Recruiting in Our Schools
The debate centers on a law known as the Solomon Amendment, Title 10 Section 983 of the US Code . It states: federal money given to schools (or schools within schools) may be withheld if those schools do not allow military recruiters on campus or allow students who so choose to meet with ROTC representatives. So if Harvard Law says that recruiters from the military JAG corps can not be a part of job fairs on campus, then Harvard Law AND Harvard forfeit Federal money. High Schools which receive funding from No Child Left Behind and the Department of Education are also subject to this same law.
There are two major arguments I hear against recruiters on campuses. The first contends that recruiters pressure young people into joining the armed forces without outlining the consequences of service. This in turn preys on young people without adequate grades or money to choose a different course in life. The second argument, and the one which has been brought before the Supreme Court in FAIR v. Rumsfeld, concerns the military’s “Don’t ask don’t tell” policy. Institutions which ban recruiters from campus because they find this policy is discriminatory claim by withholding federal money from institutions which bar recruiters and ROTC, the federal government is violating those institutions first amendment rights.
Let’s first deal with the argument that recruiters prey on young people without other options, either from grades or money.
In Who Bears the Burden? Demographic Characteristics of US Military Recruits Tim Kaine of the Heritage Foundation analyzes enlistees based on income, race, education and regional/rural origin. He says, “This paper also reviews other evidence that is at odds with the image...that the military exploits poor, ignorant young Americans by using slick advertising that promises technical careers in the military to dupe them into trading their feeble opportunities in the private sector for a meager role as cannon fodder.” (ellipses mine)
“Put simply, the current makeup of the all-voluntary military looks like
We are all familiar with the story of the recruiter promising the naïve young person that they will spend their tour in Hawaii in condos, but I submit that today’s skeptical generation is under no illusions about such pie in the sky stories. There as many stories about the rigors of boot camp as there are the luxuries of Hawaiian postings. So much for coercion; we should consider that these young people know what they are doing. At 18 years of age, youths are considered adults and subject as such under the law.
Now let’s play “Suppose”. Suppose I set up a scholarship fund available to anyone who wanted to make use of it and all I asked in return was for those taking advantage of the scholarship to hear my pitch on becoming a purveyor of yak flavored ice cream. (Made from US raised yaks! Comes in delicious soy options!) They don’t have to agree to eat yak ice cream or promote it in any way, merely allow me the opportunity to tell you about it. Not only that, but I wouldn’t even demand a forum wherein I was the only culinary spokesperson, nope my booth is right beside folks pitching Trout-pops and Dog-hair donuts. Sound reasonable? The flap in South Whidbey centers on the school giving military recruiters the same information they give to college recruiters, plus there is a built in opt out policy for parents.
First, does the federal government have the right to allocate money for higher education? The Claremont Institute’s amicus brief in FAIR v. Rumsfeld says this: “An examination of the original understanding of the Spending Clause shows that the clause does not authorize Congress to provide federal funding to local institutions of higher education. However, such funding may still be authorized under some other power granted to Congress in the Constitution. When funding of higher education is restricted by the Solomon Amendment to institutions allowing military recruiters on campus, this overall program – or at least parts of it-is permissible under Congress’ power to raise and support armies. U.S. Const. Article 1 section 8 clause 12.” So federal funding of education is Constitutional when it’s tied to the possibility of Congress’ authority to raise an army.
Second, does withholding funds from schools infringe on those schools First Amendment rights? No. In Rust v. Sullivan it was determined that “when Government appropriates public funds to establish a program it is entitled to define the limits of that program.” The limits of the program being: funds must be tied to an opportunity for government to raise an army. The schools are not obligated to take federal money. The schools are not entitled to tax money, and they are not made to espouse what they conceive to be discriminatory practices. Students are not obligated to meet with recruiters. Families are not obliged to release any “directory information” (name, phone numbers, etc.) to ANY recruiters, including military ones. It is the obligation of the schools to inform parents of their options, Department of Education recommends a notice in the student handbook.
Let’s sum up: 1) Congress is only allowed to spend federal money on education under the aegis of educating possible future soldiers. 2) No school is obligated to take federal funds. 3) Schools are obligated to inform parents they can remove “directory information” from list available to military and college recruiters. 4) Military personnel recruit across the spectrum of American citizens. Not happy with an “opt out” policy? Get Congress to pass a constitutional amendment to the Spending Clause to change how the federal government can legally fund schools.