HLS Bans Military

Just one day after a federal appeals court blocked the Pentagon from cutting federal funds to universities that limit military recruitment on campus, Harvard Law School moved to reinstitute its policy of barring the armed services’ access to students.

Law School Dean Elena Kagan said yesterday that the school would require all on-campus recruiters to pledge to not discriminate against employees on the basis of sexual orientation. The military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy bars gays and lesbians from serving openly, and the Pentagon has refused to sign the Law School’s pledge.

From 1996 to 2002, the Harvard Law School Veterans’ Association served as a liaison between Pentagon recruiters and students interested in pursuing military careers, allowing the school’s Office of Career Services (OCS) to maintain its policy of not cooperating with discriminatory employers. Kagan said she hopes the veterans’ group will resume this role.

This arrangement came after Congress passed the Solomon Amendment in 1996, which blocked federal funding to schools that limit military recruitment.

In 2002, the Pentagon told Harvard that the University could lose hundreds of millions of dollars in research grants unless military recruiters gained full access to OCS. The Law School granted the Pentagon an exemption from the nondiscrimination requirement.

Peter Renn, president of Lambda, the Law School’s student gay rights group, applauded Kagan’s move. “The swiftness of her response reflects the seriousness of the harm that was inflicted upon Harvard’s gay and lesbian students each day that the exception to the nondiscrimination policy was in place.”

But Renn said it was “questionable” whether the veterans’ group arrangement was consistent with school’s nondiscrmination policy.