A People's History of Middlebury College

a history of Middlebury College centered on marginalized voices, social/political mobilizations, and periods of struggle

A People's History of Middlebury College

Military Recruitment, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and Middlebury’s Nondiscrimination Policy


In 2005, the Marines came to Middlebury College to recruit for the first time since the implementation of Middlebury’s nondiscrimination policy. The Marines were invited to campus by two Middlebury seniors “who were to be commissioned into the Marines during their Commencement week” (Liebowitz).  College policy at the time required all potential employers recruiting on Middlebury’s campus to sign a statement saying their hiring practices aligned with Middlebury’s nondiscrimination policy. The policy, at the time, read as follows:


Policy for On-Campus Recruiting

The College’s policy prohibiting discrimination ‘in admission or access to its educational or extracurricular programs, activities, 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’ extends to include employers who wish to recruit on campus. As a result, all employers who wish to recruit on campus must sign a nondiscrimination agreement. This agreement certifies that the opportunities they offer are available to all qualified Middlebury students. If an employer is unable to sign this agreement, we allow them to recruit only on the condition that they hold an open meeting, advertised to the entire campus community, at which they must provide information on their organization’s recruitment practices and explain their specific policies.


The policy states that if recruiters do not adhere to the same antidiscrimination policies, they then have to hold an open meeting explaining their rationale. In 1993, Congress passed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy for gays and lesbians in the military. The policy allowed gays and lesbians to serve in the military while simultaneously allowing the military to “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” (New York Times, April 1993 via Liebowitz).

This discriminatory policy was a homophobic policy that was not at all aligned with the college’s nondiscrimination policy. For many years, the Military did not recruit on campus, maybe in part because they would have had to explain their discriminatory hiring practices. However, on February 8, 2005, Captain David Doucette of the United States Marines Corps gave a presentation in McCardell Bicentennial Hall explaining the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. Upon completion of the presentation (which was given to a standing-room-only crowd), the military was given the right to recruit on campus.

Many students, including members of the Middlebury Open Queer Alliance (MOQA) and allies, distributed handouts at the meeting that included potential questions to ask and facts about gays and lesbians in the military. JS Woodard (’06) was one of the organizers of the action. He said the goal of the protest was to “change the policty so that any employer who would like to recruit at Middlebury must be able to sign our recruitment policy. If they cannot, they should not be allowed to recruit at Midd or use our sources” (Stauffer).

On the day of the recruitment (Wednesday, February 9, 2005) organizers planned a protest on Proctor Terrace in which they stood in mock military formation with scarves, handkerchiefs and bandanas used to “blind, deafen and gag the protesters posing as soldiers. The silence was to represent ‘the inability of homosexual, bisexual and transgender soldiers to speak out for their rights or talk about their lives with their friends and fellow soldiers” (Stauffer).

In addition to student resistance to the military recruitment, faculty expressed opposition to the military presence. At a faculty meeting in 2005, many faculty members introduced a resolution that requested the college “not allow the military to recruit on campus at all” (Liebowitz). The resolution passed by nearly a 3-1 measure.

At the same time, several law schools were taking on the Solomon Amendment. The Amendment, which was passed in 1996, allows the Secretary of Defense to deny federal grants to institutions of higher learning if they prohibit military recruitment on campus. Despite opposition from students and faculty, President Liebowitz decided not to change their nondiscrimination policy until the conclusion of the challenges to the Solomon Amendment.

On March 6, 2006, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the Solomon Amendment was constitutional. Not only did the Amendment allow the federal government to withhold funds to institutions that did not allow military recruitment, but it also found requiring the military to explain their discriminatory policy to be in violation of the Amendment. Middlebury College administrators amended the nondiscrimination policy. Instead of “requiring” an open meeting, the College “requests” an open meeting. The military, however, was no longer obligated to provide an open forum in order to recruit on campus.

“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was officially repealed in 2010. Although DADT never officially targeted trans* individuals, there are many roadblocks for trans* inclusion in the military. Trans* people may be turned away from military service because of medical regulations that see trans* people as having a mental health condition. Despite this, Middlebury has changed its nondiscrimination policy yet again. The policy again “requires” all employers that don’t sign off on our nondiscrimination statement to hold an open meeting explaining their discriminatory polices. Because of the discrimination of trans* people in the military, they are once again in violation of Middlebury’s nondiscrimination policy and therefore should not be allowed to recruit on our campus.






Gregg Butler

No Comments

No Comments so far ↓

There are no comments yet...Kick things off by filling out the form below.

You must log in to post a comment.