Military Recruitment on Campus (Again)

The Marines came to campus to recruit on November 13. The visit and the protest that ensued were covered in The Campus newspaper, but even with the extensive coverage, there remain some fundamental issues about recruiting on our campus that seem to get lost whenever the issue comes up, as it has with the Marines’ recent visit.

I should mention that I shared with the campus community in September my position in formulating the College’s policy regarding military recruiting in a detailed memorandum. That said, I will highlight here some areas of controversy, offer my position once again, and hopefully generate some discussion for us all to consider.

It is central to point out that the College has a very clear and strong non-discrimination policy that guides its hiring practices and its engagement with and treatment of Middlebury employees. In addition, it was also one of the first colleges/universities to offer the equivalent of spousal benefits to the partners of gays and lesbians who worked at the College.

Allowing the military to recruit on our campus became an issue when, in 2005, we learned that the Marines wished to come to campus to recruit for the first time in many years. College policy at that time was to require all potential employers who could not sign a statement saying that its policies were consistent with the College’s own non-discrimination policy to hold an open meeting at which they would explain their hiring practices and policies. Since 1993, when Congress set the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy for gays in the military, the armed forces argued that they allowed gays and lesbians to serve, but that they “would discharge members who engage in homosexual conduct, which is defined as a homosexual act, a statement that the member is homosexual or bisexual, or a marriage or attempted marriage to someone of the same gender” (from the New York Times, April 1993).

The College’s requirement that employers who did not adhere themselves to the College’s non-discrimination policy hold open meetings served to keep the military away from campus, as it did at other liberal arts colleges with similar policies. Yet in 2005, the Marines were invited to campus by two seniors who were to be commissioned into the Marines during their Commencement week, and hence the first visit in years.

For the 2005 Marine visit to campus, College policy was followed as our Career Services Office required that the Marines hold an open meeting if they were to recruit at Middlebury, and the meeting took place. Prior to the Marines’ visit to campus, a group of law schools challenged a federal law, known as the Solomon Amendment, that linked a college’s or university’s receipt of some categories of federal funding to the ability of the military to recruit on campus. At the same time, a faculty resolution here at Middlebury, which requested that the College not allow the military to recruit on campus at all, was introduced at a faculty meeting, and the resolution passed by nearly a 3-1 measure. Some faculty were wary of banning the military if it meant federal funding for their research would be jeopardized; a much smaller number thought it wrong to ban the military from campus for a variety of reasons; but the largest number favored preventing the military from recruiting on campus and using College facilities if it could not ensure that all Middlebury students had the opportunity for employment.

Following the faculty resolution, I engaged many individuals, both on campus and off, including former military officers, scholars of military history, experts on public policy, and other college presidents. I decided it would be best not to change our policy, and to await the challenge to the Solomon Amendment, which was heading to the Supreme Court following an appellate court ruling after the challenge from the law schools.

Last year, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously (9-0) that the Solomon Amendment was constitutional—that federal funding could be withheld if colleges did not provide “equal” access to military recruiters. Moreover, it meant that our existing policy of “requiring” an open meeting was not in compliance with the law, which the Supreme Court had just affirmed. To require such a meeting would be in violation of the Solomon Amendment. We amended our policy so we now “request” an open meeting, but the military is not obligated to provide that open forum in order to come and recruit.

Fast forward to last week. The Marines, as I mentioned, came and set up an information desk near Ross Dining Hall. Many on campus believe we should have changed our policy and not permitted the military to recruit on campus since our gay and lesbian students, should they choose a career in the military, would have to hide their sexuality, and face expulsion from the service if it became known they were gay or lesbian. Some argue that the College is “hypocritical” in allowing the military on campus since the military’s employment policies and practices are not consistent with our own.

I agree with the November 13th protesters, in that I strongly support the rights of gay and lesbian members of our community. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is neither a fair nor smart policy; gays and lesbians have proven to be exceptional members of other countries’ armed forces, and the current loss of expertise as a result of DADT is unquestionably great. And there is no logical reason to deny gay and lesbians Americans the right to defend this country. At the same time, I don’t believe the proper response is to ban the military from recruiting on our campus as the protesters have requested.

First, the conflating of our clearly stated policies on non-discrimination with the military’s policy is illogical. Arguing that because we allow the military on campus we compromise our own policies is incorrect; we continue to follow our policies and we remain committed to them. In fact, as Justice Breyer argued in oral argument in the case, the remedy to speech [or ideas] with which one disagrees is more speech, not a restriction on speech. Bryer’s argument is consistent with our mission as a liberal arts college, which is to encourage the engagement of different points of view, not limit such discussion.

