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Hypocrisy 101: The Academy and Military Recruiters

ACTA Begins Nationwide Campaign Calling on Trustees to Guarantee Access to Recruiters
October 12, 2005

WASHINGTON, DC—In figures released today, the American Council of Trustees and Alumni reveals the hypocrisy of universities that seek to restrict U.S. military recruiters from interviewing on campus while accepting billions of taxpayer dollars in grants and contracts from the Defense Department and other agencies.

Faculty and administrators at a number of elite universities—including Harvard, Stanford, and Columbia—have in the past prevented recruiting on campus. Yale currently bars military recruiters entirely. These institutions argue that the government’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy violates their anti-discrimination policies.

“It simply defies understanding how institutions such as Yale can claim they are educating their students and then deny them basic information about possible careers and the defense of our country,” said Anne D. Neal, president of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni.  “Rather than hiding behind the faculty and administrators, trustees must act in the best interests of students and the public.  They should commit their institutions to ensuring that students have appropriate access to recruiters.”

ACTA is releasing the data just weeks before the Supreme Court hears oral arguments in Rumsfeld v. FAIR.  The case will determine the legality of universities’ desire to bar recruiters while still accepting federal funds.

“The case coming before the Supreme Court should alert trustees to the manner in which the political activism of administrators is both hypocritical and fundamentally at odds with the university’s commitment to give students the right to think for themselves,” said Neal.

At most large research institutions, federal funding accounts for 70-80% of all sponsored research—or hundreds of millions of dollars each year. The table below charts the flow of federal funding at a number of elite universities, and documents the extraordinary sums that institutions currently receive subject to the Solomon Amendment.

In 1994, in response to law schools’ growing opposition to military recruiters on campus, Congress passed the Solomon Amendment, which cuts off federal funding to higher education institutions that discriminate against military recruiters. Schools that violate the Solomon Amendment risk losing funding from the Departments of Defense, Education, Labor, Health and Human Services, and related agencies. The amendment does not extend to administrative grants or student financial aid.

The Solomon Amendment was struck down earlier this year in Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals as violating the First Amendment rights of higher education institutions. The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on December 6.

ACTA has begun a nationwide campaign calling on trustees to stop administrators and faculty from playing politics and to take a strong stand in favor of access to military recruiters—regardless of the result in the Supreme Court case.  “These elite institutions offer a perfect case study in Hypocrisy 101.  Either they should reject federal money because of their convictions, or let recruiters on campus, now and forever,” said Neal.

In letters mailed to scores of trustees, ACTA calls on trustees to guarantee that students are able to make informed decisions about whether to pursue a military career.

“College and university trustees should allow students to decide for themselves whether to pursue a career in the United States Armed Forces,” the letter states.  “We urge you to adopt a resolution committing your institution to exploring all options to provide equal access for students to potential employers, whether or not employers’ policies mirror those of the university. Institutions of higher learning should respect the rights of students, as individuals educated to think for themselves, to make their own decisions, including supporting or opposing ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’”

Harvard Blinks

The Pentagon recently warned Harvard and other institutions that failure to allow military recruiters on campus would result in full enforcement of the Solomon Amendment. With nearly $400 million in federal funding at stake, Harvard responded to the Pentagon’s warning last month by announcing that the law school would reluctantly allow military recruiters on campus this year.

Neal cited a recent essay published by the Institute for Effective Governance, “Universities and the Military: What You Should Know About the Upcoming Supreme Court Case”, by Melvin H. Bernstein. The article calls on trustees to explore ways of ensuring that students have appropriate access to military recruiters on campus. 

The American Council of Trustees and Alumni is a national organization of alumni and trustees dedicated to academic freedom, academic quality, and accountability in higher education.  ACTA members represent more than 200 colleges and universities across the country; it is located in Washington, DC.


Launched in 1995, we are the only organization that works with alumni, donors, trustees, and education leaders across the United States to support liberal arts education, uphold high academic standards, safeguard the free exchange of ideas on campus, and ensure that the next generation receives an intellectually rich, high-quality college education at an affordable price.

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