When Alabama U.S. District Judge William Acker LAW ’52 wrote a letter to Yale Law School Dean Harold Koh saying he would not consider any Yalies for clerkships because of the Law School’s public stance against the Solomon Amendment, the letter appeared in two newspapers before it reached Koh’s desk.
The subject of ongoing lawsuits by students and faculty members, the Solomon Amendment threatens a university’s eligibility to receive federal funding if the school does not allow on-campus military recruitment equal in scope to that of private employers. These suits have propelled the school into the media spotlight, sparking a nation-wide debate surrounding the character of the law school’s policy toward military recruiters and raising concerns among some alumni.
Acker declined to give comment about his letter or whether he has hired any Yale Law School clerks in the past.
Retired Judge Lee Adams LAW ’49 said he stopped sending money to the school as soon as he heard about Yale’s policy towards military recruitment.
“I think it is revolting when one of the best law schools in the country refuses to help educate its military,” Adams said. “They should be providing leadership in the military, and instead they take this stupid ridiculous plan.”
But Koh said the Law School has received many favorable letters about its stance against the Solomon Amendment and those unfavorable letters akin to Acker’s have been confused about the Law School’s policy.
In 1978, the Yale Law School faculty voted to use non-discriminatory hiring and recruitment practices for its students. Those employers willing to sign a non-discrimination pledge would be given assistance by the Law School in the recruitment of students. Employers who refused to sign the pledge could still come to campus and set up interviews with students but would not have open access to the Law School’s career office and recruitment services.
“To this day, any employee who wants to come and talk to our students is free to do so,” Koh said.
Koh said military recruiters are not literally barred from campus, but the Law School, in choosing to reinstate its full non-discrimination policy after a favorable court hearing last month, will not actively help them with recruitment.
“They can still come to campus and set up an interview,” Koh said. We just will not assist them, but for some time interviews have been going on at the Holiday Inn.”
Navy JAG recruiting coordinator Lt. Gen. Robert Passerello said most of the difficulties the program has with recruitment on college campuses occur only at a few schools in the Northeast and select schools in Southern California.
“There are probably 10 or less schools that we have significant problems with,” Passerello said.
Although he has not heard a widespread reaction to Yale’s policy on recruitment, Passerello said he has heard some individual negative comments.
Passerello added that while 85 percent of JAG employees are hired in their second or third year of law school through recruitment efforts on campus, JAG officers who are Yale alumni are an exception, often joining the sevice some years after graduation.
Passerello said he wishes the program had better success recruiting Yale Law students.
“We provide advice … on a whole variety of issues and we want the most qualified people to do so,” Passerello said.
The JAG program has generally had more success outside the Northeast, Paserello said
The University of Virginia School of Law regularly sends about six graduates into JAG every year, a representative said, and the general reaction on campus to military recruiters is positive.
At the University of Texas School of Law, seven to eight students usually enter JAG, Assistant Dean of Career Services David Montoya said.
But Montoya said the University of Texas School of Law has also had to provide an exception to their usual non-discrimination policy to comply with the Solomon Amendment and is therefore closely watching case developments in lawsuits around the country.
“Any changes to our policies and procedures will be determined by our board of regents, based on the ultimate outcome of these lawsuits,” Montoya said in an e-mail Thursday.
At Yale, Koh said he remains open to any career options his students wish to pursue.
“I am a dean of Yale Law School,” he said. “I would like our students to be employed where they want to employed.”