Record Editorial: Where was Harvard when the battle was fought?

BY

The decision by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has brought long awaited relief to those who opposed the Solomon Amendment. This newspaper has covered the journey of the case, from the initial decision by Harvard to comply with the request by the Department of Defense, to the protests that arose in light of that compliance, to the current decision to once again ban military recruiters from using OCS. In covering all these events however, the Record covered events at a school that prides itself on being a leading institution yet somehow allowed itself to remain a passive observer to one of the most contentious issues to hit the school in recent years.

When the decision to comply with the Solomon Amendment was announced, HLS and Harvard University went to great lengths to explain the decision. Despite some grumbling, most people generally understood that the school faced a stark choice between losing millions upon millions of federal dollars or standing its ground on this issue. Though the school chose compliance, few could say it did so without explaining its reasons. Less understandable, however, was the subsequent inaction by Harvard to fight the Solomon Amendment, a decision that has remained largely secretive.

The quick turnaround by HLS in light of the recent ruling highlights the desire by the school to maintain consistency in its policy of non-discrimination. The school should be applauded for going back to enforcing its non-discrimination policy. But, HLS and Harvard as a whole should stand in shame over allowing others to lead the fight while Harvard remained off to the side. HLS professors are renowned for their legal knowledge; indeed, many professors filed an amicus brief urging that the Solomon Amendment be overturned. Yet, despite repeated cries by faculty and students, Harvard as a whole remained absent in court proceedings. Why?

Also unclear is where the decision to abstain from legal challenges came from. While it is almost certain that Harvard University President Lawrence Summers had something to do with it, less clear is the extent the law school played in the decision to abstain. Was there fear of reprisal from the government? Did other Harvard Schools, which receive extensive support from the Pentagon, plead with HLS to stay away? Why did other schools press forward with litigation if such fears did indeed exist (surely they weren’t unique to Harvard?)

Now that other schools have paved the way, HLS has decided that military recruiters will no longer be allowed to use OCS. The question is, where was Harvard when they were still allowed?

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