Harvard Law School has created a task force to recommend methods of ameliorating the effects of on-campus military recruitment on the school’s gay and lesbian population, leaders of a student group said yesterday.
A committee of students will address the impact of the Solomon Amendment, which allows the Pentagon to bar federal funding to universities that hinder the military’s ability to recruit on campus.
Jeffrey G. Paik ’03, co-president of Lambda—the Law School’s gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender student group—said the committee has the support of Dean Elena Kagan, who reversed course last month and said that military recruiters would once again have access to the school’s Office of Career Services.
The Solomon Amendment has sparked debate at a number of the nation’s law schools, due to the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which prevents openly gay individuals from serving. A case challenging the amendment’s constitutionality—Rumsfeld v. FAIR—will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court next week.
Paik said that the six-member task force plans to issue a set of recommendations by the end of the academic year.
“This is one of those first steps towards improving the environment for all students,” he said.
Paik added that the group will initially focus on how other law schools have dealt with the amendment’s impact on students, but he said that the committee plans to expand its work beyond the Solomon case.
“This goes beyond just the FAIR ruling,” he said. “Really we’re viewing this as an opportunity to examine larger issues at the school.”
The decision to form a task force comes as the Law School attempts to comply with the regulations of the American Association of Law Schools (AALS). Both Harvard and the association have maintained that the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy conflicts with their nondiscrimination policies.
The AALS stipulated in 1997 that schools choosing not to enforce a bylaw banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation can only be excused if they “engage in appropriate activities to ameliorate the negative effects” of the military’s presence on gay and lesbian students.
Facing Pentagon threats to block federal funding, Kagan announced in October that the school would cooperate with recruiters and exempt the military from its nondiscrimination policy.
According to Paik, the task force will develop possible responses to the Rumsfeld v. FAIR decision, expected sometime next year.
“If the decision comes out in favor of FAIR, we hope [the University] will take immediate action to reenact its nondiscrimination policy,” Paik said, adding that University administrators “really need to start thinking now about what sorts of actions that they need to take in the future.”
Paik said the committee will also recommend methods of increasing support for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender students from faculty, administrators, and advisers at the Law School.
Committee member Brad E. Rosen said that he viewed the task force as a way of “opening up the dialogue” with the Law School and the University in preparing a response to the Supreme Court’s decision.
He said the creation of a task force “emphasizes how one group has been marginalized and what steps we can take to ensure that this does not happen to all students across Harvard. This shows that the Law School is cognizant of the fact that there is a problem, and it’s nice to know that we now have the resources to work towards a solution.”
Rosen added that the task force is examining the possibility of instituting a more formal grievance procedure for students who are grappling with issues like hate crimes and same-sex sexual harassment.
The committee is currently comprised of six students, though Paik said that the group is soliciting input from faculty as well. The members include first-year students Alexis I. Caloza ’04, Brian A. Schroeder, and Rosen; second-year student Elizabeth I. Tossell; and third-year students Paik and Peter C. Renn.
Kagan could not be reached for comment yesterday.
—Staff writer Javier C. Hernandez can be reached at email@example.com.