Home inFocus The Left’s War Against the Military on Campus

The Left’s War Against the Military on Campus

Patrick X. Coyle Spring 2010

On January 6, students at Stanford Law School received an email from Professor George Fisher (and signed by other faculty members) discouraging them from interviewing with Air Force JAG Corps recruiters. Stanford arrogantly demanded the right to decide who their students should interview with and Dr. Fisher was eager to detail the school’s lengthy fight against the Reserves Officers’ Training Corp (ROTC) and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in his correspondence.

Since 1969, Stanford has banned ROTC because the classes that comprised the ROTC curriculum supposedly did not meet Stanford’s baseline academic standards. Stanford isn’t the only campus that keeps students from voluntarily serving their country. Yale, Harvard, Columbia and Emory University are but a few of the schools that don’t give young people the opportunity to join ROTC and meet with military recruiters on campus.

Other schools, including The College of William & Mary, allow students to participate in ROTC, yet do not give students course credit for the military science classes that are required to complete the program. Other public schools in Virginia, such as James Madison University, award students with a minor in military science. ROTC cadets at William & Mary, however, do not receive full course credit towards graduation or for the calculation of grade point averages (GPA) after successfully completing required military science classes, leadership training laboratories, and physical education and training.

The Left’s attack on students who wish to participate in ROTC or meet military recruiters has been long lasting. Liberal leaders, including President Obama, claim to support the military and ROTC when politically expedient, but their actions and appointments belie these claims.

The ROTC Campus Access Act

Young America’s Foundation has a history of working to protect students’ rights by having the opportunity to participate in ROTC and access to military recruiters. One such example involved a Yale student, Flagg Youngblood, who was required to travel 70 miles to the University of Connecticut to participate in ROTC. The Foundation urged Congress to cut off taxpayer funding to universities hostile to the armed forces. Congressman Richard Pombo of California sponsored “The ROTC Campus Access Act” in the summer of 1995, which passed overwhelmingly and mandated anti-military colleges should stop receiving Defense Department funds. President Clinton signed the law as part of the 1996 Defense Authorization Act.

The following year, Congressman Gerald Solomon further expanded the law, mandating the cessation of all federal taxpayer funding from anti-military schools that bar military recruiters and ROTC participation by policy or practice. While the law was successfully amended, President Bill Clinton and his Defense Department thwarted enforcement of the Pombo-Solomon Amendment until he left office.

After September 11

In late 2001, President George W. Bush’s administration called upon law students nationwide to serve as military Judge Advocates, angering the Left as military recruiters attempted to return to campuses they had not visited since Vietnam.

In response to legal enforcement of the Pombo-Solomon amendment—now commonly referred to only as the Solomon amendment—a coalition of professors at elite law schools challenged the law’s constitutionality to keep military recruiters off campus in late 2003. The Third Federal Circuit Court agreed, calling the law unconstitutional in a 2-1 opinion in November 2004 and barring Solomon enforcement.

Simultaneously at the University of California-Santa Barbara (UCSB), anti-military professors, themselves leftist radicals during Vietnam, called for the expulsion of ROTC from campus. Emboldened by the Third Circuit’s Solomon decision, they harassed ROTC cadets until Young America’s Foundation intervened. Holding public meetings and bringing pro-military speakers to campus—including actor and author Ben Stein, who addressed 600 students at UCSB—the Foundation helped the Santa Barbara students save ROTC.

Solomon as Constitutional — The Left Reacts

In March 2006, the United States Supreme Court declared the Solomon Amendment constitutional with a rare unanimous 8-0 ruling. (Justice Samuel Alito had not been appointed to the court in time to hear the case argued.) Despite the historic victory, the Bush administration did not aggressively pursue Solomon enforcement.

Emboldened by the Defense Department’s hesitation, leftists at the University of California-Santa Cruz disrupted two job fairs in 2005, denying students the opportunity to meet with military recruiters.

After attempts to resolve this problem with the Defense Department failed, the Foundation filed suit on behalf of the affected UC – Santa Cruz students in the fall of 2007, seeking to restore their rights by compelling the government to enforce the Solomon Amendment.

The D.C. Federal Court did not dispute the students’ claims, yet it dismissed Young America’s Foundation’s suit because the government argued that enforcing the Solomon Amendment would not affect UC-Santa Cruz or the Left’s behavior towards campus military recruiters.

Obama’s Appointees and Actions

During his presidential bid, Barack Obama stated that students should have military service opportunities on campus. During an appearance at Columbia University on September 11, 2008, he said, “The notion that young people…anywhere, in any university, aren’t offered the choice, the option of participating in military service, I think is a mistake.”

However, since taking office he has appointed individuals openly hostile to ROTC and military service. His solicitor general, Harvard Law School Dean Elena Kagan, believes the military should be banned from campus. In a 2005 letter about military recruiting, Kagan arrogantly called the military’s recruiting policy “discriminatory,” “deeply wrong,” “unwise,” and “unjust.”

Kagan fought all the way to the United States Supreme Court to deny students their Constitutional rights. In the litigation of Rumsfeld v. FAIR, Elena Kagan filed amicus briefs with the Third Circuit Court and the United States Supreme Court to institutionalize discrimination against the military and students who wish to serve which, as mentioned above, the Supreme Court struck-down.

President Obama has not once encouraged his young supporters to enroll in the military. These are the same activists, who repeatedly called supporters of America’s war against radical jihadists, “Chickenhawks” yet they will not support their own President’s military efforts in Afghanistan or anywhere else.

Looking Ahead

Many on the Left will argue that their continued opposition to ROTC and military recruiters is only because of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. Obama is currently working to overturn that policy and the outcome is still undecided. Regardless of the result, it is important to remember that the Left’s opposition to ROTC and military recruiters began long before that policy was ever enacted.

Congress has the sole discretion to establish the qualifications for and conditions of service in our nation’s military. If leftists disagree with the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, they should work to persuade their members of Congress. Those who wish to serve in the military should not be punished for policies over which they have no control.

Furthermore, preventing students from joining the military hurts everyone’s right to live as they wish. Students who are willing to defend this country and our freedoms should be honored as heroes. We ought to salute them for offering to risk their lives on our behalf, and we should not stigmatize them or treat them as second-class citizens.

Anti-military professors and activists on campus must recognize that their ability to dissent would not exist were it not for the willingness of their fellow citizens to take up arms in liberty’s defense. When America’s freedoms are threatened, the United States military stands up to the enemies of freedom around the globe and helps to protect the American way of life. The campus left once again argues against freedom’s cause.

Patrick X. Coyle is vice president of Young America’s Foundation.