Over 20 students, professors and community members debated in front of a packed crowd over the possible removal of military recruiters on campus at the Academic Senate’s special town hall meeting Wednesday afternoon.
Roughly 100 people came to the meeting, held in the McCune Conference Room in the Humanities and Social Sciences Building. Representatives from organizations, such as Associated Students Student Commission on Racial Equality (SCORE), College Republicans and the ROTC, discussed the pros and cons of a proposed resolution written by Thomas Scheff, sociology professor emeritus, and signed by 17 professors that was presented in January. The resolution alleges that the military violates UCSB’s nondiscrimination policy because of its “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” rule, which bars openly gay people from serving. Scheff’s resolution seeks to bar recruiters from campus because of these discriminatory practices.
Academic Senate chair Walter Yuen said the senate would vote on the resolution May 13. If the resolution passes, it will be sent to Chancellor Henry Yang, who will decide whether to approve and enforce it or not.
“I want to make it very clear that the Academic Senate has not made a decision on this issue,” said Yuen, a mechanical and environmental engineering professor. “This is an educational process we are going through.”
Before giving other speakers the floor, Yuen read a letter from Yang reiterating what he had told members of SCORE on Monday, when they rallied to his office demanding that he support the resolution. In his letter, Yang wrote that he will not take a stance on the issue until the faculty have discussed it because he does not want to interfere with their proceedings. Yang also said the faculty should be mindful of UCSB’s nondiscrimination policy in their debate.
Scheff said he is not pushing a certain political agenda, nor were the 17 other professors who signed his resolution. He said he only wished to enforce pre-existing university policy.
The university’s nondiscrimination policy states that the university will not discriminate against people based on race, religion, sex, disability, age or sexual orientation in its employment and admissions practices. It also states that groups will not be discriminated against in university programs and activities. University administration, faculty, student governments, university-owned residence halls and apartments, programs and all groups operating under the authority of the UC Regents are governed by the policy.
Yuen allowed six main speakers five minutes each to present their side of the issue and then opened the podium to audience members for two minutes each. Those in favor of the resolution argued that the military presence violated the nondiscrimination policy, drained university resources and threatened the safety of queer students on campus.
“Mistreatment against [queers] is not wrong because it is in violation of a nondiscrimination policy, it is a violation of a nondiscrimination policy because it is wrong,” said Kyle Richards, director of the Resource Center for Sexual & Gender Diversity.
However, opponents of the resolution said it would restrict students’ and recruiters’ rights to free speech and that it was in itself an act of discrimination. Even though all the opponents of the resolution said they were against the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” rule, many said Scheff’s and others’ efforts to change policy were misdirected and counterproductive since civilian politicians decide the policy, not the military. Others said the resolution was just a guise for an anti-war, anti-President George W. Bush agenda.
“If you and I have a problem with ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ then we as citizens need to change it,” said Sally Marois, a speaker for College Republicans. “But as a citizen, do I ban it to make a change or do I work with [the existing institution]?”
Law and society professor Jacqueline Stevens, one of the six main speakers, said other universities such as Yale and Harvard have successfully banned military recruiters despite the 1997 United States Solomon Amendment. The amendment gave the government the power to withhold federal funding to campuses that refused recruiters admittance to its grounds.
Yale and Harvard have successfully overturned this amendment in their judicial circuit, Stevens said. However, the Supreme Court decided Monday to hear a case brought by the Dept. of Defense to overturn this decision. Stevens said if it fails, the precedent would further empower UCSB to stand by its nondiscrimination policy and bar recruiters.
“If [the military] can discriminate against [queers], we can discriminate against homophobes,” Stevens said.
Stevens also said employment recruiters who come to campus must first confirm on the UCSB Counseling & Career Services website that they comply with the UCSB nondiscrimination policy. The university has not enforced this requirement, she said.
First-year political science major Eva Kilamyan said the Supreme Court might not overturn the Solomon Amendment, and professors should consider the financial impact of losing federal money. Citing statistics from the UC Office of the President website, Kilamyan said 30 percent of the UC system’s budget comes from the federal government, $137.2 million of which comes from the Dept. of Defense. This money pays not only for research, but for student scholarships as well, she said.
If students wished to protest the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, they should “rip up financial aid checks” and encourage professors to give up their jobs at UCSB, said Brian Ray, a fifth-year political science major and a member of Students for a Fair Campus. Doing this would protest the real decision makers of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” – the federal government – because it would be a protest of the money it supplies, he said.
But Bill Shiebler, a second-year business economics major, said the university should not prioritize money over students’ safety. He said he, as a queer student, feels threatened by military recruiters’ presence because of their intolerance to the queer community.
Stephanie Lee, a fourth-year English major, said she pays the same tuition as straight students yet because the university is not upholding its own nondiscrimination policy, she receives less respect.
“I shouldn’t have to organize a rally [to become safe],” Lee said.
Andy Leonard, a Latin American/Iberian studies graduate student and captain in the U.S. Army, said if students and faculty wanted the military to support queer rights, they should actively seek military recruits to attend UCSB. By barring recruiters, military recruits will be forced to attend only military universities and will not be exposed to multiple points of view. Leonard said he came to UCSB as a graduate student and not a military university exactly for this reason.
“Teach me, don’t exclude me,” Leonard said.