U.S. Government Punishes Schools That Ban Military Recruiting
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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.
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And I'm Michele Norris.
The House of Representatives is upset with colleges and universities that restrict military recruiters on their campuses. Legislatures recently passed a measure that would require the secretary of Defense to provide them with a list of such schools. Under a 10-year-old law, the armed forces cannot be denied access to students. NPR's Claudio Sanchez reports.
CLAUDIO SANCHEZ reporting:
Representative Cliff Stearns, Republican of Florida, attended college on an ROTC scholarship. He's convinced that the US military absolutely must be able to tap into the talent pool of college students across the country as a matter of national security.
Representative CLIFF STEARNS (Republican, Florida): 'Cause I know the importance of ROTC in the armed forces. And when we're in a war on terrorism, we must be able to recruit, and a lot of the universities are not helping out. In fact, they're discriminating against the ROTC recruitment program. That's not right. It's wrong.
SANCHEZ: It's also illegal, says Stearns. So he's pushed through the House an amendment that would toughen the Solomon Amendment, a law that states any college that prohibits the US military from establishing or operating an ROTC unit on campus or denies military recruiters access to students is ineligible for federal funding.
Rep. STEARNS: When you accept tax dollars, you have to abide by the law.
SANCHEZ: And yet, says Stearns, some colleges ignore the law.
Rep. STEARNS: Well, an example is Yale Law School. They've been letting recruiters use a room to meet with students, but they didn't help arrange the interviews. Yet when IBM or GE or other corporations came on, they gave them full access, and they would not give full access to the military. And in fact, students at Yale who wish to participate in ROTC must drive to the University of Connecticut at least once a week, a trip that could take about an hour and a half each way.
SANCHEZ: Yale, Stearns insists, is discriminating against the military, a charge Yale denies.
Mr. RICH JACOB (Associate Vice President for Federal Relations, Yale Law School): Yale honors all of those who serve in the military and greatly respects the mission of ROTC.
SANCHEZ: That's Rich Jacob, associate vice president for federal relations at Yale, reading a prepared statement.
Mr. JACOB: For many years, we have not had enough student interest to warrant the establishment of an ROTC unit at Yale, so that we have instead maintained cooperative arrangements with other Connecticut schools to enable ROTC participation. Yale has also sought to comply fully with the Solomon Amendment as it applies to both ROTC and military recruiting.
SANCHEZ: Jacob would not elaborate further. But on Yale Law School's Web site, the school says the Defense Department's `don't ask, don't tell' policy which prevents openly gay, lesbian and bisexual people from serving in the military, violates the school's non-discrimination policy. The Defense Department has declined to sign Yale's non-discrimination policy, so the school's career development office does not help military recruiters set up interviews on or off campus.
Yale is not alone. Dozens of law schools have given only limited access to military recruiters because of the Defense Department's `don't ask, don't tell' policy, a policy that only Congress and the president can change. Pentagon officials declined to be interviewed for this story, but they did confirm in an e-mail that the secretary of Defense has already barred two colleges from receiving federal funds for violating the Solomon Amendment. They are William Mitchell College of Law and Vermont Law School, which is not affiliated with the University of Vermont.
In the fall, the US Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a case involving several law schools that restrict military recruitment on their campuses. But until there's a ruling, Congressman Cliff Stearns says his amendment will require the Defense Department to aggressively investigate and go after colleges that are not in compliance with the Solomon Amendment.
Rep. STEARNS: Well, I think the details, hopefully, will embarrass the schools and get them to stop discriminating against the military on their campuses.
SANCHEZ: Stearns' amendment is part of the Defense Department's authorization process and is now making its way through the Senate. Claudio Sanchez, NPR News, Washington.