JAG visit sets off protests

Yale Law School students draped the school with black and camouflage fabric Thursday in protest of a U.S. Navy representative’s recruiting visit.

For the third time since the fall of 2002, the Law School waived the application of its decades-old nondiscrimination policy to military recruiters — a group generally barred from campus — in an effort to retain over $350 million in federal funding. According to the 1995 Solomon Amendment, the government requires all colleges and universities that receive federal funding to allow military recruiters on campus.

Some law schools have banned recruiters from the Judge Advocate General program because the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on homosexuality violates nondiscrimination policies. Many other American law schools also made exceptions to their nondiscrimination recruitment policies in order to preserve federal research funding.

Yale Law School Dean Anthony Kronman said in an e-mail Thursday that the school’s suspension of its policy for the military recruiters is “profoundly regrettable.”

“It is immoral, and contrary to all the Yale Law School stands for, that the gay and lesbian students in our community should be victims of discrimination in any program the school officially sponsors,” he said. “The wound is not just to the victims. It is to us all.”

U.S. Navy JAG recruiter Brian Whitaker joined 14 law firms at a Yale recruiting event Thursday. Only one student was scheduled to meet with Whitaker during the visit, but that student cancelled the interview, Law School recruiting assistant Amanda Hilton said.

Whitaker could not be reached for comment.

Over 500 students signed a petition saying they would not interview with JAG recruiters on campus. The petition hung inside the Law School Thursday as part of the protest display, which included the black and camouflage wall hangings.

“The fabric was in the Law School because it was symbolic [of] how the military has invaded our school-sponsored interview program,” organizer Lindsay Barenz LAW ’04 said. “[The administration was] very supportive. They thought it was really creative. Obviously, it was very startling and caught your attention fairly quickly.”

Adam Sofen LAW ’05 is one of 14 openly homosexual Yale law students whose pictures were featured in a display for the protest.

“I think it’s a really powerful image that lets people know that this is not an abstract issue and that it affects people who are their classmates and it affects people very personally,” he said.

Sofen, whose grandfather, brother and uncles are in the Navy, said he would consider joining his relatives in the Navy if gays and lesbians were permitted to serve.

In September, a coalition of law schools and the nation’s largest group of law professors sued the U.S. Department of Defense and five other government agencies, claiming the Solomon Amendment is unconstitutional. Yale is not involved in this lawsuit. In a similar suit earlier this month, students and professors at the University of Pennsylvania Law School sued the Defense Department.

Bree Grossi LAW '06 explains a display protesting JAG, an on-campus recruiting program, to a fellow student. JAG adheres to the military's
Brian Goldman
Bree Grossi LAW '06 explains a display protesting JAG, an on-campus recruiting program, to a fellow student. JAG adheres to the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

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