Next Monday, military recruiters will participate in an interview program organized by the law school for the first time since 2005.
The Air Force scheduled its slot in the interview program just days after a federal appeals court ruled that the government could withhold around $350 million in public funding if the law school does not assist the military in on-campus recruiting. In order to keep the funding, Law School Dean Harold Koh waived the policy requiring all employers participating in Law School-sponsored events to sign a non-discrimination statement that bars the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy toward gays.
In 2002, when the military first threatened to take funding away from the University, Dean Anthony Kronman waived the requirement that military recruiters sign the non-discrimination statement. At the same time, 45 members of the faculty sued the government to overturn the Solomon Amendment, which allows the government to revoke funding to institutions that refuse to assist military recruiters. In 2006, recruiters were expelled from the law school’s recruiting program after a district court ruled in favor of the professors.
Even though Koh is allowing Air Force recruiters to participate in school-sponsored career events, he said the Law School will make clear in some way that the recruiters did not sign its non-discrimination statement. In a separate case over the Solomon Amendment in 2006, Koh said, the Supreme Court ruled that the law school retains the right to say whatever it desires about the recruiters.
“Obviously we respect the law, but that doesn’t mean we can’t try to change the law,” Koh said.
Students are organizing ways of speaking out against the military’s policy next Monday. Sara Jeruss LAW ’08, co-head of the Law School’s LGBTQ group OutLaws, said the group is asking every student attending Monday’s career event to wear a button that says “Don’t Discriminate.” The group is also asking the Law School to post a flyer objecting to the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.
Captain Eric Merriam, the officer in charge of the Air Force JAG recruiting office, said protests will not deter his recruiters from persuading Yale students to work for the military. Merriam said he is glad to add Yale to the list of roughly 200 schools at which the Air Force JAG recruits.
“We appreciate the opportunity to explain the opportunities for qualified attorneys to serve the United States as members of the Air Force JAG Corps,” Merriam said in an e-mail.
Law professor Robert Burt, who was the first plaintiff named in the faculty’s suit, said that regardless of whether or not military recruiters are assisted by the Law School, the school’s position will be vindicated.
“There will be a time in the future, and I think it will not be a too distant time, when American society will view this discriminatory policy just like they view the discrimination against African-Americans in the military that used to take place,” Burt said.
Koh said he will make an exception for the military as long as the law requires, but he doubts the faculty will ever change the policy requiring all other employers to sign a non-discrimination statement. The law school has required employers to sign the same statement since 1978.
“We are on the right side of history,” he said. “There is no desire to change the policy.”
In the three years that the school assisted JAG recruiters — between 2002 and 2006 — six students signed up for interviews and none of them took jobs with the military.