Speaking at an afternoon rally in front of Langdell Library, Frankfurter Professor of Law Alan M. Dershowitz said he would ask the faculty to vote in support of litigation to reinstate the Law School’s nondiscrimination policy.
Until this year, the policy had barred the military from official campus interview sessions because of its “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.
“I don’t see the downside of litigating, of seeking at least a declaratory judgment in the courts,” Dershowitz told a crowd of about 250. “It would be better to fight the fight…as a lawyer, one does not accept arbitrary action from the government.”
And if the University will not reconsider a decision to sue, Dershowitz said after the rally that he would be not only willing but “anxious” to mount a suit along with other Harvard professors or students.
The Law School announced in August that it would exempt military recruiters from its nondiscrimination requirements in the face of a Pentagon threat to prohibit Harvard from receiving $328 million in federal research funding.
The Pentagon review of Harvard’s recruiting policy, which began last December, was authorized under a 1996 law, the Solomon Amendment, that requires schools to give military recruiters equal access to campus facilities.
In August, many members of Lambda, the student-run gay rights group that organized yesterday’s protest, said they understood that the Law School had little choice but to allow recruiters for the Judge Advocate General Corps (JAG) to use its Office of Career Services.
But now Yale University, which announced Oct. 1 an “interim” suspension of a similar policy prohibiting JAG interviewers from its fall interview series, has pledged to push either in the government or in the courts for a redetermination of whether its restrictions actually violated the Solomon Amendment.
“What Yale’s decision does is point out that maybe Harvard’s hands weren’t so tied,” said Sarah Boonin, a second-year law student and Lambda spokesperson, before the rally.
In an interview yesterday, University President Lawrence H. Summers defended Harvard’s decision as a practical response and said the University was not lagging behind Yale—which has not committed to a court challenge.
“From what I’ve read, they’re simply announcing an intention to do things we’ve already done,” Summers said.
Professor of Law Janet Halley, who has written a book on gays in the military, criticized Summers as the force behind what she termed Harvard’s “capitulation” to the military.
“President Summers wanted the Law School to cave,” she said. “We could not find anywhere the will to resist Summers.”