Statement on Military Recruitment
October 10, 2002
To all members of the University Community:
With great regret, I have authorized the General Counsel of the University to inform the United States Air Force that our Law School has agreed not to enforce its non-discrimination policy against military recruiters. The implications for the University, if we do not accede to the Air Force’s demands, are staggering. They have threatened to cut off approximately 70% of all federal funding - not just military funding - to the entire University, not just the Law School. This amount is approximately 300 million dollars. These funds support numerous faculty, students, and widespread research, including important health research. The loss of funding would essentially paralyze the entire research and educational operation of the University.
There are three additional points I would like to emphasize. The first is that the University’s rule (and the Law School’s rule in particular) prohibiting employers from using our career placement services if they discriminate on enumerated bases, including sexual orientation, is rooted in a deep moral sense of what is relevant and irrelevant in the treatment of individual human beings. The rule is not a political or policy judgment about what is an effective means to some end but rather a fundamental principle about the nature of right and wrong, about what constitutes invidious discrimination. It is also, in that sense of a moral principle, now widely shared throughout the society and reflected in the employment standards applied in both the private and the public sectors.
The second point is that, with respect to this particular area of career services, the University has sought to apply this basic moral principle precisely in order to protect our own students. Our responsibility here has been to ensure that our students do not suffer the indignity of being excluded from the employment process (in this case, serving one’s country in the armed forces) for invidious reasons.
The last point is to draw attention to another major issue at stake here – one that involves the relationship between the federal government and the nation’s university. It has long been recognized that the enormous funding power of the state can all too easily be turned into a lever of coercion. The ready availability of that power requires self-restraints by officials, for otherwise we will lose our liberties not to official prohibitions but rather to the conditions attached to the purse. Such self-restraint is especially called for when colleges and universities are involved. The principle of academic freedom is one of the hallmarks of our country, with proven benefits from science to the arts to the professions. Respect for the autonomy of these institutions is critical. And, so, to resolve a disagreement between the government and universities by threatening to call back virtually all federal funding, which amounts to hundreds of millions of dollars supporting thousands of people engaged in research and education, is to threaten seriously that very historic commitment.
We will continue to pursue whatever legal remedies are available.
Lee C. Bollinger