Harvard University stays out of battle with military
November 27 2003 12:00 AM ET
Harvard University will not challenge a federal rule requiring schools that oppose the military's policy toward gay men and lesbians to allow military recruiters on campus. Harvard president Lawrence H. Summers wrote in a letter last week to members of a Harvard Law School group, Lambda, that the school would not sign on to litigation challenging the Pentagon policy, known as the Solomon Amendment. The school released the letter on Tuesday. The 1996 law allows the Pentagon to pull federal funding from law schools that limit recruiters' access to students. Harvard had barred recruiters from campus because of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy prohibiting gay men and lesbians from serving openly in the armed forces. Harvard, like other schools, said the military's ban on gays was
Last year the Pentagon informed Harvard and other schools that the government would begin enforcing the amendment and that their federal funding was in jeopardy. Faced with the loss of millions in federal aid, Harvard, Boston University, Boston College, and other schools backed off their bans and allowed military recruiters on campus. More than half of Harvard Law School's 81 professors signed a letter to Summers last month asking the university to fight the policy. In his response to the letter, Summers called the Solomon Amendment "unsound and corrosive public policy" that sanctions universities with draconian punishment. But Summers wrote that litigation against the government would not serve the interests of the university. "The university must exercise considerable restraint when it comes to the prospect of confronting the government through the quintessentially adversarial act of filing a lawsuit," he wrote in the letter. Harvard received about $412 million in federal funds in fiscal 2003, according to the university Office for Sponsored Research.
Harvard Law professor Charles Ogletree said students, alumni, and faculty who support a challenge to the amendment are "extremely disappointed that the university didn't have the moral courage to take on this issue of blatant discrimination." Ogletree said that Harvard Law professors intend to file a lawsuit against the amendment. He declined to say when. A national coalition of law schools and students filed suit in September over the policy. Earlier this month, a federal judge allowed the lawsuit to continue, but refused to issue a preliminary injunction to immediately prohibit the government from enforcing the policy. Yale students and faculty have also filed separate lawsuits over the amendment.