The Yale Law School will announce a $350 million decision Monday.
Last semester, the U.S. Army wrote several letters to Yale President Richard Levin stating that Yale Law School’s treatment of military recruiters does not comply with applicable laws.
Based on the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on homosexuality, Yale does not allow the judge advocate general, the lawyers of the military, to recruit through the fall or spring interview programs, but the Law School does provide them contact information for students to recruit on their own.
As a consequence of the 1996 Solomon Amendment, Yale may lose $350 million in federal funding if the Law School maintains its rule that all employers participating in the two interview programs must comply with its nondiscrimination policy.
Student response to the issue is divided; on one hand, students do not want to compromise nondiscrimination values, but on the other, most of the withdrawn federal funding would be a loss shouldered by the medical school.
“We are very respectful of the military. We’re not critical of the military in itself, but of the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy,” Lindsay Barenz LAW ’04 said. “There are gay and lesbian students who want to serve in the military.”
Barenz is a co-chairwoman of OutLaws, an organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered members of the Law School community. She is a member of the Student and Faculty Alliance for Military Equality, or SAME, and she added that about 200 people have signed a petition that states they support the nondiscrimination policy and will not interview with employers who violate that policy.
“If JAG is at the Fall Interview Program, which starts Sept. 30, I’d suspect there would be some sort of protest,” Barenz said.
On Sept. 18, Law School Dean Anthony Kronman convened a “town hall” meeting to discuss military recruiting.
Matt Alsdorf LAW ’04, a member of OutLaws and a student spokesperson for SAME, said the meeting had a huge turnout.
“I’m surprised at the level of student interest on this issue,” he said. “At the meeting, people expressed frustration and said the common goal was to fight the strong-arm tactics that the military is using. We do hope and expect the University to continue to publicly support the policy of nondiscrimination regardless of any policy changes they are forced to make.”
One prevalent opinion is support of Yale Law School’s nondiscrimination policy independent of whatever repercussions that policy has with the military.
“The antidiscrimination principle is one of the animating ideas that runs this law school, and people are deeply committed to the notion that all students should be treated the same,” law professor Harold Koh said. “That same principle is guiding the response [to the issue of military recruitment].”
Jessica Sebeok LAW ’04 brought up the dilemma facing the Yale administration.
“It’s a question of principle versus profit,” she said. “It’s easy for us to say we reject this in principle, especially since the funding isn’t our own.”
In an e-mail to law students, Kronman provided some of the background of the issues.
To participate in the Law School’s interviewing programs, employers must sign a form acknowledging their compliance with Yale Law School’s Nondiscrimination Policy.
“Because the military currently adheres to a policy of dismissing from continuing service openly gay men and women and bisexuals, military recruiters have been unable to subscribe to the Law School’s statement of non-discrimination, and therefore have been ineligible to participate in our school-sponsored interviewing programs,” Kronman wrote.
In his e-mail to law students, Kronman explained that in addition to the Law School’s fall and spring interview programs, employers may also contact students on their own. Upon request, an employer can receive student directory information and contact information for student organizations from the Law School. Employers who make recruiting arrangements on their own do not have to sign the compliance statement. And, if the student makes the arrangements, the student and employer can meet on campus.
Alsdorf said many students and members of the faculty expressed outrage at the town meeting.
“It’s unfortunate, bizarre and seems really unfair,” he said. “It’s particularly egregious to place research money in jeopardy.”
This August, after the Air Force informed Harvard Law School that maintaining a prohibition on military recruitment on campus would cost the school $328 million in federal funding, the school announced that it would begin to allow school-sanctioned military recruitment visits. The University of Southern California Law School has made a similar decision.
Vermont Law School, an independent institution that receives few federal funds covered by the Solomon Amendment, replied to letters from the Army by reiterating its prohibition on military recruiters based on their nondiscrimination policy.
At Yale, the decision is not so easy. The penalty for failing to respond to the Army’s request would be the withdrawal of all funding to Yale University from the Departments of Defense, Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and other related agencies. This funding is about $350 million, and almost none of it goes to the Law School.
“This is a decision that affects the entire university,” Alsdorf said.