March 7, 2006

Court Upholds Solomon

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The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled yesterday that colleges and universities which accept federal funding must allow military recruiters “equal access” on campus. The 8-0 ruling in the case of Rumsfeld v. Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights overturned a 2004 appellate court decision, which had initially claimed that the Solomon Amendment – legislation passed in 1995 which states that law schools that ban military recruiting risk losing their federal funding – was “unconstitutional.” The amendment has since been reinterpreted and revised by Congress to mean that if such recruiting is barred, the entire university will lose its federal funding.

“The Solomon Amendment neither limits what law schools may say nor requires them to say anything,” wrote Chief Justice John J. Roberts in the decision. “Law schools remain free under the statute to express whatever views they may have on the military’s congressionally mandated employment policy, all the while retaining eligibility for federal funds … It affects what law schools must do – afford equal access to military recruiters – not what they may or may not say.”

FAIR is a group of American law professors and administrators who believe the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy is at odds with institutional anti-discrimination policies, and that the Solomon Amendment places an unfair condition on federal money. In Sept. 2005, Cornell joined Yale, Columbia, Harvard, New York University, University of Pennsylvania and University of Chicago in filing amicus curiae, or “friends of the court” brief, which called the amendment “an unconstitutional condition on federal funding,” in support of FAIR.

When the ruling was handed down yesterday morning, however, Cornellians who closely followed the case were not surprised by its outcome.

“We’re dealing with the military and the Supreme Court is often deferential to the military,” said Prof. Stewart Schwab, law, the Allan R. Tessler Dean.

Prof. Gary Simson, law, who worked to help file two amicus briefs in support of FAIR, agreed with Schwab.

“Historically, the court has been extremely deferential to Congress in military matters,” Simson said. “Whether it involved free speech or equal protection, they simply don’t apply the same way when the military is involved. The [court] bent over too far in this case