National group petitions Univ. to lift JAG ban

A national group has petitioned trustees at Yale and several other universities to lift a ban on military recruitment on campus less than two months before the Supreme Court is slated to hear a case brought by the Law School to preserve federal funding for educational institutions that ban recruiters.

In letters sent to trustees at Yale, Columbia and Harvard last week, the American Council of Trustees and Alumni accused law school officials at the three universities of hypocrisy for accepting millions of dollars from the U.S. Department of Defense while refusing to aid military recruiters in protest of the U.S. government’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on homosexuality. But Yale officials said they do not expect the letter to have an effect on the University’s policies.

Council President Anne Neal said she thinks schools should encourage students to make their own decisions about the military’s policy on homosexuality, and the ban on recruiters hampers that process.

“It is certainly well within the realm of the university’s jurisdiction to post signs indicating its displeasure with ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’” Neal said. “We are arguing in light of the university’s role to educate students to think for themselves. Here is an opportunity they are denying that is unfortunate, especially since this is all in the context of taking significant funds from the federal government.”

Yale General Counsel Dorothy Robinson said she has read the council’s letter, but she said she does not think it will change Yale’s current policy regarding recruitment, which is protected by a temporary injunction in federal court.

The council is sending letters to a number of university trustees because military access policy generally falls under the trustees’ jurisdiction, Neal said.

“The trustees have a right to set this kind of policy,” Neal said. “Certainly they will listen to the faculty and administration, but the trustees have ultimate responsibility in setting access policy.”

But Law School Dean Harold Koh said that while Law School trustees act as a judiciary board for the school, it is generally up to the University to determine the final role that the trustees play.

“It’d be like asking whether a board of directors makes decisions,” Koh said. “They don’t get involved in day-to-day decisions like that.”

Though the Pentagon has attempted to recruit Judge Advocate General lawyers from law schools including Yale’s, some universities refuse to allow the U.S. military to participate in the schools’ interview programs, because the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy violates the University’s nondiscrimination pledge. Yale filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in September, arguing that law schools should have the right to ban military recruiters from their campuses without losing government funding.

Koh said Yale does not grant military recruiters official recognition on campus, but also does not prohibit them from contacting students.

“First of all, no one is barring recruiters from coming,” Koh said. “We are simply not assisting them in recruiting … students are free to write to employers and offer to meet on campus.”

Since 1978, the Law School has required all recruiters interested in participating in the school’s career fair to sign a nondiscrimination pledge. But if the Supreme Court allows the government to revoke funding because of Yale’s noncompliance with military recruiters, the policy may have to be reviewed, Koh said.

Despite the legal ramifications the University may face if the Supreme Court decides in favor of military recruiters, Koh said, he supports Yale’s current nondiscrimination policy.

“They should interview all of our students, otherwise we will be aiding and abetting discrimination,” Koh said. “We think we owe it to our students not to assist in that.”

The high court is scheduled to hear the case Dec. 6.

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