Second, the armed forces are not any random potential employer seeking to enlist young talent into their ranks. They are part of our federal government; those in uniform are asked to make the ultimate sacrifice in the name of our collective security and freedom; and Congress, not the military branches, is responsible for the policy that discriminates against gays and lesbians, and so that it, and not the military, ought to be the target for changing policy.

Third, disobeying the law, and in the process losing federal funding, would have multiple effects on the College. It would compromise some programs, including those that support student loans, College facilities, and scientific research. It would make us look irresponsible in light of what we charge students to attend Middlebury, at a time when financial support from alumni and friends is so vital to the College’s mission. In accepting federal funds, we are not denied the right to oppose DADT, which, as an institution, we do.

And fourth, while I, and according to most polls the majority of Americans, oppose the DADT policy, the impact of preventing recruiting on campuses like Middlebury is likely to widen the divide between civilians and the military. It would also contribute to the sense of elitism that surrounds campuses like ours and accentuate an already class-based division in our armed forces. The less educated and less well-off socioeconomic groups are widely overrepresented in our volunteer military service branches and therefore suffer the disproportionate casualties defending our country and its interests. The successful recruitment of students from places like Middlebury would bring values to the armed forces that are more likely to generate pressure on Congress to change DADT from within. Preventing the recruiting of these voices, in the long-term, will prove to be counter-productive.

Those of us who are opposed to DADT should lobby our elected officials to overturn it, both here in Vermont and in our home states. We should also work with the many public advocacy groups that are fighting to change DADT. This course of action, rather than banning the military from recruiting on our campuses, would go a lot farther in changing what so many find problematic about military recruiting.

We will have an open forum to discuss this issue in McCullough social space on Monday, November 26 at 4:15 p.m.

Your thoughts on the subject?

15 comments

“The less educated and less well-off socioeconomic groups are widely overrepresented in our volunteer military service branches and therefore suffer the disproportionate casualties defending our country and its interests.”

The all-volunteer force was originally subject to higher recruiting standards than the screening process associated with the “draft.” Since the Iraq war, recruiting standards may not have officially changed, but as recruiting has become increasingly difficult (as with any quota driven system) quality is the first thing to go. We should be concerned about the recruiting pool and support those who have a sincere desire to serve their country, especially those with leadership potential and sound judgement. In addition to recruitment, we need to be concerned with retention. Each servicemember recruited today has the potential to serve for 30 years. We cannot afford to undermine our armed forces by depriving them of fully qualified candidates.

President Liebowitz,
In response to some of the arguments that you and the administration have made:

1) Please know that it is deeply offensive to many of us who are lesbian or gay – when you refer to one of the ‘advantages’ of allowing the military to recruit at Midd as a way to highlight their discriminatory policy of DADT and thereby provide an opportunity for Midd students to learn about differing points of view through open discourse. This ‘learning experience’ for Midd students is offered on the backs of lesbians and gay men (students, faculty and staff). It is at MY expense. I am not a ‘curiosity’ or an ‘issue’ or the topic of an academic debate. To suggest that we should invite my oppressor to campus to recruit others to join their organization that oppresses me — so that we can all have an interesting discussion, … is beyond offensive.

2) The argument that we should allow recruiting by an organization that blatantly and formally discriminates, so that more enlightened people might join the organization and change it from within …is a weak one. And, frankly, I ‘m surprised by this argument – made by you and by other administrators on other campuses, as a way to justify the position you’ve taken. Does that approach work to create change in institutions and organizations? Yes, but at a snail’s pace, on a small scale, and at the expense of the peoples already being oppressed. On the contrary, history shows that the most effective (and efficient) approach to changing any system of oppression or discrimination happens more radically (I didn’t say ‘militantly’) through gutsy leadership or through political pressure: Harry Truman’s executive order to desegregate the military (gutsy); MLK’s mobilizing others en masse to boycott and apply economic and social pressure (gutsy); LBJ’s signing the Civil Rights Act (response to pressure); etc.

