Panel discusses military issues

A panel of experts discussed issues affecting today’s armed forces, including discrimination against homosexuals and the marriage of progressive politics with the use of military force at a Berkeley College Master’s Tea on Tuesday afternoon.

The discussion of military culture comes at a time when Yale Law School faculty and students have been embroiled in protests of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which bars openly gay individuals from serving in the military. Tuesday’s panel featured Kathy Roth-Douquet and Frank Shaeffer, the authors of “AWOL: The Unexcused Absence of America’s Upper Classes From Military Service — and How It Hurts Our Country,” Tammy Schultz, an openly lesbian civilian consultant for the military, and Jonathan Morgenstein, who has served in the Marine Corps Reserves since 1991 and is a self-described “unusually liberal” Marine.

The law school currently prevents the Judge Advocates General program from taking part in its formal recruiting program, although they do not bar military officers from the campus. In response to the adoption of similar policies at many other law schools following the enactment of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 1993, Congress passed the Solomon Amendment, which forces law schools to provide equal access to military recruiters in order for the universities to receive federal funding.

Although the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Solomon Amendment earlier this year, Yale Law School has a separate pending lawsuit, Burt v. Rumsfeld, that allows Yale to continue to deny equal access to military recruiters.

Schaeffer expressed skepticism at the Law School’s actions, suggesting that the result of these protests is that Yalies are alienated from the military while less privileged Americans serve.

“The excuse [to not serve] changes, but the kid from the trailer park is doing the heavy lifting while you’re at Yale,” he said.

Schultz added that she thinks the law school should focus its efforts on lobbying Congress if it wants to see real change. She said she thinks the real reason the Law School doesn’t give equal access to military recruiters is an anti-military stance.

“If you look at the history, gays in the military is only the most recent incarnation for a reason to ban the ROTC,” she said.

But Fredo Silva ’04 LAW ’08 disputed Schultz’s claim that the Law School doesn’t support the military.

“It’s dishonest to say we don’t support the military, because we do,” Silva said. “It’s not about not liking the military, it’s about promoting equality. It’s an absurd claim to say that because we’re anti-discrimination, and the military discriminates, that we are anti-military.”

Silva also disagreed that protesting Congress is an effective way for Law School faculty and students to demonstrate their beliefs.

“The Law School has limited means to interact with the political sphere,” Silva said. “We’re doing what we can do to bring attention to the failure of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ Our role is to use the law.”

Chris Mandernach LAW ’08, who served in the military and is opposed to the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, said last week that the Law School should protest the discrimination and that he did not think its lawsuit was disingenuous, but other avenues such as legislative strategy and non-governmental organizations should not be overlooked.

Students reacted favorably to the panel discussion and reflected on their own experiences with Yale and the military.

Rob Berschinski ’02 GRD ’08, who served in the military, said he has not encountered an anti-military environment at Yale.

“The quality people project more is fascination,” he said. “I’m usually their only link to anyone who has served in a war zone.”

Other students said they hoped the talk would provoke thought on campus.

“I was impressed by the range of ideas discussed,” Nate Loewentheil ’07 said. “This is an issue that people are thinking about, and if they’re not, they should be.”

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