Preemptive surrender at the Defense Department

The Young America’s Foundation has sued the Department of Defense for failing to enforce the Solomon Amendment — the law that requires schools receiving federal funding to give access to military representatives for recruiting purposes, and to treat military recruiters in the same way they treat all other employment recruiters. The lawsuit arises from the University of California at Santa Cruz (UCSC). According to the plaintiff’s complaint, UCSC for three years has allowed near riots by professors and students to drive military recruiters from its job fairs, while non-military recruiters have enjoyed an unimpeded opportunity to meet with students interested in employment.
The Defense Department has moved to dismiss YAF’s complaint. It raises various defenses, such as sovereign immunity and lack of standing.
To me, though, the more interesting question is: why is the Defense Department giving UCSC a free pass? As a former student protester, I know from personal experience that a college can control student protests that threaten to get out of hand. It’s obvious, moreover, that if racist students were violently protesting recruiting visits by, say, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, UCSC would crack down promptly. Students and faculty have the right, of course, to protest peacefully against military recruting visits. Such protests presumably would not deter recruiters.
The Defense Department argues that “termination of federal funding may not alter the conduct of UCSC students and faculty.” It probably wouldn’t. But the threat of doing so will alter the conduct of the university and thereby, in all likelihood, eliminate the near riots. If UCSC makes a good old-fashioned college try, then the Defense Department can think about preserving its federal funding. Why it’s unwilling to hold UCSC’s feet to the fire at this point is anyone’s guess.
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