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Military recruiting protected

Mary Kate Malone | Wednesday, March 8, 2006

The Supreme Court’s ruling Monday upholding a statute that deprives U.S. law schools of federal funding if they do not allow military recruiters on their campuses will not change any policies at the Notre Dame Law School, Law School associate dean John Robinson said Tuesday.

The Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling (8-0) upholds the Solomon Amendment – a fund-blocking provision that keeps federal money from U.S. law schools that refuse to allow military recruiters onto their campuses. But since the Law School already allows the military to interview and recruit its students, the recent ruling will not affect its funding from the federal government.

“As far as I know, we have no need to change anything in light of this decision … to the best of my knowledge the law school … has no reason to change any of its polices,” Robinson said.

The Solomon Amendment strips law schools and their affiliated universities of their access to federal funds if they do not allow the military to interview on campus. Some law schools have refused to allow the military to recruit because of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy toward homosexuals. But the threat of losing federal money – that could total $35 billion – is too great for most of the nation’s law schools.

“When the government says you do what you want but if you do [not allow military recruiters] you lose federal funding to the whole university – that’s a powerful incentive to do what the government wants,” Robinson said. “Government funding is everywhere [at Notre Dame].”

A select group of law schools that are independent of larger universities, like Vermont Law School, have waived their federal funding in protest of the Solomon amendment. But for most of the nation’s top law schools their affiliated universities – the threat of losing federal money is enough to comply with the Court’s ruling, Robinson said.

“It would be a very rare place that would endanger losing that funding as a way of expressing hostility toward the Solomon Amendment,” Robinson said.

But the Law School, as a member of the Association of American Law Schools [AALS], must also comply with the Association’s by-laws and follow special rules when military recruiters come to seek out law students.

“The AALS was originally hostile to the Solomon amendment – they didn’t like the idea of law schools being required to allow military recruiters on campus,” Robinson said. “So what they did was set up a whole set of requirements that we had to meet. For example, when the military comes to campus to recruit law students, the AALS, as far as I know, requires us to alert our students to the fact that [the military] has a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy [against homosexuals].”

The “don’t ask, don’t tell'”policy holds that the military will discharge any members who engage in homosexual conduct. But homosexuality itself is not a bar to service.

The AALS has strict provisions in its by-laws that prohibit a member law school from allowing discriminatory firms onto its campus to recruit law students – a category that the military falls under due to this “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

But since the passage of the Solomon Amendment, the AALS modified its standards so that member schools can still allow military recruiters on campus and continue receiving federal money.

The AALS handbook states that military recruiters can interview “as long as a school provides ‘amelioration’ in a form that both expresses publicly the law school’s disapproval of the discrimination against gays and lesbians by the military and provides a safe and protective atmosphere for gay and lesbian students.”

Robinson said the Law School follows these AALS requirements.

Information from the Associated Press was included in this report.

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