RECORD editorial: JAG issue demands action

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Though quite rare for Harvard Law School, public opinion on the JAG issue seems near-unanimous. Most students are against “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and would prefer that HLS be able to enforce its non-discrimination policy in full — meaning that JAG could not be part of the on-campus interviewing process. Indeed, most are outraged that the Bush administration chose, via a reinterpretation of the Solomon Amendment, to muscle the University into allowing JAG on campus.

Perhaps most surprising, though, is the degree to which students have accepted Dean Robert Clark’s justification for allowing JAG back without a legal battle.

Clark rightfully described the issue as one of money — to say anything else would insult the community’s intelligence.

And the issue concerned quite a lot of money. By threatening to withold $328 million in University funds, the Bush administration offered HLS and the University a choice — to either allow JAG on campus, or face, almost literally, its extinction. Government grants not only comprise 16 percent of the University’s total budget, but make up a vastly higher portion of the budget of certain schools, such as the Medical School, which receives a majority of its funds from government grants. Losing this money, as far as the University’s future was concerned, was simply not an option.

The choices for HLS were limited. The Law School could thumb its nose at the government’s threat and continue to keep JAG out of OCI. It could try to fight the government in the courts. Or, the Law School could concede, as it did, and try to attack the issue in other ways.

Apparently, Lambda and the general population have accepted the logic of pursuing the third option. Fighting the issue in court was unrealistic — Clark and the the University’s lawyers were convinced that HLS could lose. Similarly, a game of “chicken,” in which the Law School would dare the government to withold funds, would be equally ineffective, as well as totally irresponsible.

Word on the inside has it that Clark has taken this issue very personally. This decision was made over a long period of time, and included meetings at the highest levels of the University and the U.S. government, including a Washington, D.C. rendezvous with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. HLS did what it could, and, it appears, it lost.

Yet there still appears to be a lack of outrage on behalf of students. While allowing JAG on campus is largely symbolic — the HLS Veterans’ Association was already bringing military recruiters to campus — most students seem unconcerned with the government’s strong-arm tactics. They are right not to be outraged at the administration, but, regardless of where one stands on the JAG issue, there ought to be a sense of outrage.

As for what comes next, it appears that student protesters will likely fill all of JAG’s OCI slots, rendering their participation meaningless. It is an unfortunate situation for the JAG recruiters themselves, who, like the rest of the military, have absolutely no control over the congressionally dictated “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Hopefully protesting students will express their anger and disapproval for the policy appropriately, remembering to direct their anger at those with the power to do something about it.

HLS also should take steps to protect the rights of those students who are genuinely interested in JAG. Those students have every right to serve their country, and deserve to be treated with respect and dignity as well. If all JAG OCI slots are taken, the Law School should take steps to make alternate interviewing arrangements for students who are caught in the ideological crossfire.

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