3) The perspective that denying the military to recruit at Midd would be seen by others as an elitist position – is, itself, an elitist perspective. It’s also a heterosexist perspective (I didn’t say ‘homophobic’). Allow military recruiting here to prove that we don’t think that a military career is beneath our students? Sounds like the college’s ‘image’ trumps equal rights for our students. Allow military recruiting here because some of our smart and enlightened heterosexual students can join the military and change it from within? Sounds like a presumption that the gay and lesbian students who are here at Midd now are all affluent and don’t need access to the kind of opportunities that the military could provide them. The fact is that the military denies access to lesbians and gay men. That means that the opportunities in the military for employment, training, experience, and education (during and after service) are denied to an entire segment of society simply based on their sexual orientation/ identity. Do you presume that all lesbians and gay men are affluent and not in need of such opportunities? Do you presume that lesbians and gay men are all of the same socio-economic strata? As someone who has played a central role in the passage of every piece of legislation in Vermont for LGBT equal rights in the last 18 years – I will tell you that one reason for our sense of urgency in passing such laws was to ensure equal access for LGBT Vermonters who do not have the financial means to ‘work-around’ systems and institutions that discriminate. For example: affluent Vermont lesbians and gay men often have the means to hire lawyers and pay money to draft wills and powers-of-attorney and cleverly organize their assets, etc – to insure their partners as beneficiaries. Affluent lesbians and gay men often have more means by which to navigate the health care system, or the college admissions process, or other institutions and systems, in order to gain some degree of access. But it is typically those with fewer means, those who are less affluent, who are most severely oppressed by such institutional discrimination. Theirs is the double-whammy of … being discriminated against as a lesbian or gay man – and – not having the means to circumvent it or fight it. So, let’s stand with all our students who would like (or need) access to the opportunities in the military… opportunities that might be out of reach for them in other arenas. This means our gay and lesbian students as well as our heterosexual students.

4) It is incorrect to argue that allowing an organization that discriminates on campus for purposes of participating in a college-sanctioned program (of recruiting) – does not violate our own non-discrimination policy. It does. Our college non-discrimination policy states that we “prohibit discrimination in employment or in admission or access to its educational or extracurricular programs, activities, or facilities,…”. The employer recruiting program at Midd is a college program (not sure it if you’d consider it ‘educational’ or ‘extracurricular’) and participating employers are part of the program offering. Access to the entirety of that program is denied to a segment of the student body because of sexual orientation. That is discrimination. Doesn’t matter if we are the first-party institution with the discriminatory policy or the second-party institution allowing our own program to be shaped and limited in its accessibility by the first-party’s discriminatory policy. We are accountable for ensuring non-discrimination in our programs. I think that, if we wish to parse words and debate what “is” is… then we are setting an unfortunate example for our students about the seriousness of our policies – especially policies that are supposed to speak to fairness and equity for all in our community. It would feel more authentic if the administration simply said – ‘we know that this is inconsistent with our college non-discrimination policy, but we have decided to take a different position because we feel the military has special status, and we feel that our position is covered by the Solomon Amendment’. To try to make the case that the position is consistent with our non-discrimination policy, leaves many wondering about the integrity of our college policies and policy-makers.

5) And lastly, we require the following of our student organizations on campus; shouldn’t we require the same of our administration’s positions? …

“ a. Middlebury College complies with applicable provisions of state and federal law which prohibit discrimination in employment, or in admission or access to its educational or extracurricular programs, activities, or facilities, on the basis of race, color, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, age, marital status, place of birth, service in the armed forces of the United States, or against qualified individuals with disabilities on the basis of disability.

b. Any student organization that discriminates on the basis of any of the aforementioned qualities or characteristics is antithetical to the mission of the College AND IS NOT APPROPRIATE AS A MODEL FOR SOCIETY AT LARGE. [Handbook: Student Life, section A; CAPS are mine]

I agree with much of what was said on this blog, and I think it was well worded. In the end, I do not feel terribly offended by the administration choosing money over prejudice. I just wish they would be upfront and say that is the reason. Money.

(And, not that it matters, but while the decision was unanimous, it was not a 9-0 decision. The case was argued before Justice O’Connor, but decided while Justice Alito had taken her vacant seat. Appropriately, he did not vote, thus it was an 8-0 decision. Again, that matters very little in the end.)

Now here are my criticisms of the administration and this blog:

I find the argument that it is in our advantage to allow military recruitment so that more “liberal” students, albeit Middlebury Students, join the military and thus change the policy is flawed. It is flawed for two reasons. For one, as you make very clear, the military does not create its policies: congress does. This was your main argument on why the entity of the military itself should not be attacked, but politicians instead. If this is the case, then we should promote students to be elected to office in the Senate and House, not into the military. Furthermore: students recruited now would sign in as an Ensign or Second Lieutenant (O-1) and would not be critical in any sort of policy advising unless he or she attained a “flag officer” ranking of general or admiral. This takes a career of over 20 years. Whatever few Middlebury students that make a career in the military are not ensured to ever attain these ranks. Indeed, most of these service men and women attended one of the military academies: institutions which are far more conservative than our own, do not admit non-heterosexual students, and represent economically disadvantaged students on a great scale (as they are tuition free). But I don’t think the military is free from blame simply because they don’t create the policies: because they are not trying to change them. They should help change them in order to recruit us and fulfill quotas. The fact of the matter is, most do not want to change it.

