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Yale must allow military recruiters on campus

The Supreme Court rules that any university or college taking money from the federal government must allow military recruiters on campus. MSNBC's Joe Scarborough moderates this emotional debate.
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The Supreme Court decided that schools taking federal money had to allow military recruiters on campus.  This decision is a major defeat for schools like Yale, where there are 44 law professors who filed lawsuit to keep recruiters off campus.  It‘s, of course, the same campus that opened its arms to a former spokesman for the Taliban. 

Joe Scarborough was joined by Kent Greenfield.  He‘s a law professor at Boston College and the president of the Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights.  Yale law professor William Eskridge and Flag Youngblood, from Young Americas Foundation also joined Joe to discuss these latest development

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST, 'SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY': Professor, I want to start with you.  Tell us about the Supreme Court‘s decision to allow the military on campus.  Obviously, a lot of us in middle America don‘t understand that.  We think you all should embrace the U.S. military.  But explain to me what issues you had in mind when you filed this lawsuit?

KENT GREENFIELD, THE FORUM FOR ACADEMIC AND INSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS:  Right.  Well, what we were doing is fighting for the rights of all of our students to serve the military, serve their country, regardless of their sexual orientation. 

Obviously, we lost today, but this was just a skirmish in a larger civil rights battle that I think we will win.  Because I think more and more people are understanding that it is important that the military, in order to be strong, include as many people as we can.  And in this time when we are fighting terrorism around the world, and here at home, that we need as many qualified people in the military as we can get. 

SCARBOROUGH:  OK.  So, Kent, you‘re saying this goes back to the 1993, don‘t ask, don‘t tell issue... 

GREENFIELD:  Absolutely. 

SCARBOROUGH:  ... which obviously was a big dust up early in the Clinton administration?  But, I thought that Ivy League schools and elite institutions like the one that you belong to have—have a lot students have been fighting to keep ROTC and military people off since the Vietnam era?

GREENFIELD:  Well, that‘s not what this case is about at all.  This case is about a fight against discrimination.  And law schools have said we do not want to help the military discriminate against our own students.  That‘s what this is about.  And if don‘t ask, don‘t tell went away, our protest would go away. 

SCARBOROUGH:  So, Kent, though, it seems like to me like you all have reached a dead end.  If you‘ve got the Solomon amendment, which Congress passed it and you have the United States Supreme Court saying the Solomon act is constitutional.  Where do you go from here?

GREENFIELD:  Well, I think we move our focus to the underlying core of the problem, and that‘s don‘t ask, don‘t tell, that discrimination against gays and lesbians in the military. 

And there‘s a bill in the House with over a hundred cosponsors right now, that is trying to end don‘t ask, don‘t tell.  And I think that our attention will probably now focus toward the congressional efforts. 

SCARBOROUGH:  On the congressional side, legislative side, Professor Eskridge, let me bring you in here.  Obviously, been talking about Yale.  “New York Times” ran a big article on this Taliban spokesman that was admitted into your college. 

And lots of Americans tonight are asking, how could 2/3 of the law professors at Yale oppose U.S. military recruiters on campus, and yet this is the same institution that embraces a guy who was a spokesman for the Taliban.  Can you explain that to us?

ESKRIDGE:  Well, Joe, it‘s not quite right to say that Yale law school doesn‘t allow the military on campus.  In fact, I was part of a group that invited the military on campus.  Faculty members can do that.  And the law school will give them rooms and will accommodate them.           

The military showed up and they defended their policy in response to questions from the students.  About a year after that, we had a colloquium, where one of the architects of the 1993 policy explained the policy and explained the criticisms of the policy. 

So, the military is on the Yale campus and indeed, there are military students on Yale campus and veterans on the Yale campus. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  And wait a minute.  Professor, let‘s narrow down the issue for a minute.  Are you suggesting that the issue also is about the don‘t ask, don‘t tell issue?  And not just about the military recruiting soldiers on Yale‘s campus?

ESKRIDGE:  It‘s about the right of universities and professors to dissent from a policy which is essentially indefensible.  Even the architects of the 1993 policy find it hard to defend today.  It‘s expensive; it‘s not supported by most military personnel.  It‘s not supported by most of the American people. 

It‘s been breached in the current Iraq war, where openly gay and lesbian soldiers are sent into combat by the current administration. 

It‘s a very hard to defend policy.  And the law schools since the 1980s and the 1990s have been persistent critics of the policy. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  Wait a minute.  But professor, let me ask you this.  I hate to cut you of here but we‘ve got a limited amount of time. 

