Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Court upholds right for recruiters

The Supreme Court of the United States voted unanimously Monday to uphold the Solomon Amendment, which requires colleges accepting federal money to allow military recruiters on campus.

Complainants in Rumsfeld v. Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights (FAIR), et al. argued the Solomon Amendment was unconstitutional and overstepped universities' First Amendment rights.

Since 1993, the U.S. military has been following the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, allowing homosexuals to join military ranks on the condition they are not open about their sexuality.


For this reason, many law schools became venues of debate in recent years over the issue. Additionally, many legal pundits have maintained the law violates freedoms of speech and association by forcing universities to permit military recruitment, lest they lose federal dollars.

Others have opted to defend the controversial statute.

"I think it's a fantastic decision," Heritage Foundation legal analyst Erica Little said. "It's clearly a victory for the United States military."

Prosecutors for FAIR convinced the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in 2003 to reverse a district court decision, with the former court holding that the Solomon Amendment was unconstitutional because it forced universities to choose between surrendering First Amendment rights and losing federal funding.

The Supreme Court announced last May it would hear the case and held arguments Dec. 6.

Chief Justice John Roberts authored the opinion of the court, affirming in it that the Solomon Amendment does not infringe upon rights of speech or association.

"Nothing about recruiting suggests that law schools agree with any speech by recruiters, and nothing in the Solomon Amendment restricts what they may say about the military's policies," Roberts wrote in the decision.

He additionally noted in the decision that a school "excluding military recruiters could not comply with the Solomon Amendment by also excluding any other recruiter that violates its non-discrimination policy."

U.S. House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman Howard McKeon, R-Calif., applauded the court's decision in a release Monday.

"Military recruiters ought to have the same opportunities on college campuses as any other employer or organization there for recruiting purposes," he said. "If colleges and universities are willing to accept taxpayer dollars to operate, they also must be willing to accept those who recruit the men and women who defend our nation — and our freedom."

According to Little, the military needs to recruit to fill its ranks, just like any other employer.

"The military should be able to seek out the best and the brightest," she said.

University of Wisconsin political science professor Donald Downs called the policy "potentially coercive," as universities depending on federal financial support must comply with the amendment in order to function.

Additionally, Downs noted this is not the only instance in which the government has attached financial conditions to government policy. He pointed to Title IX as another case where universities would not be eligible for federal funding should they refuse to comply.

Little said it isn't likely universities would refuse federal funding in order to prohibit military recruitment to take place on their campuses.

She said currently there are "very few" universities that do not accept federal funding, noting it is "obviously very difficult" to do so; Little also noted she agrees with Congress' ability to "control the purse."

Downs added it would be especially difficult for a university like UW to refuse federal aid because UW receives "more federal funding than almost any other university in the country" due to the university's status as a major research institution.

According to Little, there will likely be a large number of people who disagree with the court's decision, especially because "law schools in general tend to be on the liberal side."

Yet with even the more left-leaning of the Supreme Court justices voting to uphold the amendment, Little believes it will be difficult for liberal dissenters to find a foothold for their arguments.

All voting justices joined in Roberts' opinion; there were no dissents or concurring opinions.

Associate Justice Samuel Alito, having joined the high court after arguments in the matter were heard, did not take part in the consideration or decision of the case.

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