So why do we want people of that thinking here? The standards to enlist have dropped significantly. People who have been criminals, have low IQ, or are not citizens can enlist. However a Middlebury student, no doubt an outstanding citizen, is considered “not fit for service in the US Military” if her or she is homosexual. Not fit…lower than those who have committed crimes or practically fail the ASVAB. If a professor at Middlebury preached similar views of our gay students: how much longer would that professor be allowed to teach here? Would we cherish these alternate views in an administrator?

I do think that alternate points of view are valid and important, but I do not think it creates a good argument on why recruitment must be allowed. Personally, I am not black or Jewish, but I would fight to make sure that racist or anti-Semitic thought didn’t penetrate this campus. If the tables were turned and the military said that women or people of differing faiths and races (as it once did) were not fit to join, I would bet Middlebury would somehow find just cause in giving up those funds. It is not illegal to prevent them from coming: that is key. It is a choice. Just as states can choose to lower the drinking age to 18, but give up funds from the Department of Transportation in process. They are coerced to keep the status quo: just as Middlebury is being forced to. Though I argue we are not forced, because we are not dependent on these funds. We can make a choice.

We can choose to make a statement that would overwhelmingly confirm support for the queer community, but we choose not to. Would we do this for women or students of color? Probably. But after all, these classes of people now have a history of being protected now. Why should we protect people who aren’t acknowledged the same way by our country? Maybe because it is right and moral. Maybe because it puts Middlebury above the rest. Is that elitist? Who cares? We are elite. That is what we strive for after all; that is what this giant money initiative is for. That is why we take ideas from Williams, Amherst, and the Ivy League and implement them into our own policies. We mimic those who are better so we may become better. Here is Middlebury’s chance to be the best in support of its students: all students, no matter their orientation. What schools that rank higher than us on some silly news report have to do it first before we deem it appropriate? Why can’t we be the leader. Are we strong enough to stand on our own for the moral choice, or shall we benefit from the unhappiness of others in the form of 1.8 million?

I invite the administration to read a short story that changed a great deal to my thinking in life, “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” by Ursula K. Le Guin. You can find it in our library, I would assume. Should you read it, I ask you this: would you walk away? Should Middlebury walk away from these funds? It’s a tough question that has an answer I cannot provide. But when the administration takes a position like it has, it better be a strong one without flawed arguments. It better acknowledge the message a decision like this gives. I believe I have found flaws, now I want to know what the response is. What is your message, Old Chapel?

These last two postings trouble me quite a bit. I will only address one point in each.

1: “To suggest that we should invite my oppressor to campus to recruit others to join their organization that oppresses me — so that we can all have an interesting discussion, … is beyond offensive.”

I realize that many may feel this way, however, I am bothered by the notion that oppression of a class/group sub-set translates into oppression of a specific individual if that individual is unlikely to ever be a member of that sub-set (a homosexual serving in the military). I never felt oppressed as a lesbian serving in the Marine Corps. Granted, I was not “out,” but my sexuality never factored into how I performed my duties, so it was never an issue. Confiding in others on personal matters and managing complex issues for my family were the only factors that suffered any consequence. You don’t have to be a homosexual to have personal/family issues that are difficult and/or cannot be disclosed.

2: “Furthermore: students recruited now would sign in as an Ensign or Second Lieutenant (O-1) and would not be critical in any sort of policy advising unless he or she attained a “flag officer” ranking of general or admiral. This takes a career of over 20 years. Whatever few Middlebury students that make a career in the military are not ensured to ever attain these ranks. Indeed, most of these service men and women attended one of the military academies: institutions which are far more conservative than our own, do not admit non-heterosexual students, and represent economically disadvantaged students on a great scale (as they are tuition free). But I don’t think the military is free from blame simply because they don’t create the policies: because they are not trying to change them. They should help change them in order to recruit us and fulfill quotas. The fact of the matter is, most do not want to change it.”

The notion that only “flag” officers involved in policy development are the only constructive positive influence in the military is a sad reflection of your appreciation for those who serve. Recruiters and Drill Instructors are typically E5-E7 (enlisted) or O3 (officer) usually between their 4th and 8th year of service. These are difficult tours of duty that result in terminal rank if refused or not successfully completed. These tours can make you or break you. Because of the quota-system, some Recruiters may intentionally recruit someone they deem sub-standard for the sake of making their quota. Many Recruiters apply their own criteria (for better or worse) in pursuing a recruit and influencing their choices. Enlisted personnel serving as Drill Instructors process both and enlisted recruits and officer candidates. DIs are often the strongest influence on new service members as they start their military careers. Ask any service member if they remember their DI, with hatred or admiration or respect. Ask any leader (civil or military) if they rely on those they lead and learn from them. Everyone knows the disaster in store for the raw Lieutenant that discounts the wisdom of the seasoned Sergeant. The opportunity to have an impact is not limited to positions of power. Knowledge is power—a single conversation can make a difference.

