Monday, June 30, 2008

The Price of Principles

The New York Times reported yesterday that at least one law school, in its efforts to combat the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" ban on lesbian, gay and bisexual service members, is paying a price for standing on principle.

Vermont Law School is one of only two universities in the country that continue to bar military recruiters from its campus because the U.S. armed forces will not hire openly gay recruits . . . a violation of the school's non-discrimination policy. Following a unanimous Supreme Court ruling that found schools must allow recruiters on campus or, if they decide not to out of protest, lose all federal funding, most colleges and universities relented, noting that a freeze on federal money would cripple many of their academic endeavors.

But Vermont, along with William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, continues to deny recruiters access to students, refusing to back down from its policy of only allowing employers who include sexual orientation in their non-discrimination policies to visit the campus.

As the Times reports, that has meant a significant cut in dollars received from the government.

As a result, the school is denied some federal research money — $300,000 to $500,000 a year by one outside analyst’s estimate.

“Every once in a while an issue comes to a community and, despite a cost, it comes to the conclusion that it has to stand up for its principles,” said Jeff Shields, president and dean of the law school. “It has to do with speaking truth to power, and it’s one of those roles that those of us lucky enough to be trained as lawyers hopefully take from time to time.”

And the Pentagon is not backing down.

“If the Department of Defense finds a school is doing this, it notifies other federal agencies and funding gets cut off,” said Lt. Col. Les Melnyk, a department spokesman.

The result is a loss in important educational funding for schools, and, because of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," a loss of significant talent to the armed forces.

The military should have access to the best and brightest students on campuses across the country, but Congress should understand that the "best and brightest" includes LGBT students, too. They should not be denied the opportunity of a military career, if they choose one, simply because they are lesbian or gay. And colleges should not be denied important federal funding because they stand on principle that non-discrimination is a 'must.'

The easiest way to solve the entire dilemma is for Congress to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." The military, then, will be in compliance with non-discrimination policies, and universities like Vermont Law School won't have to risk a half-million dollars in funding because they want to do the right thing.

1 comment:

Gabi Clayton said...

Steve, you wrote:
The military should have access to the best and brightest students on campuses across the country, but Congress should understand that the "best and brightest" includes LGBT students, too. They should not be denied the opportunity of a military career, if they choose one, simply because they are lesbian or gay.

While I agree that 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' is completely unfair discrimination, and I very much admire these colleges for standing up for their principles, I believe that it's much more complex than that, particularly at this time when we are in this war.

For an excellent paper on the reasons, see Is Opposing the War An LGBT Issue? (pdf format).
It is an American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) LGBT Issue Brief, in partnership with National Youth Advocacy Coalition (NYAC), which in part includes this:

As Audre Lorde, the noted poet, activist, and writer who was both Black and lesbian, said, “There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.”

Race, gender, culture, class, age, and the complex interrelationships of these factors are central to our LGBT experience and analysis of the impacts of the “War on Terror” here and abroad. While all of us in the LGBT movement are affected by the “War on Terror,” people of color, immigrants and refugees , women, children and youth, and poor people—including LGBT people—disproportionately bear the burden of war-related repression, violence, and harm. These are the same groups in the United States who already suffer the multiple harms of domestic and sexual violence, hate violence, poverty, and dispossession.


See also AFSC's LGBT Peace Work.