Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Recruiting Ban Misunderstanding

Yesterday, the Supreme Court heard arguments from several universities that had filed a lawsuit against the Department of Defense over on-campus recruiting.

In a nutshell, several colleges and universities began restricting United States Armed Forces recruiters' access to on-campus populations by claiming that the military's policy of "don't ask, don't tell" was prejudicial and unethical under most universities' hiring guidelines. (Let us put aside, for the moment, that universities are preventing military recruitment in a time of war, which could be construed by some as being unethical. But I digress.) Congress responded legislatively, and in essence told universities, via what has been dubbed the Solomon Amendment, that they were free to deny military recruiters campus access but would risk subsequent, across-the-board loss of federal funding ("across-the-board" meaning that an entire university could have all of its funding stripped, even if only one school within that university blocked on-campus recruiting).

There are so many facets to this story, but the one that I find most maddening is that the MSM still show their complete misunderstanding of the First Amendment when they claim that de-funding of colleges and universities that block military recruitment would restrict or prohibit free speech. Indeed, the MSM's total failure to grasp this issue seems to resonate with a general population that is equally ignorant on this and other constitutional issues.

Simply stated: No, no, no, no, no. A person's (or an institution's) right to free speech is not infringed because there are consequences for that speech. People have a right to march and protest with signs in a public park, but they don't have the right to have the government buy them the oak tag and markers with which to make their signs. People have a right to voice their opinions on this topic or that, but they don't have the right to have those comments not trigger a reaction among others.

When it comes to institutions and funding, the juxtaposition is no different. Universities have the right (as is the case here) to prohibit military recruiters from coming on-campus and recruiting amongst the respective student populations, for whatever reasons they choose, but they do not -- do not -- have a right to still receive government funding while blocking governmental objectives. To find otherwise is to misunderstand both the purpose, nature, and structure of the First Amendment.

There are consequences for everything we do in life, including speaking our minds. Universities have to adjust to the fact that they play by the same "either/or" rules that individual citizens do. And they had better adjust quickly to this reality, because it sounds as if the Court is not going to go their way, thankfully. (Chalk one up for the Roberts Court.)


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