Thanks to those who have posted before me for your thoughtful engagement of these important issues. In the spirit of exploring the complexities of this decision as a campus, I am writing because I was left with several questions after Monday’s meeting in McCullough that I pose respectfully to President Liebowitz and the community. I left at 5:30, so please forgive me if these points were addressed after my departure.

1. Question: I felt Michael Glidden’s point was important but not clearly acknowledged. There was strong language used about being “out of compliance” with Solomon if we refuse the military a recruiting presence on campus. I believe Michael’s point was that making this institutional choice does not involve breaking the law; it simply involves agreeing to forfeit federal funding as a consequence of refusing the military’s recruiting efforts. Am I correct in understanding that if we were to make this decision and initiate the return of the funds in question, we would be in full compliance with all laws and amendments?

2. Question: I was genuinely confused by what I understood to be an assertion that because we are in a financially privileged position and refusal of federal funding would not hit our operation as catastrophically as it might less-well-resourced institutions, to take advantage of this would be elitist. How does the fact that it may be easier for us than for other institutions to forfeit the funding make our decision to do so elitist? It seems to me that to have the luxury of making this choice and still be able to hold our operation together, albeit with leaner resources, is the best use of privilege and an incredible opportunity rather than the hallmark of elitism. Did I misunderstand your point?

3. Question: Although I acknowledge and respect the importance of carefully considering the negative fallout of the decision to forfeit this funding, I would also suggest the possibility of positive consequences. What outstanding potential faculty, staff and students might we attract simply as a result of making this important decision? How might our campus community, present, past and future, respond to the knowledge that their institution made a difficult decision based on its deeply held values of antidiscrimination, even in the face of financial consequences and “outlier” status among our peer institutions? Might there be alumni or parents who are inspired by this decision and choose to donate funding in support of it?

4. Observation: It seems to me inaccurate to posit that the consequences of denying a military recruitment presence on campus is the discouragement of Middlebury students from military careers. As others have pointed out, we are fortunate that there are ample opportunities to steer interested students to resources on line or off campus. I believe that students who wish to pursue the military would have support from Middlebury faculty and staff, and even students, in their exploration.

5. Finally, President Liebowitz, I want to applaud your efforts toward questioning DADT by inviting members of the U.S. congress to our campus in January to engage the topic. In light of this morning’s petition to congress from 28 retired generals urging the repeal of DADT, I appreciate this exciting opportunity to learn more about the petition’s impact and to add our voices to what I hope is gathering momentum against this policy.

I guess I’ll begin with saying that i support President Liebowitz’s decision on allowing military recruitment here on campus. Does this mean that I support DADT? No, absolutely not. We should (and it is my hope that we will soon) allow any American, regardless of sexual orientation, the ability to enlist into any branch of the military.

But, I feel as if i must defend Pres. Leibowitz’s point on how military recruitment can help to highlight the problem of DADT. For a democracy to work, I believe it is vital that the complete spectrum of views, stances, and opinions are allowed an equal opportunity to be expressed, even when we sometimes (quiet correctly) do not agree with them. This includes all the discriminatory ideas on race, sexual orientation, etc out there. It is extremely easy in a place like Middlebury, which is liberal community living in a liberal state, to forget (or underestimate)that there is a large group who believe in just as firmly in DADT and as we are against it.

And i honestly believe that, in a way, this general consensus against discrimination may hinder Middlebury’s ability to take on this issue in a larger, national scale because it just appears to all of us that there is no real body of opposition. I regret to write this and in no way mean to lessen the importance of this issue but if you couple the Middlebury’s outlook with the host of other issues that the student body is taking, discrimination in the military may get slightly lost in the bunch if we are to keep it at “arms length,” out of campus. But, by bringing the military here, students will have to come face-to-face with this issue (especially when there is a demonstration right next to it, i enthusiastically applauded that!), and thus force the student body to think about discrimnation personally and how its effect on the country at large.

Finally, I just like to say that I don’t believe for a moment that this makes gays/lesbians out to be a “curiosity” or some philosophical discussion with little meaning in reality. At its core, DADT illustrates that a part of the whole is not being treated on equal terms with the rest. So, something has to be done to change this unfortunately lasting norm. If we dont see it, talk about it, do something about it, how are we ever going to fix it?

