Imagine for a minute the following scenario: Upon graduating from Harvard Law School, a group of students decide that NY BIGLAW is not for them, and instead they decide to start their own firm. They move down to Georgia, rent some office space, and start doing business. However, these young men have decided that in order for them to be able to be competitive in business, they can not hire any women or minorities. In their opinion, only white males are capable of doing the high-level legal work they want to be known for. A few years pass, and their business really takes off. As is understandable, these fine upstanding members of society decide they want to give something back to the school that made all their success possible. They call up Harvard University and make some arrangements. Each year they mail a check for 100 million dollars to the university, to be distributed among the schools as President Summers sees fit. However, one condition attached to the gift is that the firm should be allowed to recruit (only white males, of course) through the HLS Office of Career Services even though the firm openly and actively discriminates against women and minorities. Would the university take the money? Would they capitulate to the demand? Would their values go out the window in the face of such a substantial monetary donation?
The assumption is that the school would not bow to such pressure. After all, as of the last published report Harvard University is not in serious danger of being shut down due to a lack of funding. What then makes it acceptable for the University to bow to governmental pressure and allow the military to recruit on campus? To me, the discussion goes way beyond the typical controversies surrounding homosexual rights issues. After all, this is not just an issue of fairness and equality, but an issue that touches on the very integrity of the university. Whether you believe homosexuals should get married, join the army, and participate in all facets of life or you think that homosexuality is some sort of exotic disease, you should be sickened by the University’s spineless capitulation to fiscal blackmail. The Law School maintains a non-discrimination policy as a means of protecting its students and encouraging firms to act in an appropriate manner. Such a policy has little hope of succeeding if in practical terms money can buy someone an exception. It is for this reason that all of us, straight and gay alike, have a stake in this decision.
There is, however, a strong argument to be made for allowing the military to recruit here notwithstanding its lack of adherence to our nondiscrimination policy. This is not to say that the arguments I am about to make are what motivate the University to make this exception. I am sure that if the Solomon Amendment disappeared tomorrow the Law School would be free to do as it pleases when it comes to recruiting. Still, it is important to recognize these arguments when weighing what the ideal course would be given a free hand.
In today’s highly unstable world, the military plays a large role in global affairs. It is therefore extremely important that the military gets the highest caliber recruits into all of its programs. A firm which discriminates against minorities is the sole entity to suffer as a result of being barred from recruiting on our campus. If the military is robbed of access to the richest talent pools, we will all suffer as a result. I personally would be more comfortable knowing that the people who are responsible for my safety come from the highest-caliber schools.
Another argument in a similar vein is that the best way to effect change in an organization is from the inside. Allowing Harvard Law School students easy access to military careers is a sure way to help end discrimination in the military. Filling high-level military positions with students educated in an environment as open and accepting as Harvard Law School will help ensure that the next generation of decision-makers are of a higher moral caliber then the ones they are replacing.
In truth, the people who want to join the military will do so irregardless of whether the Law School allows the military to participate in OCI or not. A decision between a military career and other options is not the same as choosing between Firm A and Firm B. In that sense, banning the military or allowing them to recruit is probably nothing more than a futile gesture. However, choosing what message we as a University will send to other institutions, to the general public, and most importantly to our students is a decision we should not make lightly.
DK is a 1L who lives in Brookline, MA with his lovely wife and his two kids.