honorary Hose Monster:
A rather left leaning professor here (leaning is a bit of an understatement; he falls off the sidewalk occasionally because of the strength of his convictions. But to be fair, his academic credentials are top-notch and he has an impressive history of advocacy in very high courts) has taken to abusing the law school mailing list to promote his quest to get students to boycott military recruiters coming to campus, based on the military's practice of discriminating against bisexuals, gays and lesbians.
He does not stand alone in his opposition to military recruitment on campus. For some time, many law schools have published non-discriminatory recruitment policies, and pursuant to those policies, have forbade military recruiters to use on campus recruitment facilities. Even as the military has stepped up its pressure on schools, many have resisted the pressure from the military.
Harvard Law School changed their policy this year. And many schools are following suit, which is causing some rather heated debate similar to the one building up here in the cornfield.
The easiest current target is the almost ten-year old "don't ask, don't tell" policy still in force with regard to sexual orientation in the military. Note that this policy does not preclude gays or bisexuals from military service, but does restrict their freedom to expression of their sexual orientation.
Do I think this is a discriminatory policy and the military discriminates in their recruitment? You bet. Do I support the military's freedom to use campus facilities for recruitment? Yep, I'm for that one too.
The military's opinion of gays openly serving is discriminatory. No doubt. I think it needs to change. The greater question is to what. One of the biggest arguments the military makes in support of its discriminatory policy is the need for unit cohesion, and its claim that an openly gay soldier immediately polarizes the unit. I buy this argument to some extent, but that does not make it right. (What it does do is make me shake my head that so many people still take such issue with homosexuality and will let someone's different lifestyle affect their own capacity to do their job. Unfortunately, we could argue that many who grow up dreamiong of joining the armed services are people who will take issue with having to work with gays in close quarters with no privacy. I have no suggestions to fight that problem; our civilization simply needs to advance and bring those dragging their feet along. A blanket statement I know, but frankly, I think most people would agree with me, and certainly most who read blogs to begin with, as we tend to be more liberally aligned than those who stick to traditional media).
On the other hand, (and I'm not claiming that this makes the discrimination okay), the military is a separate beast than what many of us purport to understand, and due to this wholly different nature, you could strongly argue that normal rules do not apply. When you sign up for military service, you voluntarily sign away certain liberties you enjoy as a civilian (this argument would certainly be less persuasive if were were living in a time 30 years ago when compulsory military service was a huge issue in the nation, but thankfully that time is past). In return, you receive outstanding job training and a host of other benefits, such as money for education and leadership training, benefits that can greatly serve a soldier, sailor or airman upon his or her return to the civilian sector. Moreover, you are not dependant on the advantages of military service to better yourself in our society; you have thousands of outlets other than military service and plenty of benefits you receive through these other outlets.
I'm digressing. The point is that when you become a soldier, you agree to a restriction of certain liberties. And in the interest of unit cohesion, perhaps a voicing of sexual preference is one liberty that should be restricted. As I've said, I think the unit cohesion argument is tenuous at certain points, but nonetheless somewhat true. Ultimately, I don't know how to feel on the issue yet, and I welcome your thoughts.
But back to the issue of military recruitment on campus: I reiterate that I believe the military should have the freedom to use campus facilities. I regret its use of heavy handed tactics like the Solomon Amendment to achieve its means, and I think the threat of a suspension of federal funds as a means to enforce its presence deserves sharp criticism. But I stand by my opinion. The military is an important employer with legitimate needs to feel, legal and otherwise, and I think they should have the opportunity to pursue the very best candidates with the same tools other employers have. If the military is not your bag, you have the choice not to work for or even to talk it.
As for boycotting the military's presence: knock yourself out. If you don't agree with an employer's stance on issues or whatnot, you have the absolute right to not engage them in discussion and avoid their recruting table. You even have the right to counsel others to do the same. I've heard arguments that the recruiters are not at fault for the policies of their employers, and thus they should not draw our criticism and our shunning. I think that's a stupid argument: since when has a boycott ever concerned itself with the actual culpability of those bringing the message? We have effected change over the years by voicing opinions, not by worrying about those making the contrary opinion and who's upholding them. If you have an opinion and want to make an action out of that opinion, keep it peaceable, but more power to you if you do. I respect your integrity and your committment to your principles, even if I do not necessarily share them.
However, I will absolutely oppose any efforts to influence or restrict students from talking with JAG recruiters through any means other than absolutely peaceable. Voice your opinion, make it known but don't force it on another.
One other thought: I understand that people want to boycott military recruitment because of its policy of discrimination. I think that's fine. But if you do want to assign blame, think about where you're assigning it. Like most federal bodies, the military is beholden to the Congress and to the President. The "don't ask don't tell" policy is a creature born of an executive order in 1993 and later made law by Congress, employing essentially the same stipulations as the executive order. Many of the brass and the rank and file of the military may support the policy, or even desire a stronger one banning gays outright. But the truth is that our generals, admirals, seamen and privates, and the policies with which they comply, are largely at the control of the Legislature and the Executive. So if you're truly on board to effect change, make sure you're targeting your efforts at those who are crafting the policies controlling the Armed Forces.
Lots of holes in my arguments, and I realize that much of the evidence above supports the side I'm not on, but this is just one of those moments where I simply have an opinion, for better or poorer empirical support. Shoot me to pieces if it makes you happy.