Heres to a better America!

To the College Community,

I left Monday’s Community Forum with a mix of thoughts and feelings. On the positive side, I was grateful for the thoughtful tone of the forum and the overarching respect I saw exhibited for each speaker who offered a suggestion, rebuttal or opinion. I’m proud to be part of a college community that exhibits intelligent argumentation and respectful discourse and I want to thank President Liebowitz for setting the tone and agenda so well.

That said, I also left the meeting perplexed. I felt that I had heard a lot of arguments supporting military recruitment on campus, but upon reflection most of these arguments did not get to the heart of the issue before us, which is: whether and how our actions will match our values of non-discrimination as written in our policies. Furthermore, I did not hear one CENTRAL argument that pinned down exactly why we should invite the military to use campus resources for recruiting. In order to sort out these issues in my own mind, I have synthesized the many arguments I heard and have responded to each in turn. I left the meeting early, so no doubt I have missed some arguments and responses that were posed. These are mostly my views, but they also represent a distillation of the conversation as I heard it. I could elaborate on each of these, but will keep my points brief.

ARGUMENTS AND MY RESPONSES:

1) The military is an entity that is accorded special (sacred?) status as an arm of our government and is an entity that is dedicated to the defense of the nation— a vital role. As such, it is different from a corporation or non-profit that makes use of CSO resources and recruiting opportunities. Therefore, we must treat it differently and accommodate it, even if we disagree with its policies.

Response: The military may be different, but in terms of its presence on campus, it acts as an EMPLOYER — therefore it should be subject to the same constraints we place on every employer.

2) Congress upheld the military’s don’t ask don’t tell policies and the Supreme Court has upheld Solomon. We ought to abide by the law. If we want change, we should lobby our congress people.

Response: Yes, as individual citizens we ought to lobby and work for policy change, but this does not address the question of how Middlebury as an INSTITUTION ought to respond. In past civil rights history, institutions have chosen to go against the law when the law has violated fundamental civil rights. If we feel that the military’s policy toward gays and lesbians violates civil rights, than we have the opportunity to take some leadership in standing up to that policy. If we allow the military to benefit from the use of Midddlebury’s facilities and resources, than we are not standing by our non-discrimination policies.

3) Middlebury students — for lots of good reasons — should have ready access to military recruiters.

Response: Unlike access to some corporations and non-profits, Middlebury students have easy access to military recruitment. If you want to join the military it is not hard to find information on how to do so. Furthermore, it would be quite simple (if the college agrees to do this) for CSO to disseminate information ABOUT military recruiting to students, but have the recruiting itself occur somewhere nearby in the town of Middlebury.

4) Other NESCAC schools are not banning the military and we should keep in step with NESCAC.

Response: Middlebury has a strong history of taking leadership on a variety of issues where other NESCAC schools have not yet gone. Some examples are our environmental practices and our athletic policies. Now we have the real opportunity to take ethical leadership in the arena of civil rights — to be, as one student called it “the Rosa Parks” of colleges.

5) We will lose federal funding of up to 1.8 million dollars annually.

Response: The faculty, staff and students could and should be involved in deciding this issue. We have the opportunity to decide that we are willing to take this financial hit in return for abiding by our principles. Some people have suggested that it is elitist to be able to “afford” to keep the military out. That may be true. Middlebury is an elite college. But if we have the financial strength to take an ethical stand, what prevents us from doing so?

6) The trustees disapprove of our banning the military.

Response: The trustees have been persuaded in the past to take bold steps in response to strong student, staff and faculty opinion. We ought to give the trustees strong, well-argued rationales for why we think banning the military from recruiting on our campus is an important expression of our non-discrimination policy.

7) Middlebury is an educational institution. We are about learning, not politics.

Response: Learning occurs both in and out of the classroom (as the planned vision for the college clearly states). When DISCRIMINATION OCCURS, THE ENVIRONMENT FOR LEARNING IS COMPROMISED. We have non-discrimination policies to ensure a safe space at the college in which students can engage in their work. In the context of military recruiting, gay students especially are not served by compromised policies. Moreover, any other group that has historically been discriminated against in the past is made to feel less secure when discrimination against one group is allowed to occur.

8) The college doesn’t agree with the military’s policy, but having them on campus creates a unique opportunity for discourse.

Response: We can easily create opportunities for discourse that don’t involve military recruitment. We can ask service men and women, law makers, civil rights groups etc. to come to campus and participate in panels representing all sides of the issue. The potential “educational value” of military recruitment is a side question. We can take a stand against recruitment, while still creating balanced educational forums.

