Panel Discusses Military Policy Toward Gays

At teach-in, students question recruiters’ presence on campus

Matthew A. Dalio

JORDAN B. WOODS '06, politcal chair of the BGLTSA, and MATTHEW D. MULLER, a Law School first-year, speak at a teach-in last night.

A teach-in about the implications of the military’s policies towards gays drew more than 20 students to Boylston Hall last night.

Organized by the Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, Transgender, and Supporters Alliance (BGLTSA), the Harvard Institute for Peace and Justice and Harvard Law School (HLS) Lambda, the teach-in featured speakers who focused on issues that included the controversial Solomon Amendment, the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) and Harvard’s non-discrimination policy.

The panel convened in conjunction with Solomon’s Minefield, a conference beginning today at HLS that will address issues surrounding the Solomon Amendment, which allows the government to deny universities federal funding if they bar military recruiters from campus.

When the amendment passed in 1996, HLS—which had previously denied access to military recruiters because of what they identified as the military’s discriminatory policies towards homosexuals—complied by allowing recruiting only through the Harvard Law School Veterans Association, a student group.

In 2002, HLS reversed its position when military officials told the University it would lose $328 million in federal funding if it barred official recruiters from campus. At the time, Dean of the Law School Robert C. Clark promised no change in “the Law School’s commitment to the goal of nondiscrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.”

Participants in last night’s teach-in, however, questioned Clark’s commitment.

“If you read between the lines, there is much more that Harvard could do to change the Solomon Amendment,” said Amanda C. Goad, president of HLS Lambda, who pointed to Harvard’s decision not to join a recent lawsuit against the U.S. government that sought to repeal the Solomon amendment.

Professor of Romance Languages and Literature Bradley S. Epps said that the way to organize against the Solomon Amendment was to change Harvard’s own anti-discrimination policy.

He suggested that the University’s current policy was contradicted by allowing military recruiters on campus. “I’m tempted to suggest a very radicalaction,” he told the crowd.

“To throw out the University’s anti-discrimination clause on the basis of sex orientation,” Epps added. “Either the anti-discrimination clause should mean something, or it should be null and void.”

Panelists also expressed concerns about the economic effects of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on ROTC students.

HIPJ member Paul G. Dexter ’04 said that students receive so much money in aid from ROTC that it borders on “economic coercion.”

“This is not to say we should get rid of the military on campus but to evaluate its good against its bad missions,” he said.

BGLTSA political chair Jordan B. Woods ’06 said that Harvard should provide a tuition insurance policy to students who might be forced out of ROTC because of their sexual orientation.

“We need to make sure that they can stay in school and stay in a good financial position,” Woods said. “There needs to be a definitive standard so that ROTC students don’t feel that their futures will be jeopardized.”

After the panel, ROTC cadet Catherine A. Cohn ’06 said she had attended the teach-in looking to find out more about “don’t ask, don’t tell.

“It’s nice to know that people are bothered by ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’” she said.

“At the same time, it bothers me that Harvard continues to oppose ROTC’s presence on campus,” Cohn added.

Another ROTC cadet, who would not give his name, was more blunt.

“I don’t think there’s a question that ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ is discriminatory,” he said.

“But despite the fact that it is discriminatory, you know what atmosphere you’re going into, and you go into it willingly.”