Solomon Amendment Defied

This fall, conservatives have cause to redouble our efforts in the ongoing campus-military war, for the left has recently suffered two strategic setbacks in its fight to prevent students from meeting with military recruiters and participating in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) on campus. First, thanks to the oversight of Oklahoma Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe, the Department of Defense (DOD) in May proposed stringent internal guidelines for enforcing the Solomon amendment, and second, thanks to a September 2nd Circuit Court ruling, academia lost its self-proclaimed “last” legal battle seeking exemption from the Solomon amendment.

For those not familiar with Solomon, the latest version of the law, named for now-deceased Rep. Jerry Solomon (R.-N.Y.), mandates all federal funding, save that for student loans, must be denied to universities that prevent the Department of Defense, by policy or practice, from establishing and maintaining ROTC units on campus or that fail to provide recruiters from the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security accommodations as they would other employers visiting campus.

Lack of Enforcement

While Solomon’s logic is simple — schools must contribute to the nation’s defense in order to benefit from taxpayer largesse — the road for enforcing the amendment has been anything but. Prior versions became law as early as 1994, only to see the Clinton White House thwart enforcement. Only when the need arose in 2002 for additional Judge Advocate General Corps officers did the Pentagon begin pursuing selective Solomon enforcement, leading to the U.S. Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling affirming the amendment’s constitutionality in March 2006.

Unable to reconcile that decision, Yale law professor Robert Burt and the majority of his faculty colleagues filed yet another federal suit on the same day the Supreme Court released its opinion on Solomon, claiming they had not fully considered the matter. Not so said the 2nd Circuit this September, dismissing the purported new arguments — also unanimously. (And, thankfully, despite Burt’s 11 years serving on the advisory board of George Soros’ Open Society Institute.)

So, just this month, Yale has, finally, permitted military recruiters to participate in a law school job fair. And in response, the broader anti-military crowd launched a collaborative, nationwide initiative titled “Befriend a Recruiter!” With this latest effort, the left’s unrelenting drive to destroy our nation’s defenses really gets laid bare. They’re willing to lie to recruiters and to steal recruiters’ valuable time to further their goal.

According to Iraqi Veterans Against War, the objective is “to shut recruitment down … by flooding recruiters and recruitment centers with phone calls, appointments, questions and smiling faces … stealing away recruiters’ ability to do recruitment.”

While not referring to the initiative by name, Yale’s law school dean immediately called upon students to employ such tactics as the new recruiter visits began.

Keeping Military at Bay

Regarding ROTC, six of the top 10 schools on U.S. News & World Report’s 2008 college rankings do not host programs on campus. These schools — Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Caltech, Columbia and the University of Chicago — astutely, although hypocritically, do all they can to keep the military at bay, while still greedily pursuing and taking billions in taxpayer subsidies. And the Pentagon appears to be in no hurry to rectify this abuse, student participation on other campuses is sufficient, along with the contributions of the military service academies and officer candidate schools to fulfill active-duty officer quotas. So much for filling the longstanding junior officer vacancies that afflict just about every unit in the federal military Reserve and the National Guard—the very positions ROTC was created in 1916 to staff.

While many in the academy lay claim to protecting various concepts of liberty, those who take up arms as citizen-soldiers make the freedoms we enjoy a reality. As President Reagan said in his farewell address: “We’ve got to do a better job of getting across that America is freedom — freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of enterprise. And freedom is special and rare. It’s fragile and needs protection.”

Common sense says our nation’s defenses are best served when eligible volunteers come from the broadest pool of talent possible, and taxpayers should be wise to the costs of apathy on the question of elite schools’ participation in the nation’s common defense. According to each institution’s financial statement from 2005-06, Harvard received governmental grants and contracts, not including monies for student financial assistance, totaling more than $517 million, Yale $430 million, Stanford $935 million, Caltech $1.832 billion, Columbia $642 million, and the University of Chicago $317 million.

Of course, each of these schools publicly says viable options exist for interested students to pursue military service through programs on other campuses. But, such argumentation is disingenuous at best. Barriers, such as having to drive roughly 70 miles each way from Yale to the University of Connecticut or through San Francisco Bay-area traffic from Stanford to Berkeley, obviously deter students from joining ROTC. And the failure of these and other universities to provide course credit for studying the art of military leadership is yet another disincentive.

A Clear Message

The message from these schools to students could not be clearer: Military service is not worth one’s time. Irrespective of times of war or peace, teaching such a selfish message endangers the nation’s constitutional way of life. Moreover, providing funds from the public treasury to subsidize such messages seems borderline suicidal.

Many schools nationwide, not just the six highlighted here, could do more to encourage voluntary military service on their campuses. University leaders should speak to the importance of such service and encourage participation. Institutions themselves should help promote recruiter visits and offer to host ROTC, among other actions such as providing supplemental scholarships to students who join ROTC or make other military commitments.

In other words, schools should be looking for ways to say “yes,” not excuses to say “no.”
We are well beyond the point where some clean breaks may be necessary. Federal funds need to be redirected from anti-military schools to ones that actively promote student military service on campus.

Getting the Department of Defense to adopt its proposed rules for Solomon enforcement is the first step from here. After that, the task will be getting the Pentagon to pursue what’s best for the long-term, strategic strength of our nation’s defenses, versus following the most expedient path, be that internally or through more detailed legislative oversight.
The campus military issue essentially boils down to two simple questions: First, will a university allow ROTC on campus and provide it with the buildings, the student names, the resources and the public support to ensure its success? And second, will they do the same for military and homeland security recruiters?

For the roughly $4.7 billion in hard-earned taxpayer monies spent each year at Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Caltech, Columbia and the University of Chicago, these questions are not too much to ask. And, with the continued support of leaders such as Sen. Inhofe and Rep. Duncan Hunter (R.-Calif.), and the vocal involvement of concerned citizens and students nationwide, these questions shall soon, finally, be asked.