Friday, October 28, 2005

Fair and Balanced Rants

Okay, I really did not intend this blog to be political. After this weekend, I'm sure there will be plenty of fodder involving some unlikely combination of law students, keg stands, and costumes.

But, for now...

When an issue polarizes Liberals and Conservatives, the tendency is for both sides to drive the contrary position’s logic off of the precipice of rationality. In the light of the Solomon Amendment, the reasoning of the most vociferous opponents of the legislation, liberals in academia, have exacted that fate upon themselves.

The Solomon Amendment, passed in 1996, permits the Secretary of Defense to withhold federal funding to educational institutions if they choose to prevent military recruitment on campus. Most law schools are opposed to this legislation. An amicus brief filed by the University of Pennsylvania, which is supported by some of the nation’s top educational institutions, contends that the controversial “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy is discriminatory against homosexuals and that the mere presence of military recruiters connotes approval of the military’s guidelines.

Just to clarify: I think that any discrimination, including when based on sexual preferences, is morally wrong, despicable, and wildly reprehensible. Essentially, that's the result of the currently practiced, oft maligned "don't ask, don't tell" policy. By preventing openly gay males from serving in the army, the message sent is a clear one - and it loudly strikes the same chords of the segregationist policies of the pre-Civil Rights era.

Those who actually know how to run a military, maintain that the "don't ask, don't tell" policy is vital to morale. The same unconvincing argument was made about segregated units in the army prior to Truman's directed integration. But, until Congress withdraws support for the way it treats homosexuals, the vital interests of an effective and cohesive military - a mandate of Congress under the Constitution - must be balanced against a gay man's right to serve - as accorded to him under the equal protection clause. In the end, I think it is clear where the scale tips in red White House and red Congress.

The result? Prestigious privately funded law schools, in the name of academic freedom, have prevented military recruiters from meeting with students for the last few years. That's their prerogative as private associational entities. The problem, they claim, is that by conditioning the receipt of federal funding on the basis of open access for all military recruiting, the University's "academic freedom" is severely compromised by acquiescing in the face of discriminatory entity. So, let me get this straight, in the name of "academic freedom," law schools are seeking to prevent open discourse? Gerald Walpin, the author of an amicus brief filed in favor of Solomon, points out that this is a thought exercise complete with all the trimmings of Orwell's 1984. As law students, I'd like to think that we possess the ability to reason and think through information rather well. Students are smart enough to form their own decisions. For administration officials to do that for us is unacceptable and extraordinarily paternal. The contention that students, professors or third parties may associate the presence of the military with an institutional acceptance of the policy is ridiculous. Speakers, presenters, debaters, and recruiters. All enter campuses around this nation with contentious viewpoints - and none of their message is attributed to the forum. Schools are bastions of contentious discourse. I find the argument that schools may be falsely associated with a policy of this nature unconvincing.

I'm also not saying that an organization like the Ku Klux Klan party should be allowed to recruit on campus. Those entities, in their associational and doctrinal missions, are wildly discriminatory with no basis for doing so. The military, as an extension of the government, arguably does. Until Congress implements a new policy for gays in the military, legally speaking, the current practice is an accepted one. If it bothers private law schools so much, they are always free to prevent the recruiters from coming. But they should not expect to eat their cake and get their dollars, too.

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