September 23, 2005

C.U. Files Brief Against Solomon Amendment

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Cornell has filed an amicus curiae or “friend of the court” brief in support of law school professors and administrators who are challenging the constitutionality of the Solomon Amendment in an upcoming Supreme Court case.

The University joins Yale, Columbia, Harvard, New York University, University of Pennsylvania, and University of Chicago in signing the 30-page document, which calls the amendment “an unconstitutional condition on federal funding.” Cornell announced its involvement in the brief on Wednesday.

Passed in 1995, the Solomon legislation mandates that schools give military recruiters the same access to students and resources as they would for other employers, although the military’s policy of “don’t ask, don’t tell” is at odds with institutional non-discrimination policies. Universities that do not comply risk losing their federal funding.

“The government … incorrectly presumes that universities that do not wish to comply with funding conditions may simply decline federal assistance. In fact, rejection of federal funds is not a real choice for modern research universities,” the brief states.

“Viewed in context … the law is a command rather than an inducement,” the seven universities argued in the document. They continued that “… the conditions it imposes on receipt of a broad array of federal grants and contracts bear no relationship to that funding.”

The amendment also threatens federal funding of academic research and academic freedom, which lie at the cornerstones of the nation’s economy, security and democratic society, the schools asserted.

“Whether or not a particular school would choose to deliver … a message [critical of the military’s hiring policy], the government’s contention that it may use the coercive power of federal funding to prevent a school from doing so should be rejected,” the document states.

The Supreme Court will consider the arguments presented in the amicus brief in ruling on whether or not the Solomon Amendment violates First Amendment principles of free speech and expression.

The amicus brief aids The Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights (FAIR), the coalition of law schools that will be contesting the amendment in the upcoming Supreme Court case on Dec. 6.

In November last year, FAIR won its case in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. The court later stated that it would not put the ruling into effect but instead await a decision from the Supreme Court.

Archived article by Xiaowei Cathy Tang
Sun Senior Editor