- The Washington Times - Friday, September 23, 2005

This week, Harvard Law School made the welcome announcement that military recruiters will again be allowed on campus. Recruiters were barred last spring and were expected to be barred again this school year because of the Pentagon’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. But Harvard changed its mind after a hard look at what would happen if it lost nearly $400 million in government funds.

As Harvard Law Dean Elena Kagan put it, the university receives “about 15% of its operating budget from the federal government,” a fact which made her decide “that we should lift our ban and except the military from our general non-discrimination policy.”

Much will depend on an expected Supreme Court ruling on whether the government can withhhold funding for schools that bar recruiters, as the 1996 Solomon Amendment requires. Currently, the Solomon Amendment stands as law. But last year, in Rumsfeld v. Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights, the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the federal government cannot withhold funding. That decision is stayed until the Supreme Court, which is scheduled to hear the case in December, issues its ruling.

In the meantime, the Pentagon is making clear that the law will be enforced. Last week, a Federal Register notice announced that New York Law School is in violation of the Solomon Amendment and thus is ineligible for federal aid. This week, announcements for the Vermont School of Law and William Mitchell College of Law in Minnesota followed. Harvard’s move comes on the heels of those announcements.

To read Ms. Kagan’s statement, one might think the Pentagon’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on homosexuals is the only reason Harvard opposes military recruiters on campus. To be sure, that’s the logic being purveyed. But the fact is that the logic has shifted over the years. In 1969, when Harvard first banned ROTC on campus, it did so at the behest of violent student radicals who opposed the Vietnam War. The truth is that people at Harvard keep coming up with reasons to obstruct the military. There are grounds to think a broader agenda is at work.

With any luck, other schools will view Harvard’s decision as a sign of the times and stop scoffing at the Solomon Amendment. Whatever their opinions on military recruiting, they should not be allowed to exempt themselves from the law.

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