Court rules schools can’t ban recruiters

Court rules schools can’t ban recruiters

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously on March 6 that despite objections to the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gay men, lesbians and bisexuals, the government can force law schools to allow military recruiters on campus.

By upholding the Solomon Amendment, a law dating back to 1994 that requires universities to choose between allowing recruiters access to facilities or losing all federal funding, the justices rejected a challenge to the law by the Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights and the Society for American Law Teachers. The groups argued that forcing colleges to give up the right to decide what messages to associate with is unconstitutional.

The Northeastern University School of Law, Boston College and Yale University were among several plaintiffs directly named in the challenge.

In his third decision since joining the court last fall, Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. wrote that while law schools cannot forbid military recruiters, they have the right to organize protests when military recruiters visit without jeopardizing their federal funds.

“Students and faculty are free to associate to voice their disapproval of the military’s message,” Roberts wrote in the decision.

Such a response could come in the form of an organized protest, like the one outside Snell Library last month when recruiters visited.

“The next step is really a call to law schools, including Northeastern, to make their opposition to the military’s ban on gays very clear,” said Taylor Flynn, a professor in the School of Law.

Changing the government’s stance on “don’t ask, don’t tell,” a policy which prohibits gay, lesbian and bisexual Americans from serving in the military if their sexual preference is revealed, could be possible in the near future with “a big push from the public,” Flynn said.

“It’s become known that there are many people within the military who are fairly high ranking that don’t like the policy, but for political reasons, would like to see the change come from Congress,” Flynn said.

More than 10,000 people have been discharged from the military under the policy in the past 10 years, according to studies conducted by Call to Duty, a national speaking tour run by a group of gay former service members.

Besides public demonstrations, Flynn said another effective tool would be to “encourage students in the law school and elsewhere to write to their congressmen.”

If Northeastern’s School of Law refuses access to military recruiters, the entire university could stand to lose more than $120 million annually, not to mention the additional federal funding awarded for research and other programs, Dean of Student Financial Services Seamus Harreys said.

“Most institutions like Northeastern would not be able to continue at all without complying,” Harreys said.

In his ruling, however, Roberts said it isn’t mandatory for Congress to even allow schools a set of options, and colleges could be required to allow recruiters even if they did forfeit federal funds.

“Congress’ power in this area ‘is broad and sweeping,'” Roberts wrote, “and there is no dispute in this case that it includes the authority to require campuses access for military recruiters.”

With this verdict from the country’s highest court, gaining momentum for the cause will now be a top priority for student organizations opposing the ruling.

“Many students don’t know what the policies are because it isn’t something that affects them,” said Amy Lippincott, director of education, advocacy and activism for NUBiLAGA. “I think right now it’s more of an issue of awareness and getting all of the students at Northeastern to understand.”

Amber Lea Kincaid, treasurer of the Northeastern University Allied Student Coalition (NUASC), shared Lippincott’s outlook.

“There’s not enough public outrage against it,” she said.

Although it may appear an uphill battle, Kincaid said her organization is willing to stand up to the government’s decision.

“None of us are ready to give up, and I don’t think that’ll ever be the case,” she said. “It’s not what this country is all about; we’re not about discrimination and we’re not about allowing a discriminatory employer on campus just to get funding.” –>

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