Painful as it was, the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Solomon Amendment surprised most of us only in its unanimity. But we are baffled that with the University now complicit in the U.S. military’s discrimination against open homosexuals, Yale officials seem to have left campaigns to defend our nondiscrimination policy up to the Law School.
From an economic standpoint, of course, the reasoning of both the high court and the University remains difficult to challenge. The Solomon Amendment’s mandate for equal military access to recruiting resources only applies to higher education institutions that accept federal funding, which seems fair enough. And with Yale readily accepting roughly $350 million from the U.S. government every year, so the argument goes, the University must be willing to accord recruiters for the U.S. Armed Forces the same treatment it offers to agents of private companies that pay Yale nothing.
Certainly, if the federal government can deny highway funds to states that refuse to fall into line on the question of speed limits or drinking age, it can deny grants to colleges and universities that refuse to play ball with military recruiters, even though we believe that otherwise independent higher education institutions should not be manipulated in such a fashion. But while Yale does need that money — which accounts for roughly 20 percent of its operating budget — the Supreme Court did not limit further argument against “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Instead, they encouraged it.
While Yale’s gay rights groups were left smarting from the justices’ decision, the Law School community seized upon a silver lining: Chief Justice John Roberts’ opinion strenuously insisted that the Solomon Amendment does not limit the speech of institutions that accept military recruiters with federal monies, nor does it require them to endorse the military’s condemnable denial of equal opportunity.
We applaud Law School Dean Harold Koh and the students and faculty already fighting for equal treatment of all Americans by our military. But the fight for tolerance should not end at the door of the Sterling Law Building. While we ultimately believe Yale students interested in military recruitment should be able to pursue such opportunities, we also believe such opportunities should be afforded to all interested students, regardless of sexual orientation. And Yale is better equipped than most to fight for that right.
Hardly a week goes by when professors and administrators from all corners of the University are not meeting with legislators or high-ranking officials in our nation’s capital. The influence of Yale President Richard Levin alone is considerable. While the Law School struggles with another lawsuit that we, frankly, expect to prove futile, Yale as a whole can do much to lobby lawmakers and press for greater dialogue on the issue. If our community truly believes in its stated ideals, we cannot abrogate this responsibility.
We understand that, with Uncle Sam covering every fifth dollar Yale spends, University officials might think twice before attacking the code that governs military recruiting. But they shouldn’t. We are proud that Yale has fought for equal opportunity for all students, and there is no reason why the full might of the University should not be working toward that goal in greater earnest.