Solomonic decision

Posted by lex, on October 1, 2007

The faculty of Yale law school has for two years waged a running battle to exclude military recruiters from campus because of the Clinton-era “Don’t ask, don’t tell (don’t harrass, don’t pursue)” policy. That stance put them across the table from the feds, armed by the 1996 Solomon Amendment, which permits government to deny federal grants to universities which discriminate against military recruiters at on campus job fairs, among other things.

Apparently citing the Hammurabic code as a precedent, the law school argued that it was OK to discriminate against the military, since they discriminated against gays. And by the way they’d like to keep the money. A federal appeals court, quoting English common sense, if not common law, told the faculty that no, they couldn’t have their cake and eat it too.

(That) did not lessen the ruling’s sting for gay rights advocates like Sara Jeruss, a third-year law student and the co-chairwoman of OutLaws, an organization of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students at the law school.

“We’re disappointed by it,” Ms. Jeruss said recently in an interview. “We obviously wish the government wasn’t forcing discrimination on us.”

Obviously no one at Yale is being forced to discriminate – well, apart maybe from discriminating whether it would be better forgo their principles or $350 million – rather, the military will now have the opportunity to try and convince people who may not agree with Ms. Jeruss that military law is a good and noble calling. Or – and here’s a wild notion – maybe challenge the system from the inside.

It’s risky of course: People smart enough to graduate from Yale law may find themselves subtly refashioned into one of those knuckle-dragging killbots we hear so much about. But that’s the chance you take.

One of the lead professors in the suit all but conceded defeat:

“We had a choice, which is we could continue to exclude the military, and Yale University would have lost $300 million per year,” Professor Burt said in an interview here recently. “We’re not going to bring the medical school and the whole science enterprise to its knees.”

There was a third choice, of course. They could have hewed to their principles and tapped into that $22 billion endowment for at least a few years.

You’d have thought it would be hard for lawyers trained in the US Constitution to argue that only certain kinds of free speech should be protected at one of our most prestigious universities. Or that it’s better within the halls of academia to limit debate on a controversial issue to the approved narrative rather than to extend it.

But it wasn’t as as hard apparently as turning down all that hard cash.

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Filed under Carroll "Lex" LeFon, Politics and Culture

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