More than 150 students and members of the Harvard Law School (HLS) community gathered on campus yesterday to demand that the University devote funds and political support to help overturn the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.
At a rally in front of HLS’ Harkness Commons, students joined Frankfurter Professor of Law Alan M. Dershowitz and two military veterans to call for more backing from University President Lawrence H. Summers in efforts to repeal the policy, which prevents gay men and lesbians from serving openly in the armed forces.
In a speech to the crowd, Dershowitz reprimanded the University for not doing more to combat the policy. Military recruiters had been banned from the HLS Office of Career Services until last month, when the school announced it would once again grant the military access in light of Pentagon threats to cut off federal funding.
“Harvard’s complicity in bigotry is one of the most important human rights issues of our generation,” Dershowitz said. “We simply cannot accept a standard which tells us we must compromise our morality in the interests of money.”
The 1994 Solomon Amendment allows the Secretary of Defense to bar federal funding from universities that do not permit military recruiters on their campuses. Representatives from the Judge Advocate General’s Corps of the U.S. Army were scheduled to hold an information session on campus yesterday.
Jeffrey G. Paik ’03, president of Lambda, the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender student group that organized the event, urged the University to do “something more than sitting back and waiting for the political winds to change or for other schools to take the lead.”
Paik summoned the University to rally behind the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, introduced before the House of Representatives in March, which would overturn the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. He also called for the University to initiate fund-raising efforts aimed at raising public awareness.
“We believe that this discrimination is wrong, and has no place either in the military or on this campus. And we believe that Harvard University could be doing a lot more than it has been doing to protect its students from discrimination,” Paik said.
During the event, students circulated copies of the school’s nondiscrimination policy to sign and submit to Summers.
Summers declined to comment for this article, but in the past, he has publicly decried both the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and the Solomon Amendment.
“The attitude of members of the University community toward the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy is very clear and we all look forward to the day when any American regardless of their sexual orientation as regardless of their race or religion can serve in the armed forces,” Summers said in an interview with The Crimson in November 2003.
In a letter to gay alumni in December 2003, Summers called the Solomon Amendment “bad public policy.”
“The Solomon Amendment as interpreted and enforced is bad public policy,” he wrote, adding that “don’t ask, don’t tell” was “offensive to human dignity and to principles of nondiscrimination.”
Dershowitz has urged the University for a year to file its own lawsuit against the amendment, and said yesterday that “every day of discrimination is a day of disgrace to Harvard University.”
“We are the wealthiest university in the world,” he said. “We can afford to fight bigotry in ways other universities cannot. And if we don’t take the lead, no one else will.”
Prior to the rally, students crammed the perimeter of the Harkness Commons dining area, some holding signs, others sitting in silence with duct tape reading “don’t ask, don’t tell” strapped across their mouths.
Brandishing a sign reading “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Codifies Homophobia,” third-year law student Ashley L. Filip ’01 said she came to the protest to oppose the Pentagon policy and the presence of recruiters on campus.
“I would like to see more of a personal stand taken by the University...just in terms of doing more to encourage discussion of the issue,” she said.
Those sentiments resonated with HLS first-year Anne H. Gibson, who said she believes Harvard administrators are “silently accepting” a flawed policy.
“I think that what I would most like to see is the administration taking a more vocal stance in being opposed to discrimination,” she said.
—Staff writer Javier C. Hernandez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.