The military is back at Harvard

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com August 28 2002 12:00 AM ET

Harvard Law School will allow official on-campus recruiting by the military this year rather than risk costing the university $328 million in federal funds. For more than a decade the law school has prohibited military recruiters, who discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, from using its facilities, including its career services office. Because the military has a "don't ask, don't tell" policy regarding sexual orientation, openly gay military personnel can be discharged. The Air Force demanded that the law school change its policy by July 1 to comply with a 1996 law that was passed following complaints that some military recruiters were being kept off campuses. Otherwise, Harvard University could lose the 16% of its annual budget that comes from the government. Student financial aid would not be affected.

The law school was granted a one-month extension to study the issue but told the Air Force on July 29 it would change the policy. "I believe that an overwhelming majority of the law school community opposes any form of discrimination based on sexual orientation," Dean Robert Clark wrote in an E-mail sent to students Friday. "At the same time, most of us reluctantly accept the reality that this university cannot accept the loss of federal funds."

Air Force spokeswoman Valerie Burkes said the military has asked other schools to change their policies, but she refused to discuss individual cases. Burkes said Harvard's decision is "consistent with applicable federal statutes." Many universities appear to have already made such exceptions to their nondiscrimination policies. Stanford University, for instance, allows military recruiting on campus on the grounds that the military's policy is not explicitly discriminatory, spokesman Jack Hubbard said.

Harvard Law's decision could be seen as further reconciliation between the military and the university, which kicked ROTC off campus during the Vietnam War and later stripped its university funding because of the group's policy regarding gays. Last September, Harvard president Lawrence Summers praised the ROTC, and some alumni have petitioned to return it to campus. But Adam Teicholz, president of Lambda, the law school's student gay and lesbian rights organization, said it is "cynical of the Bush administration to wield their control of school funds as a political weapon."