The contentious topic of military recruitment on campus will be the focus of a discussion tonight as celebrity Ben Stein visits the UCSB campus.
The event, organized by the College Republicans and Young America’s Foundation, is being held despite the decision of the UCSB Faculty Legislature to postpone a vote on whether to bar military recruiters from campus on the basis that the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy is discriminatory. Approximately 500 students are expected to attend the free event tonight at 8 p.m. in Corwin Pavilion.
The conservative celebrity is still expected to talk on the subject of military recruitment despite the postponement of the Faculty Legislature vote, College Republicans Chair Sally Marois said. The evening will begin with a lecture from Stein and will be followed by a question and answer session. Marois, a third-year political science major, said audience members will also be given the chance to meet and talk with Stein.
College Republicans Secretary Paul Santiago, a fourth-year political science major, said in a press release that Stein’s appearance should provide a new perspective on the issue of military recruiters on campus.
“Stein will change the platform of debate and offer information about this issue to the campus and community who are otherwise in the dark,” Santiago said. “He will challenge our commitments and refresh our patriotism.”
Walter Yuen, Academic Senate chair, said the legislature is postponing the vote until the U.S. Supreme Court makes a ruling on the constitutionality of the 1996 Solomon Amendment, which stated that federal research funding given to universities could be at risk if military recruiters were barred from campuses.
“The faculty feel the best time to talk about this issue will be after a ruling is made in court.” Yuen said.
Sociology Professor Emeritus Thomas Scheff, who leads the group that put forward the proposed recruiter ban last spring, said he is not disappointed by the announcement.
“The vote will still take place, it has just been postponed as we are waiting for a decision by the Supreme Court on the Solomon Amendment,” Scheff said.
Scheff, along with 17 faculty members, proposed banning military recruiters last spring to protest the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which prohibits openly homosexual individuals from serving in the Armed Forces. Last spring, Scheff said allowing military recruiters on campus would contradict UCSB’s nondiscrimination policy, which states that homosexual persons should not be harassed or discriminated against.
The Faculty Legislature, which is a committee of the UCSB Academic Senate, was slated to vote on the proposal at its May 13 meeting, but did not because it failed to reach quorum.
Marois said tonight’s event will give people an opportunity to become involved in the issue.
“Things have changed due to the [pending] Supreme Court decision,” Marois said. “But the topic of honoring American soldiers is still very important.”
Marois said the College Republicans hope Ben Stein will attract a wide cross section of people from campus and the community and will offer an alternative to other political speakers.
“Even if you are not interested in the topic you’ll enjoy his lecture.” Marois said. “He is someone who will bring out the real issue.” According to a funding request submitted to the Associated Students Finance Board, the event costs $15,000 and has been funded primarily by private donors. A.S. also provided the College Republicans with $300 to cover publicity expenses, although it did not give them the $2,000 that Marois originally requested to help cover Stein’s contract, due to concerns that the event was too partisan.
Marois said she felt A.S. had given her organization more scrutiny than any other group due to their political ideology.
“It is hard to stand up for something you believe in when other people are afraid to speak up with you as they are afraid of the few who will be so quick to shut you down.” Marois said.
A.S. President Chaz Whatley said there was no conflict in the decision to give funding for the event, even though A.S Legislative Council passed a resolution in support of banning military recruiters from campus last year. However, she said she did at first have some reservations about the event.
“Some people had reservations, including myself.” Whatley said. “But A.S. is a non-partisan organization and we gave the College Republicans funding. The event will offer a different point of view and I’m sure it will be a success.”
Adam Graff, A.S. Internal Vice President, said A.S had fulfilled its responsibility to an organization that wanted to publicize their event.
“We funded the event so people would know about it and have an opportunity to attend,” Graff said. “I would encourage people to attend to see what Stein has to say.”