WE’VE HEARD A RALLYing cry this week against Solomon. Forty-six Harvard Law School faculty have signed a letter to President Summers urging him to either join the present litigation challenging the amendment or to initiate a separate legal action on behalf of the school. The letter did not criticize Harvard Law School for allowing military recruiters full access to OCS services in exchange for hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding. The letter did not claim that Harvard University had traded in the civil rights of some for a considerable amount of cash. The letter was much more concise and to the point.
The letter simply stated HLS’s non-discrimination policy, affirmed the military does not follow that policy, and urged Summers to either initiate or join litigation. It is a rallying cry for action against Solomon, however soft it may sound when compared to the litigation that has already been filed by many prominent faculty and educational institutions across the country. But it is a rallying cry nonetheless and Summers will have to listen lest he be excused of silencing more than the claims for justice by a slightly larger group than the faculty, though certainly less powerful, constituency at the Law School.
So now the ball is in Summers’s court, and will be again when Lambda delivers its petition to him. There is no doubt Summers will need to respond to these challenges and state why Harvard University will not join or initiate a lawsuit challenging Solomon. Perhaps Summers really feels that those schools who publicly file suit against the Department of Defense will face the wrath of Secretary Rumsfeld or the holder of the purse strings (Congress). If so, he needs to say so and not issue a vague e-mail detailing the school’s non-discrimination policy and how the changed military policy no longer allows the school to comply with that policy. The Law School and its students and faculty already know that. The question now is why legal action is either unnecessary, or necessary but implausible.
Summers must engage students and faculty in a meaningful discussion on the pros and cons of filing a lawsuit. A town hall would be a perfect opportunity to allow students and faculty on both sides of the issue a chance to question the administration on its decision and voice concern or support. Individuals from both sides of the issue are needed for a meaningful discussion to take place and an effective moderator who can police the event would help to keep the meeting on track.
A town hall meeting shows students to some extent that their concerns are being heard by the university administration. Meetings with student organizations can be productive, but such meetings are rarely publicized outside of those specific groups and do little to assuage a general feeling among the student body that our anxieties rarely reach even the faculty, let alone the president of the university.
Summers held a town hall meeting last year to discuss the new HLS dean, and while Solomon issues did arise at the time, the focus remained on the dean selection process. Another town hall meeting is needed this fall that focuses solely on the Solomon issue.