Every fall, wide-eyed firms and jittery corporations check into rooms at the Holiday Inn at Yale in hopes of romancing the few, the proud, the Yale-bred lawyers-to-be. In the past, it’s been a friendly, politically correct courtship: shirts are pressed, ties are straight, and discriminatory hiring and firing practices are turned away at the door.
Not so this year.
Enter the United States military, from which 1,250 gays and lesbians were discharged in 2001 for their sexual orientation. In recent months, military recruiters have made their way into Ivy League law schools under the auspices of the Solomon Amendment, a 1996 law that made federal research funding to universities contingent on those institutions allowing military recruitment on their campuses.
August saw the beginning of an occupation of Harvard Yard, when in order to save $328 million, law school administrators reversed a 20-year-old policy banning from campus firms with discriminatory practices. Since July, the Air Force has invoked the law to gain access to more than a dozen law schools nationwide.
Now it’s Yale’s turn. In order to participate in the fall recruitment program, companies traditionally have been required to sign a form declaring that their anti-discrimination policies are consistent with those of the University. While military recruiters are allowed to interview in New Haven — unlike at Harvard — their “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy has prevented them from participating in the program in past years.
As a result, $350 million, most of which goes to research at the School of Medicine, hangs in the balance. Yale administrators including Law School Dean Anthony Kronman were right to temporarily remove the anti-discrimination caveat and allow military participation in this fall’s recruitment program. But that money will buy more than our share of test tubes and lab coats over the next year; it will also buy an obligation to rally against an unjust policy.
The problem is not with the military as a whole but with one misguided, long-standing practice. That a passive acceptance of this policy has been imposed upon institutions of higher learning around the country, however, is more than unacceptable — it is a disturbing precedent.
Yale officials have declared that they will protest the military’s attempt to gain access to the recruitment program. The University now has the opportunity to stand as a model to all other schools by following through with this effort completely. The excised anti-discrimination clause should be restored to the recruitment program permission slip as soon as possible.
And when military recruiters come to campus this month, the News urges law students and faculty to sign up for interviews, flood their Holiday Inn suite, and do as Harvard students did last month: Don’t ask them about career options. Tell them about equal rights.