Every Wednesday, if you walk outside of Cooper Hall, it is impossible to miss the menagerie known as The Bull Market. There you will find Scientologists, trinket sellers, cellular phone salesmen and military recruiters. It is this last group, the military recruiters, that shouldn’t be allowed to recruit on our campus.
Many students may think that this is going to be another collegiate, anti-military rant. Think again. My background includes serving 11 years in the Marine Corps before transferring to this school. The experience was a good one, and due largely to the Montgomery G.I. Bill, the financial resources were available to allow an undergraduate degree to become my reality. With that said, I still believe that military recruiters shouldn’t be permitted to seek out potential recruits on college campuses.
Back in December, the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of Rumsfeld v. Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights (FAIR), a case involving the Solomon Amendment. The amendment states that specific federal funding, excluding federal financial aid funds, can be withheld from universities that prohibit military recruitment on campus.
According to the ACLU, FAIR believes that the Solomon Amendment “forces schools to violate their own nondiscrimination policies, which would include not providing access to the Armed Forces, which discriminates against gays and lesbians through the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy.”
While FAIR assembled numerous law schools and faculty groups supportive of its cause, the Los Angeles Times described the justices as giving “a thoroughly skeptical hearing to the claim of some liberal law faculties that they have a free-speech right to exclude military recruiters.” So, while predicting a Supreme Court decision is mighty perilous, it’s needless to say FAIR seems to have an uphill battle.
What is so flawed about a policy whereby each university can decide whether to allow military recruiters and those that don’t are excluded from certain federal money? On the surface, this seems fair enough, but problems arise when we consider academic freedom. Universities have the mission to educate, push the bounds of existing knowledge and create a better society. Sometimes these goals do not fall in line well with rigid military philosophy whose objective is to protect freedom and liberty.
Judicial support of the Solomon Amendment could be disastrous for higher education. Whereas today the issue is military recruiters, tomorrow’s story could be further federal government intrusion on campus. Challenged by progressive ideas, the government would just take the money somewhere else.
The universities that stood up to the Department of Defense should be supported. They took a stand not because they are anti-military, but because they are anti-discrimination. In 1993 the infamous “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy went into effect, which essentially allowed homosexuals in the military as long as they didn’t reveal their sexual orientation. Essentially, the message is that you can serve and give your life but you can’t be yourself.
Up to this point, the issue may have seemed isolated to the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., or on some far-off campus. But this debate comes right to our campus. Just last week, the Oracle featured a news story about the USF faculty union advocating “domestic partners” benefits as part of their bargaining process with the University. Congratulations are in order to the faculty union for pressing this issue, but unfortunately, USF is once again behind other Florida schools in this pursuit.
While I see no reason why “domestic partners” shouldn’t receive benefits, it sure does put the administration in a difficult position. The University could potentially provide these benefits to same-sex relationships willing to be open enough to show financial interdependence. At the same time, however, the University would welcome military recruiters representing organizations opposed to open same-sex relationships on campus. Anyone see a problem here?
It is not difficult to comprehend that military recruiters are under a great deal of pressure to reach recruitment quotas, especially given recent world events. Their job is difficult (I know firsthand), but if USF does not protect academic freedom and progressive thought, what service is it really providing us?
Aaron Hill is a senior majoring in economics.