With the arrival of an Air Force recruiter at the Yale Divinity School Wednesday, a discrimination controversy that became familiar to many at the Law School last year has now emerged at a second Yale graduate school.
After learning that an Air Force chaplain recruiter would be on campus Sept. 16, leaders of the Coalition — a group representing gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students at the Divinity School — planned to protest the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on homosexuality. Members of the group subsequently cancelled their plans Sept. 15 when they learned the Air Force representative decided to move recruiting activities off campus.
But the issue — students say the military’s policy contradicts the Divinity School’s nondiscrimination clause — remains unresolved as the school seeks a standard recruiting policy for the future.
Coalition coordinator Aaron Skrypski DIV ’05 said military chaplaincy recruitment should be open to all students, regardless of sexual orientation.
“While we affirm people who want to go into the military and believe that chaplaincy is a good, good thing, we just wanted the [recruitment] process to be open to everyone, and as it stands right now it couldn’t be,” Skrypski said.
While the Divinity School’s Coalition decided to cancel its rally, about 100 students at the University of Pennsylvania Law School protested this week against recruitment activities by the Air Force Judge Advocate General, or JAG corps.
Skrypski said Wednesday the Air Force chaplain recruiter originally planned to come to campus, despite the Coalition’s threat to protest, but eventually changed the location after consulting her commanding officer. Skrypski said he participated in last year’s Law School protests against JAG recruitment.
Last year, after Law School officials temporarily suspended the school’s nondiscrimination policy to allow JAG recruiters to attend an interview program, students staged a series of protests.
Officials at Yale Law School and several other U.S. graduate schools had for several years denied access to military recruiters. In spring 2002, however, University officials received notification that their policy violated the Solomon Amendment, which requires that law schools allow military employers full access to students or risk losing $300 million in federal funding.
Skrypski said he felt the issue at the Divinity School had been temporarily resolved because of the Air Force’s decision and the faculty’s willingness to hear the Coalition’s arguments.
“We felt that our concerns had been heard and acted upon and we decided not to hold the protest [this year],” he said.
Instead, Coalition members encouraged students to wear rainbow ribbons in a show of solidarity. They also attended a Divinity School faculty meeting, where they presented a letter signed by students, expressing concern about the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and its conflict with the nondiscrimination clause in the Divinity School’s Mission Statement.
Divinity School Dean Harold Attridge said he believes the Coalition acted responsibly and that progress was made at the meeting.
“It’s an issue on which we have to do some work,” Attridge said.
Attridge said a committee of professors and students will consider the issue and is expected to prepare a preliminary report by next month’s faculty meeting.
One possible solution would be to hold all recruiting off campus, as the Law School now does. Attridge said the “opposite end of the spectrum” would be to have a completely open recruitment policy for all churches and chaplaincies.
But as the Divinity School administration works to address the Coalition’s concerns, there has also been widespread debate within the student body.
Lucas Grubbs DIV ’05 said his disagreement with the Coalition’s protest plan prompted him to send an e-mail to the community.
“The greatest folly on the part of the Coalition is that through their own extreme reactionary measures, they have declined to be inclusive to visitors on our campus who come waving no flag of discrimination whatsoever,” Grubbs said in his e-mail.
The Coalition had previously sent e-mails detailing its concerns.
Grubbs said he supports the gay community at the Divinity School but believes the Coalition’s protest would have been inappropriate and unwelcoming in an environment which strives for inclusiveness. He said he has received significant support from fellow students and has received “overwhelming amounts” of e-mail.