Military, universities spar over rights

The Supreme Court recently heard arguments in a case to decide the military’s rights to recruit on university campuses, the decision of which could affect recruiting practices on campuses nationwide.

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals initially ruled that the Solomon Amendment _” which gave the U.S Department of Defense the ability to deny federal funding to any school that blocks the access of military recruiters to students _” was unconstitutional, but stayed its ruling pending a decision from the Supreme Court.

The requirement to allow military recruiters on campuses is what the Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights _” or FAIR _” opposed in the Supreme Court case Rumsfeld v. FAIR.

FAIR is an organization composed of 36 schools and faculties that oppose the presence of military recruiters at their school career fairs due to the military’s “don’t ask don’t tell” policy regarding homosexuals and lesbians. The organization also believes the Solomon Amendment interferes with universities’ First Amendment rights.

At UAA, the Career Services Center acts as a liaison for employers who wish to recruit on campus.

“Career Services Center actually fills out the reservation form and is the sponsor of [the] recruiter,” said Annie Route of Campus Life.

Employers are screened by the Career Services Center prior to being allowed to recruit on campus, and only employers who subscribe to equal opportunity employment guidelines are accepted.

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Michael Reeves, director of Career Services, encourages students to inform the Career Services Center if they believe that they experienced discrimination from an on-campus recruiter.

“If that employer has discriminated in any way, I will bar that employer from this university,” Reeves said.

It is the policy of the Career Services Center to allow military recruiters campus access equal to that of other employers.

“The military has had open and free access to our students,” said Reeves.

As an organization opposed to discrimination based on sexual orientation, FAIR resists the presence of military recruiters on participating campuses, but wishes to continue conducting career fairs for employers that do not discriminate on these grounds. The Department of Defense sees this as a violation of the Solomon Amendment.

If the Supreme Court sides with U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, millions of dollars in funding could be denied schools such as Georgetown and Stanford, should they bar access to military recruiters.

Paul Clement made the case on behalf of Rumsfeld, and focused on a clause in the Solomon Amendment that allows recruiters access only to schools that accept federal funding.

“The Solomon Amendment conditions the Federal funding of educational institutions on receiving something any donor would expect, the opportunity to recruit students educated at the funded institution,” Clement said.

E. Joshua Rosenkranz, represents FAIR, and argues that the Solomon Amendment is in violation of the schools’ First Amendment rights.

“What Congress really wants is to squelch even the most symbolic elements of the law school’s resistance to disseminating the military’s message,” Rosenkranz said.

The Supreme Court is expected to deliver its decision on this case later this year.

Regardless of the decision handed down, Reeves doesn’t expect any changes in policy at UAA concerning military recruiters.

“Would I then ban military organizations from this campus? No I won’t do that,” Reeves said. There are too many career opportunities provided to our students in the military.”