Law school president says Court missed opportunity in decision

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(Host) The president of Vermont Law School says he’s not surprised by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in support of campus recruitment efforts by the military.

But Geoffrey Shields says the court missed
an opportunity to examine the larger issue
of whether openly gay soldiers can serve in the military.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports:

(Zind) The suit challenged a law requiring colleges and universities that receive federal funds to allow military recruiters on campus.

In 2004, the Vermont Law School was told it would no longer receive several hundred thousand dollars annually in federal money because of a long-standing policy that prevents the military from talking with students on school property.

It’s one of three law schools in the country that bar armed forces recruiters, although other schools also joined the lawsuit.

The suit argued that having to host military recruiters in order to receive federal funds is a violation of the schools’ right to free speech, contending it prevents them from speaking out on behalf of people who are discriminated against based on sexual orientation. Under its don’t ask don’t tell policy the government bars people who are openly homosexual from the military.

In its unanimous decision, the Supreme Court disagreed, saying the presence of recruiters doesn’t prevent schools from expressing their opinions.

Vermont Law School President Geoffrey Shields says for him the case was really about fair and equal treatment of students. Shields says the school’s policy isn’t aimed specifically at the military.

(Shields) “It’s a policy saying that we require equal treatment of all of our students by any employer that comes to campus. We don’t let anybody come in and say they won’t recruit Jews. We won’t let anybody come in and say that they won’t recruit Muslims. They have to treat our students equally and give them equal access to jobs.”

(Zind) Shields says he wasn’t surprised by the court’s decision, but he was disappointed that the opinion didn’t refer to the military’s policy on homosexuals. He says the fact that no justice questioned the policy may be a sign of the times.

(Shields) “I think that the Supreme Court at a time when we weren’t engaged in military action abroad the way we are today, might have ventured further afield.”

(Zind) Shields says there will be no change in Vermont Law School’s policy as a result of the ruling. The school hasn’t allowed military recruiters on campus for twenty-five years.

The government’s ban on providing federal funds to the law school does not affect individual students who receive federal loans and grants.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.

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