Exiled from the Underworld

Location: Tulsa, Oklahoma, Tonga

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Letter to Bull Moose

The Bull Moose posted yesterday under the title, "An Illiberal Decision", arguing against the Third Circuit Court of Appeal's decision in favor of universities who deny access to military recruiters on campus, based upon the universities' antidiscriminatory policies toward lesbian, gay, and bisexual persons. Although I think that I understand his argument, I disagree on some important issues, and responded in this letter:

Dear Bull Moose,

Regarding your posting of Tuesday, 30 November 2004, titled "An Illiberal Decision", please consider the following points:

1. The military recruits lower-level personnel from poor and minority groups; it recruits officers from universities. Moreover, in the past the officers recruited from more elite universities were offered better service assignments that their fellows recruited from less prestigious places. Enforcing the Solomon Amendment would do nothing to relieve the disproportionate distribution of poor and minority military personnel at the bottom of the military system.

2. Nothing prohibits any person at any university from enlisting in any branch of the military. In fact, the Department of Defense spends a lot of money each year advertising its opportunities. Smart students at any elite school should be able to understand the content of the ads, and are likely to be exposed to them in a variety of contexts. Bull Moose should note, too, that the New York Times article that he cites states that "most law schools' policies had never completely barred recruiters on campus. Most simply withheld some forms of assistance, like arranging interviews and posting notices."

3. Whereas a uniform national service requirement would be an interesting mechanism for leveling the burdens and benefits of our nation among its citizens, we are unlikely to implement a national draft that is not directly linked to an ongoing war. Our national memory still cringes from the repercussions of the Vietnam-era draft, and no one beyond Chuck Rangel wants to discuss a draft seriously at this time. In addition, if the "don't ask, don't tell" policy were to be continued-- and, with the resurgent acceptance of anti-gay prejudice, seems likely-- lesbian/gay/bisexual persons would have few places to serve their country even under a universal service plan.

4. Universities are to be lauded for consistently facing down naked prejudice whenever it appears. The military's anti-gay policy is nakedly prejudicial against only those persons who are honest about their sexual orientation. Universities should not permit any organization, private or public, to conduct on-campus recruitment if that organization does not offer the same opportunities to all otherwise qualified applicants. Certainly the military refuses to permit openly gay/bisexual/lesbian persons the opportunity to serve, let alone advance in the military ranks. Undisclosed or undiscovered gays, lesbians, and bisexuals can serve in the military, but they are treated unequally in their right to explore and maintain sexual and/or romantic relationships. Regardless of the authority granted to the decision-makers who created the policy, the policy stinks. Additionally, the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy is suspended during times of war (insofar as it would act to release from duty those already serving in the military), thus adding to the hypocrisy of its initial premise that sexual orientation is an critical issue.

5. The consequences of a university's enforcement of a non-discrimination policy, under the Solomon Amendment, would result in denial of all federal funds to that institution. University academic and research programs rely substantially upon federal money for their existence and their vigor; eliminating funding would damage both program content and product. Major revenue reductions would, in turn, mean that universities would likely have reduced resources to direct toward student aid, including federal Pell Grants (worthy of another story on its own). What impact would reduced access to student aid and federally funded assistance have on poor and minority enrollment at those schools?

6. Bull Moose quotes Howard J. Bashman, from the New York Times article discussing the Third Circuit decision, "'A ruling of this sort will cause the military to end up with a lower quality of lawyer,' Mr. Bashman said. 'These lawyers are involved in targeting decisions and in decisions about how prisoners have to be treated.' "

Mr. Bashman's confidence in the superiority of all law students who attend the elite, non-discriminatory schools (as opposed to graduates of all other law schools, who are apparently notably inferior) notwithstanding, I have no illusions that the "highest quality" lawyers are NOT currently making decisions about how prisoners are treated. Attorney General John Ashcroft, a graduate of Yale University and the University of Chicago, and Alberto Gonzales, a graduate of Rice University and Harvard Law School, have been making those decisions most recently. One might notice that the policy-level decisions are not necessarily made within the military, and that some top-tier law school graduates have generated appalling opinions and decisions regarding (among other things) the treatment of prisoners.

This is an incomplete listing of my concerns with your posting, but I hope that you find it a reasoned and thoughtful dissent.