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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Do as I say, not as I do

Can a university discriminate against a discriminatory recruiter? Not if that recruiter is Uncle Sam.

In a unanimous (8-0) decision Monday, the Supreme Court ruled that law schools, and all universities receiving federal aid, must allow the military to recruit on their campuses or risk losing their federal funding.

The case, brought to the court by a coalition of 36 law schools from around the country, sought the right to bar military recruiters as a form of opposition to the army's "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gay soldiers.

The policy, which was proposed by then-President Bill Clinton in 1993 and prohibited army recruiters from asking about the sexual orientation of a soldier, allowed gay recruits to enlist, but only if they were silent about being homosexual.

Gay rights activists and universities were not satisfied with Clinton's compromise, and they began to consider banning military recruiters from campus. Unfortunately for them, the Solomon Amendment of 1994 made such efforts moot by threatening to withhold federal funds from colleges that excluded military recruiters.

Framing their argument as a free speech issue, the law schools in Monday's case claimed that the Solomon Amendment was unconstitutional because it forced them to endorse an organization that was discriminatory.

The schools could not express themselves by barring military recruiters, despite the fact that they had policies barring other discriminatory recruiters.

But Chief Justice John Roberts and the rest of the Court found this argument lacking, as schools are still free to protest military recruiters even while they are required to afford them equal access to recruits.

The Court is right in its interpretation of the law here, as the act of hosting military recruiters is not speech in and of itself. Students and law professors have and should take advantage of the right to object to the military's discrimination against gays, and they surely will. But their universities should remain a platform for military recruitment.

No matter what you think about "don't ask, don't tell," the fact remains that it is crucial for the military to recruit at universities to ensure that U.S. armed forces are diverse and qualified. After all, nobody wants the most powerful army on Earth to be run by individuals with only high school educations.

So in protecting the United States' military superiority, the Supreme Court has made a wise decision. The ramifications of the Court's verdict, however, are somewhat more disconcerting.

In particular, Monday's outcome calls into question the ability of universities to bar any recruiters on the grounds that they are discriminatory. Many universities require prospective recruiters to agree to a policy of nondiscrimination when reviewing applicants.

If colleges cannot ban the military, which professes a discriminatory recruitment program, why can they ban other organizations? The Supreme Court decision has, in effect, set up a double standard for military recruiters simply because they are military recruiters.

The ruling has also forced universities to endorse a policy of "do as I say, not as I do" with regards to recruitment. Universities can preach nondiscrimination all they want, but in the end they are forced to allow a discriminatory recruiter on campus.

Another troubling result of this case is that students who do seek to enlist in the military have been put in a very uncomfortable situation. When military recruiters come to campuses now, they are often met with opposition from protesters of the Iraq war.

Given the strife in Iraq over the past few weeks and the outcome of this case, these protests may worsen in the coming months. Students who wish to serve their country could be met by angry mobs the likes of which have not been seen since Vietnam.

Ultimately, this ruling can be thought of as only a temporary setback for gay rights activists, because the real issue at hand, gays in the military, has not been resolved.

Students will keep protesting, but it will not matter as long as the military is allowed to bar gay soldiers. That decision, one day, will have to fall to Congress.