As a former military ROTC instructor, I can attest to the value—and importance—of the Solomon Amendment. The 1996 law requires that all colleges and universities receiving federal funds provide access to military recruiters, and to treat them in the same manner as other organizational recruiters.
Over the past decade, the Solomon Amendment has not only kept recruiting doors open at institutions of higher learning, it has also prevented some universities from shutting down their ROTC programs. We can only guess how many recruits the military has gained because of the measure, which was championed by the late New York Congressman Gerald Solomon, a Marine Corps veteran of the Korean War era.
That’s why it’s disappointing to see the Pentagon (and the Bush Administration) take a pass on enforcing the law. Paul Mirengoff at Powerline has been following the case of the University of California at Santa Cruz, which has actively flouted the Solomon Amendment in recent years.
As Mr. Mirengoff observes, the university has allowed radical students and professors to stage near-riots during job fairs over the past three years, aimed at driving military recruiters from the campus. The reaction from DoD and the White House? A collective yawn.
Trying to prod the government into enforcing the law, the Young America’s Foundation, in cooperation with the Mountain States’ Legal Foundation, filed a suit against the Department of Defense. Yesterday, a federal judge in Washington, D.C., sided with the government, granting DoD’s request to dismiss the suit. The ruling notes that the foundation lacks standing in the case, and affirms the Pentagon’s discretion in enforcing the Solomon Amendment.
There is more than a touch of legal irony in the court’s decision—and the administration’s handling of the case. As Paul Mirengoff writes:
The court concluded instead that the harm was caused the students and professors -- third parties who were not named as defendants. The court also thought it was pure conjecture to suppose that UCSC, deprived of $80 million in federal funds, would change its conduct and bring the students and faculty in line with the UCSC's purported policy of allowing recruiters on campus. The fact that such "conjecture" lies at the core of Congress' thinking in passing the Solomon Amendment appears to have counted for nothing.
The real fault here lies not with the court (whose core holdings may be defensible in light of the applicable precedents), but with the Bush administration. It has handed left-wing colleges and universities a free pass to circumvent the Solomon Amendment. These institutions can adopt a formal policy in favor of recruiters but stand idly by as students and faculty members drive recruiters off the campus. This was not a case in which the college attempted unsuccessfully to curb the riotous behavior of its students and faculty members, and it is clear that the Bush administration is indifferent as to whether college's make such efforts. In fact, students who lost the opportunity to meet with military recruiters at UCSC never even received a response to a letter they wrote to Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld reporting this. Given its indifference, one wonders why the administration went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court to confirm the constitutionality of the Solomon Amendment.
Mirengoff calls it “another example of pre-emptive surrender” by a “burned-out, largely ineffectual administration.”
Sadly, I can’t disagree. ROTC detachments at Berkeley, Madison and other hotbeds of campus radicalism might want to contact a moving company. With yesterday’s court decision—and the administration’s refusal to enforce the Solomon Amendment—ROTC's days at certain colleges and universities are now officially numbered.