The U.S. Supreme Court decided yesterday to uphold a law prohibiting federally funded universities and colleges from banning military recruiters on campus.
The court unanimously voted to uphold the 1996 Solomon Amendment, which cuts funding from public universities and colleges that refuse military recruiters access to campus. Plaintiffs in the case said campuses should be able to bar recruiters because the military discriminates against homosexuals.
Last Fall Quarter, the UCSB Faculty Legislature – a committee of the Academic Senate – tabled a motion to ban military recruiters from campus in order to wait for the Supreme Court’s decision.
The Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights – a coalition of university law professors – presented the case alleging that the military’s 1993 “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy discriminates against homosexuals by prohibiting them from revealing their sexual orientation in the military.
UCSB Academic Senate chair Walter Yuen said he was relieved to finally have an official decision.
“I’m glad the Supreme Court moved on this so that we now have a clear understanding of [the Solomon Amendment],” Yuen said. “It’s up to the faculty now whether or not they want to bring up the motion. Right now there is no plan.”
Yuen said the Senate considered the motion after faculty and students claimed that military recruiters violate a University of California non-discrimination policy by actively discriminating against homosexuals with its “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.
“Basically, the petition in the past said the policy is discriminatory toward gay men and women,” Yuen said. “It was not consistent with the campus policy of being equal to all people.”
UCSB sociology professor emeritus and author of the motion Thomas Scheff said he was not surprised by the Supreme Court’s decision.
“Well I expected it, given the way the Court has changed recently,” Scheff said. “I didn’t think there was much hope.”
Scheff said he will withdraw his motion from the Academic Senate.
“I think it won’t pass,” Scheff said. “I’ve given up on it. There are too many funds involved. I could not get enough votes on the resolution.”
Scheff said he was in favor of banning military recruiters from campus because they deny homosexuals the right to free speech.
“It’s very clear that they discriminate against gays and lesbians,” Scheff said. “If you’re gay or lesbian you should have the freedom to say so.”
College Republicans Chair and third-year political science major Sally Marois said she was pleased with the Supreme Court’s decision. Marois spoke against the Academic Senate’s proposed motion to ban recruiters last year during an open forum.
“I’m very excited,” Marois said. “I had a feeling that the Supreme Court would rule in the favor of military recruiters.
Marois said opponents of the amendment skewed the issue to criticize President George W. Bush’s administration, as well as to advance an agenda against the war in Iraq.
“I feel as though the issue was not about gay rights,” Marois said. “I believe [the Solomon Amendment] is important for the equal protection of student groups on campus and national security … The Academic Senate was acting with extreme activism on the behalf of students who are not really allowed to vote in their meetings anyway. They neglected a student’s right to associate [with recruiters] and very much perverted the issue in order to speak out against the Iraq war.”
Marois said she thinks the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy is a military necessity.
“The military is very special institution,” Marois said. “There are rights in the real world that may not always work in the military. It’s too difficult to make everyone happy in the military. It’s not perfect, but it works.”
Although Scheff has decided to pull his motion, the Faculty Legislature passed another motion he supported concerning UCSB’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program. The motion, proposed by film studies professor Constance Penley, requires ROTC to undergo regular academic oversight, like other academic departments.
“As of this fall, ROTC will be subject to academic oversight,” Scheff said. “I’m absolutely certain we’re the first campus to do this.”