It seems to me, though, whether you‘re talking about Yale, or Harvard, Princeton, or a lot of the elite institutions, Berkley, Stanford, a lot of the elite institutions have been trying to keep military recruiters and ROTC off campuses since ‘67, ‘68, ‘69. 

It was a response to Vietnam.  It wasn‘t a response to what happened in 1993.  Isn‘t that correct?  Isn‘t there a consistency of opposition to U.S. recruiters on these elite campuses going back 20, 30 years. 

ESKRIDGE:  That‘s not the case of the law school.  The law school‘s problem with the military originated in the 1980s when the law school enforced its nondiscrimination policy to decline the use of our career services office to the military recruiters. 

The military recruiters still had student names.  They could come on campus.  They were welcomed on campus by student groups on occasion.  And so, the 1980s is really the genesis of this dispute; 1993 was the statutory codification of a policy that existed before then, in the Carter and Reagan administrations. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  And let me bring in Flag Youngblood.  Frank, you‘re a Yale alum.   


SCARBOROUGH:  Seems to me that your institution and Harvard, I just have to keep saying this over and over again, because for me, this issue isn‘t really about don‘t ask, don‘t tell.  This issue again goes back to the protests in ‘67, ‘68, especially early 1970s after the Cambodia bombing when so many institutions said, “We don‘t want military recruiters.  We don‘t even want the ROTC on our campuses.” 

Is that the history of your institution?

YOUNGBLOOD:  That‘s exactly what‘s been going on in the Ivy League and a lot of schools across the nation.  They‘ve pushed away student‘s rights for the interests of professors‘ rights and institutional rights.  And as a result, this 35-plus-year campaign against the military because of dislike for the military has pushed on. 

I mean, that‘s why Yale has kept ROTC off campus, 70 miles away at the University of Connecticut.  And that‘s why the law school conveniently has used the don‘t ask, don‘t tell as just another phase or chapter in trying to keep the military as far as away from campus as possible. 

Now, fortunately, the Supreme Court, with its unanimous ruling today, has scored a big victory for students to be able to access easily participation in the military on their campuses, which has been a major hurdle.  There‘s been an undue burden place odd students who wished to serve in the military up to this point. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, Flag, I don‘t want to over simplify this.  Our banner says “Taliban yes, military no.”  But for a lot of Americans, that‘s what they‘re looking at when they read “The New York Times” and see that a spokesman for the Taliban is admitted into Yale. 

Not only that, we find out that actually the Yale admissions office was excited that he was a member of the Taliban.  It said they wanted to hurry up and accept him before Harvard got their hands on him.  Now...

YOUNGBLOOD:  Exactly. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Please explain the disconnect between these institutions, again, where my son would love to go, and middle America?

YOUNGBLOOD:  Well, the disconnect is pretty simple.  There‘s a huge bias, in my opinion, in Yale‘s part and other institutions like Yale.  They would sooner embrace our enemies than embrace those that defend our freedoms. 

I mean, I‘d like to remind America, that it‘s soldiers and not professors that grant us freedom of speech by standing on the front lines of freedom.  And when Yale or a school like Yale tries to recruit somebody who fought against free speech and fought against women‘s rights and advocated destroying historical records, it‘s appalling, especially when I‘ve worn the nation‘s uniform and have stood up and said, you know, “I‘m here to defend these things.” 

So, again, there‘s a major disconnect.  And it just underscores the bias that institutions like Yale have against the military and against this nation. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  I want to thank our panel form being with us.  I just want to say, Professor Greenfield and Professor Eskridge, thank you all for being with us, also. 

For me, and I think for a lot of Americans observing this, it doesn‘t seem to be about gays in the military.  I suspect that that issue will be resolved some day fairly soon.  And when it is resolved I believe, like Flag believes, though maybe not these two same professors.  Maybe this is the issue that matters to them the most. 

But other professors will step forward and find another reason to push the ROTC off campus, another reason to stop U.S. military recruiters from going onto campuses. 

And I think, especially in the case of Yale, where you‘ve got a member of the Taliban, one of the most bloodthirsty regimes in the recent history.  You have a spokesman for that institution, for that form of government admitted into Yale. 

And yet, you have members of the U.S. military who are not allowed to recruit on campus.  You‘ve got young men and women that want to be in the military, that want to be in the ROTC not allowed to be on campus.  It‘s just wrong.  And there‘s a lot of us in middle America that don‘t understand it and don‘t want our tax dollars to go subsidizing these institutions, be they public or private.  And yes, the private university of Yale received over $400 million of your tax dollars last year.