I’m sure I’ve left other arguments and possible responses out (feel free add to them!).

The only other comment I would add is that were I a gay college student (which I once was), I would feel deeply betrayed by a college that had a strong non-discrimination policy, but when push came to shove, could not live up to it. It would make me feel less secure and less valued as a member of the student body. As a faculty member, I am deeply concerned that some of our students feel this way. I think we owe it to them to do better.

Finally, I want to say that I was impressed by a number of constructive suggestions that were made at the meeting and which President Liebowitz seems to have taken seriously. My hope is that we can pursue these constructive opportunities (such as bringing congressmen to campus), while also continuing to take a hard look at the recruitment issue. If Staff Council, Faculty Council, Community Council and the Faculty at large all hold a majority view against recruitment, this ought to be taken seriously, along with the sentiments of the student body. My hope here is not to be divisive, but to be truly rigorous in our thinking and actions on this issue.

Sincerely,
Rebecca Kneale Gould
Associate Professor of Religion and Environmental Studies

I would like to ditto Mary, Ryan, Karen and Professor Gould. To add to the discourse, I would like to respond to one of President Liebowitz’s point, a point that I have heard him make both on this blog and elsewhere.

In the above post, President Liebowitz wrote, “In fact, as Justice Breyer argued in oral argument in the case, the remedy to speech [or ideas] with which one disagrees is more speech, not a restriction on speech. Bryer’s argument is consistent with our mission as a liberal arts college, which is to encourage the engagement of different points of view, not limit such discussion.”

I would also like to note that President Liebowitz wrote, “‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is neither a fair nor smart policy; gays and lesbians have proven to be exceptional members of other countries’ armed forces, and the current loss of expertise as a result of DADT is unquestionably great. And there is no logical reason to deny gay and lesbians Americans the right to defend this country.”

Fair enough. But I have a difficult time reconciling both of these statements with prior statements made by President Liebowitz on this very blog.

On September 27, 2007, he wrote, in response to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s speech at Columbia, “I happen to agree with Dean Schizer. I am a great proponent of free speech and intellectual freedom. I also believe these rights come with responsibilities. The dean put it well, emphasizing ‘intellectual honesty’ and ‘academic standards’ as important considerations when weighing whether someone should have the right to exercise free speech.”

It’s important to note that Dean Schizer wrote, among other things, “Therefore, my personal opinion is that he [Ahmadinejad] should not be invited to speak.”

Let me get this straight:

According to both Schizer and Liebowitz, Ahmadinejad should not speak on campuses because he “spewed such hate and an understanding of history that is seriously flawed.” (The quoted words are those of Liebowitz.)

According to Liebowitz, the military should come to campus even though it expressed a policy which Liebowitz himself has called illogical, not smart, and unfair.

If we are going to extend “our mission as a liberal arts college, which is to encourage the engagement of different points of view, not [to] limit such discussion” to the military, why not do the same for Ahmadinejad?

I mean, shouldn’t we be equal-opportunity alienators of our students? I bet denying the Holocaust and other anti-semitic sentiments are just as painful and hateful to our Jewish students as the military’s policy which denies access to queer students. Can someone tell me what the difference is between something that is “hate” and a “flawed understanding,” and “illogical, not smart, and unfair?” They seem pretty similar to me!

To respond to Sarah above–

The difference, to me, seems to be that the president is not gay. He is Jewish.

Michael Tierney '09.5

Michael Tierney '09.5’s avatar

This isn’t anything to do with Military Recruitment at Middlebury; however, I just wanted to post this in regard to an SGA meeting on Winter Carnival. I hoped this would help create a dialogue.

I’m afraid that I won’t be able to attend this meeting because I’m in England for the semester. However, I wanted to write and say how much Winter Carnival means not only to me, but to a lot of my friends. Every year we look forward to this potentially magical time when, in Vermont of all places, which is so naturally illuminated during the winter, the College binds together and celebrates something really special. It’s sort of like Middlebury’s own special holiday, returning to a different time, when people kept warm by gathering around the hearth fire, or when it was daylight, and families would run to go skating when the lake had finally frozen over. There’s something about winter that just brings out the inner child in us. It’s romantic in a sense. I think that the problem at Middlebury, with regard to the declining social scene, stems from not having any real inspiration to celebrate something. The College announces a party or a dance, and we’re just expected to go. I think the College should go back to its roots and remind the students of just why Winter Carnival is special. If it is, then it’s worth keeping. If not, then let it be forgotten and relegated to the archives.

