About 50 law students and faculty gathered on the steps of the Yale Law School Tuesday afternoon to reaffirm to U.S. Department of Defense recruiters — and the rest of the University — that they stand by the school’s decades-old non-discrimination recruitment policy.
The rally marked the 25th anniversary of the policy, which Yale suspended in 2002 to allow military recruiters on campus after the Defense Department threatened to cut over $300 million in federal funding. The University had prevented the Judge Advocate General recruiters from participating in the Law School’s interviewing program because the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy on sexual orientation did not comply with the University’s non-discrimination recruitment policy.
Law School Dean Harold Koh, who was the main speaker at the mid-day rally, said the school remains committed to its non-discrimination policy.
“They were saying that if we didn’t support this discrimination against our students that they would cut off our funding,” Koh said. “They would cut off their nose to spite their face.”
Last fall, Yale law students and faculty filed separate lawsuits against the Defense Department arguing that the Solomon Amendment, which requires colleges to allow the military on campus to recruit in order to maintain federal funding, is unconstitutional.
“I’m proud to say that the battle to save our non-discrimination policy continues and we will not be silenced,” said Alexandros Zervos LAW ’05, co-chair of OutLaws, the Gay and Lesbian Student Association, which is a plaintiff in the student lawsuit. “We will continue to protest.”
Though the lawsuits are still pending in a state court, the Defense Department is showing no sign of changing its position.
“All the department is asking for is an opportunity to come on campus like any other organization that is looking to hire talented individuals into its pool,” a Defense Department spokesperson, who did not give his name, said Tuesday. “We’re asking for an equal seat at the table along with any organization.”
Koh said at the rally that the University’s history of protesting against injustices is strong, and said he and the rest of the faculty plan to continue fighting for the reinstatement of the policy.
“Our faculty recently affirmed that we unanimously believe the government policy is not necessary, not wise and not legal,” Koh said. “We love our country, we respect our military, but we are part of a community about excellence, humanity and quality of treatment– Our commitment will continue until those who come to our school asking students to work for them will treat them equally.”
Zervos praised the faculty for their support and involvement and noted that Koh’s participation has been crucial.
“The hallmark of our struggle is the close relationship between faculty and students,” Zervos said.
Janna Freed LAW ’06, a rally organizer and a member of Yale’s Student/Faculty Alliance for Military Equality, or SAME, said she was pleased to see so many professors at the rally.
“There’s a reason the word faculty is in our name,” Freed said.
Freed said that because the policy has been suspended for three years, only the third-year law students can remember when it was intact.
“The point of the rally is to broadcast to people that the nondiscrimination policy has included sexual orientation for many years,” she said. “We value it, and we think it’s something worth hanging on to.”
Zervos said he hopes the protest also catches the attention of other students on campus.
“I hope it will provide energy beyond the Law School community to the broader Yale community and that they’ll join the Law School in this fight,” Zervos said.