Mansfield Fox

Law student. Yankees fan. Massive fraggle. Just living the American dream.

Monday, October 20, 2003

ON THE OTHER HAND, THE SOLOMON AMENDMENT isn't exactly the Department of Defense's finest hour. The Amendment forces a difficult choice on law schools like Yale. They can swallow their principles with regard to non-discrimination in hiring, and let a group that discriminates against homosexuals recruit on campus. They can forgo federal funding, including significant amounts that go to areas in the university totally unrelated to the law school, like medical and scientific research. Or they can confront the government head-on. That isn't an enviable position to be in. Surely the government must have some very compelling reason to force this difficult choice upon the country's law schools.

Well, I'm not sure. The ostensible reason, I suppose, is that the government wants to recruit JAG officers from schools like Yale, but hasn't been able to. And it thinks the problem is structural: that there's a latent body of potential JAG officers there, who could be tapped if only the government could recruit on campus like any other firm. Which is a sensible rationale, except that it bears no discernible relationship to reality. Does anyone really think that Yale Law students aren't joining the JAG corps because they have to walk all of six blocks to get to the Orange St. recruiting station? Couldn't the fact that they can earn truckloads of money in the corporate world or with big firms have something to do with it? Or that those who can resist the draw of becoming a legal Croessus still have a wealth of prestigious non-JAG options: the legal academy, Capitol Hill, not-for-profit work for swanky causes like fighting the death penalty, etc.? Ultimately, even if the government wins, won't it just have won the right to waste its time trying to recruit people who have no interest in joining the Judge Advocate General corps?

But, of course, I think there's another reason the government's putting Yale and other like schools in such a bind over this issue: it's trying to show it's tougher. That Yale Law School can't push around the Department of Defense. Indeed, that the DoD can push around Yale Law School. Who cares that on-campus recruiting will almost certainly yield no fruit; who cares that the small number of students interested in the JAG as a potential career that actually exists (myself included) can easily explore that possibility through other means; who cares that by forcing itself on Yale Law the government has made life difficult for a lot of good people here, and turned a number of otherwise law-abiding students and professors into potential law breakers (albeit of a rather modest sort)? The DoD has the legal right to be there, and no frou-frou law school, apparently, is going to stand in its way.

Maybe there'll come a day when students at the country's top law schools consider working as a military lawyer to be as viable and fulfilling a career as any. Hell, I hope I live to see that day. But that day coming is going to require a real cultural shift in how America's educational elite relate to the military. And I can't fathom how having a couple of JAG recruiters force their way onto campus against the will of an overwhelming majority of students and faculty is going to bring that cultural shift any closer.