Summers Should Challenge Amendment

Letter to the Editors

To the editors:

As recent graduates of Harvard College, we were disappointed to read that University President Lawrence H. Summers has declined to challenge the Solomon Amendment in court (News, “Pressure Builds Against Military Recruiting,” Nov. 13). The military’s current recruitment and employment policies toward sexual minorities are fundamentally incompatible with Harvard’s commitment to equal opportunity. In turn, the Solomon Amendment is a dangerous attempt by the federal government to coerce institutions of higher learning into compliance with blatantly discriminatory and divisive policies.

Harvard embodies an institutional commitment to excellence that is blind to racial, sexual or cultural identity. Our need-blind admissions policy selects students based on their potential for achievement, not on the basis of their conditions of origin. Aid policies ensure that no student is prevented from attending Harvard based on economic disadvantages. Fellowships and prizes are open to all Harvard students and are awarded on the basis of merit. Harvard’s policies and procedures have been carefully designed to avoid discriminating between its students on the basis of criteria irrelevant to the quality of their work and ideas. Refusing to facilitate recruitment by racist or otherwise discriminatory employers is a central part of this commitment. Harvard aims to be egalitarian and meritocratic, and the pursuit of these principles has produced institutional excellence and a special moral authority.

By contrast, the military’s current policies toward sexual minorities discriminate between individuals on the basis of criteria totally unrelated to excellence or merit. The branches of the military offer professional opportunities and financial rewards to outstanding heterosexual Harvard students even as they unleash witch hunts to purge their ranks of outstanding homosexual recruits. The gulf between Harvard’s values and the military’s bigotry makes the Solomon Amendment particularly disturbing. The Solomon Amendment uses public funds to force academic institutions into complicity with a fundamentalist moral agenda. It exploits mutually beneficial research partnerships between universities and the government for political reasons, undermining the academic independence fundamental to the pursuit of knowledge.

When Fifteen Minutes recently uncovered a “Secret Court” that drove several homosexual Harvard students to suicide in the 1920s, Summers told The Crimson that “these reports of events long ago are extremely disturbing. They are part of a past that we have rightly left behind.” While it is true that Harvard’s Secret Court was a horrifying phenomenon, it is hard to believe that Summers could be so naïve as to proclaim homophobia a problem of the past. The Solomon Amendment demonstrates that discrimination lives and breathes in powerful public institutions. As a university committed to equal opportunity and enlightenment, Harvard must strenuously oppose the Solomon Amendment and its coercive propagation of bigotry and ignorance.

Albert H. Cho ’02

Oxford, U.K.

Jesse A. Green ’02-’03

Boston, Mass.

Mandy H. Hu ’02-’03

New York City, N.Y.

Nov. 13, 2003