How Hillsdale beats Harvard

My interest in the the Solomon Amendment giving recruiters access to federally funded universities was piqued by a visit to Yale in the fall of 2002. I happened to be on the Yale campus when the law school managed to drive off military recruiter Brian Whitaker, who had received a grudging welcome from the school. The law school had been draped in black bunting to mourn Whitaker’s arrival and the one law student scheduled to meet with Whitaker cancelled the interview. (I wrote about my visit and the Solomon Amendment in the Weekly Standard column “JAGs not welcome.”)

For Whitaker to be granted access to recruit at Yale, the law school had waived its nondiscrimination policy excluding employers that discriminate against homosexuals. Yale waived its nondiscrimination policy in order to preserve the university’s annual $350 million in federal funding. At the time of my visit to Yale in 2002, then-law school Dean Anthony Kronman helpfully explained: “We would never put at risk the overwhelmingly large financial interests of the University in federal funding. We have a point of principle to defend, but we will not defend this–at the expense of programs vital to the University and the world at large.”

Dean Kronman’s articulation of the “money talks” impetus behind the Solomon Amendment made out a kind of Yale Doctrine: We take your money for the good of the world; our principles are expendable.

Hillsdale College takes a different view. It declines federal funding so that it retains the right to act independently of the strings attached. Bill McGurn explains that in this respect Hillsdale beats Harvard. Hillsdale nevertheless chooses to welcome military recruiters of its own volition. McGurn reports that Hillsdale beats Harvard at hospitality as well as adherence to principle:

The different reaction to federal funding also translates into different reactions to the uniform. Hillsdale’s decision means it’s free to tell the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines to go fly a kite. But that hasn’t happened. To the contrary, during my visit I found two Marine recruiters happily sitting at a table in the new student union. And they were upbeat about both the number (four for 2009 alone) and quality of Marine officers they were getting.

“Hillsdale is the only college where every interaction I’ve had with school personnel has been positive and encouraging,” says Capt. Elliott R. Peterson, one of those Marine recruiters. “Professors, deans and even the school president [Larry Arnn] have gone out of their way to ensure I am being accommodated. And yet, Hillsdale is the only school in my area that does not have to allow me on campus.”

McGurn also pays tribute to the seven graduting Harvard seniors who will be commissioned second lieutenants tomorrow. “On a campus where the military is officially unwelcome,” McGurn writes, “that [commissioning] ceremony offers an interesting perspective on what the modern academy teaches us about living by our principles.”.


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