement the Solomon Amendment, a law which applies to colleges and allows them to challenge their anti-discriminatory policies. In addition, it allows the Pentagon to withhold federal funding to universities that refuse equal access to military recruiters on their campuses.
“These universities should be allowed to exercise this right without fear of monetary punishments,” said sophomore Tim Ferretti.
This past fall, adversaries of the Solomon Amendment persuaded an appellate court that the amendment violated the universities’ First Amendment rights. The appellate court will sustain its position in the case until the Justice Department can appeal it to the Supreme Court.
“I fail to see how the Solomon Amendment is anything but corrupt in nature. It seems to basically bribe open-minded institutions into allowing the military’s discriminatory practices to be conducted on their property,” added Ferretti.
Administrators are refraining from taking any action until the court comes to a decision.
“If the military is allowed to practice exclusion of an entire group of people from their institution based on sexual orientation, then the universities should be allowed the same right of exclusion,” argued Ferretti.
In some schools such as Penn, the recruiting programs are headed by the Law School Career Planning and Placement Office. Now, the office has taken initiative to stop working with recruiters, which resulted in the programs relocating to the university’s general career services center. In addition, the Penn Law School is a member of the Association of American Law schools, which prohibits the members from working with employers who do not abide by its nondiscrimination policies.
The Solomon Amendment has been difficult to implement and as a result, some schools have taken legal action and decided to file lawsuits against the government. Other universities’ law schools, such as Widener’s School of Law, chose to take no action.
Lamaina said he feels the ROTC programs on campus “have become a medium for discrimination against college students who have been assured by their respective university that they would not be victims to this type of discrimination in respect to their academic careers.”
Chris Robbins, who is in the Navy, argued that, “the military, unlike civilian colleges, does not have the ability to make decisions like allowing homosexuality or females in combat based on societal changes. The military must make decisions based on improving the fighting ability of its forces. This is a societal issue that cannot enter into combat. The differences in genders and sexual orientations do not belong on the battlefield. This isn’t about tolerance, this is about combat.”
Some schools, including UCLA and the College of William and Mary, have expressed support for the Solomon Amendment by filing friend-of-the-court briefs.
Gary Laughlin, who is in the Marine Corps ROTC, added that “the judges overrode Congress and decided to punish the military for its ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy on homosexuality in the armed services. It was President Bill Clinton that came up with the policy, not the military, so it is unfair to punish the military. If people aren’t in favor of it and believe that it is bias or discriminatory they should take it out with congress, not the military. I expect the government to withhold any funding from any forum that does not obey the law.”
In other schools, students have been active in forming group discussing opposing the amendment.
Liron Milbar can be reached at Lmilbar@temple.edu.