In another development in an ongoing dispute about on-campus military recruiting, Yale Law School faculty and students received standing on June 9th in their lawsuit against the Department of Defense.
Law school students and faculty claim the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy violates Yale’s nondiscriminatory policy. A refusal to allow military recruiting could lead to Yale’s loss of more than $300 million in federal funding. U.S. District Court Judge Janet C. Hall upheld all claims by the 44 faculty members and two of the four claims by the student-run Student/Faculty Alliance for Military Equality, or SAME. The two claims defended students’ rights to expressive association and equal protection.
Professor Robert Burt, a lead plaintiff, said he was glad Hall was receptive.
“We are hopeful, and I was impressed with the judge’s grasp of the issues at hand,” Burt said. “Our personal rights are at stake.”
Under the current version of the Solomon Amendment, all U.S. universities must allow military recruiters equal access to their students. A refusal to comply means losing all federal funding, a penalty that applies to the entire university and is no longer limited to the law school.
“Basically, they want to commandeer our resources to help them recruit for the military,” Burt said.
Third year law student Adam A. Sofen said he is glad the issues of discrimination will be discussed in court.
“This is an exceedingly important issue to all of us, and it will be gratifying to have these issues resolved by a judge who’s fair and neutral rather relying on the government’s claim that it’s acting fairly,” Sofen said.
But while winning standing is a major step in the case, Fadi Hanna, co-chair of SAME, said he fears that few will remember what students are fighting for once the real trial begins.
“We no longer have students who know what it was like when the Department was excluded,” Hanna said. “[New students] act like the law school would never exclude [the Department of Defense].”
Three students who were heavily involved in the dispute since 2002 have already graduated, but the controversy lingers. Hanna said he has always seen the Department of Defense at recruitment fairs.
The next procedural step is to have a summary judgment where both sides will determine if they agree on the facts of the case.
Several other law schools are also suing the Department of Defense under the Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights, and the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania Law School is also filing a suit.
Representatives from the Department of Defense were not available for comment.