Law administrators weigh options

While the Yale Law School is lifting its nondiscrimination policy to permit the military to participate in this fall’s on-campus interview program, administrators said it was a temporary measure intended to prevent the loss of federal funding until a better solution can be found.

Administrators at many of the nation’s other law schools may soon face the same choice — allow military recruiting or suffer the loss of federal entitlement dollars.

Yale’s decision last week to allow military recruiters to participate the Law School’s fall interview program generated nationwide attention and controversy on campus, including a protest Friday.

The Law School has traditionally required recruiters to sign a nondiscrimination agreement before allowing them to attend its interview programs. In the past, the military has not been allowed to attend the recruitment fair, but Law School officials did provide the recruiters with contact information for interested students.

Last spring, Yale officials were notified that their refusal to admit JAG recruiters to the interview program violated the 1996 Solomon Amendment. The amendment requires universities to allow military recruitment on campus or face losing federal funds. Law School Dean Anthony Kronman said University leaders received an extension to comply with the amendment and allow recruiters but had not reached a settlement by last week. Yale President Richard Levin said that University leaders decided to suspend the nondiscrimination policy and let recruiters come to the fair in order to avoid jeopardizing Yale’s federal funding.

Yale received $350 million in federal funding last year, the majority of which supports research in the School of Medicine.

“There are two parts to the decision,” President Levin said. “We are letting the recruiters into the job fair because of the threat, but it’s an interim move while we are in the meantime trying to pursue a [solution].”

Before any legal action is taken, Levin said, the University plans to take the issue through administrative channels within the Department of Defense.

Levin said he believes that the Law School was previously in compliance with the law and that it is pursuing a resolution of that issue at a higher level.

He said he has not contacted leaders of other universities about the issue.

JAG officials did not respond to e-mails or phone messages left last week.

The Yale General Counsel’s office, in conjunction with Kronman and a Law School advisory committee chaired by professor Drew Days, will work out the details of defending the legality of the Law School’s policy towards military recruiters, Kronman said.

Law School professor Harold Koh said faculty members agreed with the Law School’s decision.

“We all stand behind Dean Kronman’s actions which I think reflect the views of the faculty,” Koh said. “We are in compliance with the law and we’re going to take whatever steps are necessary to clarify that we’re lawful. Because we don’t want to put the funding of third parties at risk, we’ve authorized him to take the minimal steps necessary to preserve that funding.”

Approximately 90 percent of the funds at risk under the amendment go to fund research at the Schools of Medicine, Nursing, and Epidemiology and Public Health, Barbara Safriet, associate dean of the Law School said in an e-mail.

“The vast majority of the covered funds originate from HHS [the Department of Health and Human Services],” Safriet said. “A smidgen less than three percent of the covered funds are derived from Department of Defense grants and contracts.”

Theresa Bryant, executive director of the Yale Law School Career Development Office, said she thought that the number of graduates who had entered the military in the past was very low, although there are no exact figures.

“My guess is that very, very few [serve],” she said. “In my four years [at Yale], I don’t know anybody.”

Matt Alsdorf LAW ’04, a spokesman for the Law School’s Student/Faculty Alliance for Military Equality (SAME), said he thought that if the military changed its “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, more graduates would be interested in a military career.

“We want to keep it in the public eye that [the government] seem[s] willing to toy with billions of dollars in order to promote discrimination,” he said. “This school strongly believes that every member of the community needs to be respected. It’s quite clear that the administration and the faculty feel the same way.”

Kronman said Law School administrators have been in contact with other law schools over the past several months to compare notes on military recruitment policies, finding considerable differences amongst schools.

Recently, Harvard also decided to waive its nondiscrimination policy in order to preserve federal funding. At Harvard, student contact information had not been provided as it had been at Yale. Like Yale, however, Harvard was found to have been in compliance with the Solomon Amendment before this year.

Administrators at other law schools said that they are concerned about the stricter enforcement of the Solomon Amendment and about linking the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy with higher education.

“Whatever policy the Amendment is thought to serve for active duty military, it certainly is inapplicable for members of a legal team,” John Donohue, academic associate dean of research at Stanford Law School, said in an e-mail.

Donohue added that he thinks all citizens have a “moral obligation” to oppose the amendment and its enforcement by voicing their opposition and promoting its repeal.

“At some point the ban on gays in the military will be looked back at as a lamentable equivalent of the former ban on blacks in the military,” he said. “Efforts to demean any group of Americans will ultimately fail in the long run if those committed to respect for human values will make their voices heard.”

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