Tell Harvard: A Deal's a Deal

For most Americans, a deal’s a deal.  Agree with a used car salesman, for example, to pay him a thousand dollars in exchange for an old clunker, and he will hand you the keys as soon as you hand him the cash.

This basic concept of fair dealing, however, has not been accepted by the people who run some of America’s most elite law schools.  They believe they have a “right” to force a special deal on U.S. taxpayers.  Essentially, it would be framed like this: They take our money, then sue us in federal court hoping liberal judges will let them keep the car, too. In the actual deal the law schools now envision, however, it is not an old car they get to keep after taking our tax dollars.  It is their practice of discriminating against the U.S. military.

The Supreme Court heard arguments this week in the case of Rumsfeld v. Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights.  The former, of course, is Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.  The latter is a coalition of law professors and law schools, supported by among others, Yale and Harvard.  The question put to the court:  Is Rumsfeld violating the 1st Amendment free-speech rights of the law schools when he enforces the deal codified in a law called the Solomon Amendment?

The truth is that the Solomon Amendment does not infringe on anyone’s free speech rights.  It merely helps U.S. military recruiters gain equal access to college and graduate students who might be interested in serving their country.

The late Rep. Jerry Solomon was a conservative Republican from upstate New York who served in the Marines in the early 1950s and later spent 20 years in Congress advocating the cause of U.S. servicemen and women.  When Republicans won a congressional majority in 1994, he became chairman of the House Rules Committee.  At the time, liberal administrators and faculty at some universities and law schools were annoyed that liberal Democratic President Bill Clinton had issued his so-called “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, leaving intact the federal law regarding homosexuals in the military.  Under this law, as U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement explained in his brief in Rumsfeld, “a person may not serve in the armed forces if he has engaged in homosexual acts, stated that he is a homosexual, or married a person of the same sex.”

To retaliate against Congress for this law, some schools barred their doors, or restricted access, to military recruiters.

Jerry Solomon then secured passage of his amendment, offering these schools a simple deal: To receive any money from the Defense Department, a school must give military recruiters the same access its gives recruiters from other employers. The law was later expanded to include funding from the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, Transportation and Homeland Security, and to make clear that if any “sub-element” of a school denied equal access to military recruiters, the entire school would lose access to federal tax dollars.

Solomon’s law was firmly based on a principle often touted by liberal professors at the very law schools now claiming it is unconstitutional.  This principle is freedom of choice.  Schools are free to choose whether to accept U.S. tax dollars in exchange for providing equal access to U.S. military recruiters.  They can refuse the tax dollars and the recruiters.  But if they take the dollars, they must take the recruiters.

Either way, the schools, their students and their faculty can say whatever they wish about the U.S. military, no matter how uninformed, unjustified or ungrateful it is.

Even when they take the federal money and the military recruiters that come with it, the law schools suing Secretary Rumsfeld can still stage demonstrations against military recruiters, plaster their campus walls with anti-military posters, and publish books and legal briefs espousing their distaste for the very institution that other Americans join when they are willing to risk lives to protect the right of even liberal law professors to speak freely.

In the meanwhile, the Supreme Court should remind Harvard, Yale and the other law schools that for them, no less than for car salesmen, a deal’s a deal.