Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Harvard Law School Dean Minow on Elena Kagan's Military Recruitment Ban

The following is an email from Dean Minow that went out to all Harvard Law School students yesterday.  I found her frankness and forwardness on the topic very refreshing and wanted to share her point of view on one of Elena Kagan's experience as dean that caused Senators to freak out a little--the other being her record of hiring mostly white male professors.

I haven't even started class, yet, but I'm seeing that it's best to stick to yourself because you can't please everyone.  Maybe as a lawyer that will shrink to not pleasing anyone.  I'd love to hear people's thoughts on her position.  I can see both liberals and conservatives being unhappy with the content of this message, which probably means it's pretty close to how I feel.
Dear Students:

I want to take this opportunity to welcome you to campus and wish you all the best if you are returning now to participate in the Early Interview Program (EIP) this week. I believe that this year’s applicants will have marvelous success in finding terrific opportunities, and recent signs of improvement in the job market for new lawyers make this an exciting time.

With the recruiting season's launch, I want to send you now as I and my predecessor Deans have in the past special information related to campus recruitment by the U.S. Military. If you followed the Senate confirmation hearings of Justice Elena Kagan, you know that this topic has engaged the school in careful discussions and plans. If you are not familiar with the history and current arrangements, this is a good moment--with U.S. military recruitment on campus this week and again during our Fall Interview Program in October-- for me to let you know about that history and our current plans.

Along with prior Deans, I view the opportunities and responsibilities associated with military services as extraordinary. Military service is a calling that should be honored and appreciated by everyone in a society whose freedom is protected by those who serve. Along with prior Deans, I am charged with ensuring the maximum range of career opportunities for all of our students. A few years ago, before I was Dean, I led an unsuccessful effort to adhere to our nondiscrimination-in-employment policy, adopted in 1979 and mirroring policies developed over the past decades at many other law schools. That policy provides that any employer using the services of the school’s interviewing process to recruit at the school must sign a statement indicating that it does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, creed, national or ethnic origin, age, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, marital or parental status, disability, source of income, or status as a veteran, see http://www.law.harvard.edu/current/careers/ocs/employers/recruiting-policies-employers/index.html. Because of the Congressional policy, (Pub.L. 103-160 (10 U.S.C. § 654)), military recruiters representatives could not sign this statement. For several years, as a result, the Law School did not extend access to the career [services] office to military recruiters but did ensure full access to our students--and students retained full access to interviews for jobs with the military. The Harvard Law School Veterans Association facilitated interviews on campus and military recruiters at all times had complete opportunities to contact students, and students did pursue and obtain posts offered by the military.

A ruling by the Department of Defense in 2002 [meant] the entire university would lose all federal funding unless the Law School provided formal access through the Career Services office. In 2006, in Rumsfeld v. FAIR, the Supreme Court upheld this interpretation of the relevant statutes, known as the Solomon Amendment, against a legal challenge in which a group from the HLS faculty participated.

As a result, the Law School now fully complies with the Solomon Amendment and includes recruiters from the military in our regular interviewing process. Although the Law School itself receives very little federal funding, the University as a whole receives about 15 percent of its operating budget from such funds, with the Medical School and the School of Public Health receiving by far the largest share of this money, which they use for important scientific and medical research.

Members of our own community hold varied views about these issues. I personally believe that discrimination against gays and lesbians who seek to enter military service is unwise and unfair, I regret any practice that denies an opportunity to some of our students that other students have.
We will be holding a panel discussion early in the semester, open to the public, to discuss these issues. Please look for information about the panel once the semester starts.

Martha Minow