A recent article in one of those college guides said that Middlebury has the best traditions of any college. Let us be reminded of why tradition is important, and why this one in particular is so special.

Fireworks are a great way to open the ceremonies, especially over a well lit Mead Chapel. But I think what will really get people going is to get them outdoors to celebrate the Winter culminating an a classic Winter Ball. Maybe it can be outside in a tent, under the stars.

The Carnival needs to be better announced and more fully supported. If we students see that the College is holding it up, rather than just putting it on, we, especially as Midd Kids, will rally around the Carnival and give our full hearts to the celebration.

Thanks,

Michael Tierney ‘09.5

To the College Community,

I was out of town giving a talk last Monday and was unable to attend the Forum. At the risk of repeating arguments that have already been made, I offer the following observations.

So many points have been raised during the discussion on military recruitment that we tend to lose site of the core issue, namely that our actions as an institution are counter to the spirit of our policies. To put it starkly, suppose we have a non-discrimination policy that is in direct conflict with that of a particular employer. Perhaps the employer openly states that they don’t hire black people, Jewish people, or women in the earnest belief that those types of individuals harm company morale. We would feel free – hopefully obligated – as an institution to prohibit the company from using our facilities. Our non-discrimination policy trumps theirs. The ONLY rationale I can see for allowing an employer with a discriminatory hiring policy to use our facilities is that Congress has compelled us to do so. We feel compelled, at least, to the extent that we worry about losing federal funds and harming our reputation. The seriousness of those concerns shouldn’t be minimized. As others have argued, though, the faculty, staff, and students are ready to engage the issues with each other and with the Trustees.

Some have argued that the central issue is one of free speech. By this reasoning, we create an invaluable educational opportunity by inviting an employer with a discriminatory hiring policy to speak to us. But this misses the point entirely and conflates two unrelated issues. We don’t need to sideline our policy in order to create educational opportunities. A robust, well-enforced non-discrimination policy can exist side-by-side with a free and vocal airing of diverse ideas. Professor Gould has given several examples of how the administration can encourage wide-ranging discussions. Large numbers of faculty, staff and students would eagerly attend well-organized events involving prominent speakers. It’s not necessary to support discriminatory practices in order to discuss discrimination; we can do much better than that.

Sincerely,
Susan Watson
Associate Prof. of Physics

As a member of the class of “80 who has read about this issue for a number of years I read this blog and replies with interest.
In the end, the threat of losing dollars forced a decision that should have been made earlier for the other reasons outlined in President Liebowitz’s blog.
The divide in thought between Middlebury and other similar campuses and the real world is already a chasm, and preventing military recruiting does nothing to improve that. In one of the replies, Ryan writes;
“Personally, I am not black or Jewish, but I would fight to make sure that racist or anti-Semitic thought didn’t penetrate this campus.”
The notion that certain thought is “bad” and should be denied access to a school of learning (and vice versa) is counter productive to true education.
How are students truly prepared for the real world if they are isolated from real world thought, good or bad, fair or unfair, discriminatory or non-discriminatory and sheltered from the opportunity to challenge such thought in open, honest and constructive dialogue.
Professor Watson writes:
“We don’t need to sideline our policy in order to create educational opportunities. A robust, well-enforced non-discrimination policy can exist side-by-side with a free and vocal airing of diverse ideas.”
But, if you limit the free and vocal airing of ideas to those people and ideas that follow the “proper policies”, you limit that very diversity which you seek.

Just for clarification — Wouter wrote:

As a member of the class of “80 who has read about this issue for a number of years I read this blog and replies with interest.
In the end, the threat of losing dollars forced a decision that should have been made earlier for the other reasons outlined in President Liebowitz’s blog.

The “threat of losing dollars” did not force this decision. Some members of the faculty brought forward a motion to “close the loophole” (in their words) on what was our then policy on recruiting on campus. That was before Solomon was tested in the Supreme Court. What forced the decision was suit brought by the law schools, led by Yale, that brought our faculty’s resolution. We could have followed the faculty resolution of banning fully the military from recruiting on campus, but didn’t. That was February of 2005.

There are many reasons for not banning the military from recruiting on our campus: to some, and I have heard from them, the $$$ is the issue, or a major issue. To many more, however, it is the reason Wouter underscores.

To Wouter’s response,
which argues that we shouldn’t ban certain thoughts that we consider “bad,” I question whether you would be in support of completely getting rid of any non-discrimination policy that Middlebury has. Should we alllow any and all employers regardless of whether they discriminate against homosexuals, African-Americans Jews, etc, solely in the name of giving Middlebury students access to a “diversity of opinions?

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