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EDITORIAL: School’s protest a valuable lesson in equality, courage

In protest of the U.S. military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that prevents openly homosexual individuals from serving, the Vermont Law School bars military recruiters from its campus.

This political statement, though, comes with a hefty toll: The school is withheld between $300,000 and $500,000 a year in federal research money, according to the New York Times.

Some may say that the willingness to deny federal research money for a political cause is a disservice to students and the academic community.

However, the decision by Vermont Law School officials to oppose a discriminatory policy like “don’t ask, don’t tell” is a demonstration of real-life courage and civic responsibility from which everyone can learn and benefit.

“Don’t ask, don’t tell” is one of the great bastions of homophobic inequality endorsed and continually upheld by the U.S. government. The fact that the Solomon Amendment – the law that punishes institutions that do not allow military recruiters access to their campuses – is in place is a testament to the lengths the government will go to keep its discriminatory practices intact.

The school’s refusal to be participants in the U.S. military’s system of discrimination and hate even at the cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding is absolutely admirable.

Institutions of higher education are supposed to be places where change and learning are the foremost goals, and Vermont Law School is imparting invaluable lessons of equality, inclusion and political activism to its students as well as the community at large.

“Every once in a while an issue comes to a community and, despite the cost, it comes to the conclusion that it has to stand up for its principles,” said Jeff Shields, president and dean of the school.

In a world where academic funding has become so bleak in certain parts of the nation, the Vermont Law School’s policy is a refreshing reminder that some people are still willing to make financial sacrifices in order to do what is right.