Column: Students need to speak up

In October 2003, the faculty of the GW Law School voted to join the Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights. You may very well ask, ‘Why does that matter? I mean, doesn’t the University join all kinds of things that I never even hear about? Why should I care?’

You should care. Why? Because it’s your university and you have a stake in what it stands for. You should care about FAIR.

The decision to join FAIR is not without its share of controversy. It isn’t just any organization. In fact, FAIR is fighting against the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. In essence, it is fighting perceived discrimination in the military, it is fighting for gay rights, and it is fighting to uphold the University’s anti-discrimination policy. It is controversial, and our University is in the fight. That’s why you should care.

In 1994, Congress adopted a provision known as the Solomon Amendment that requires schools to provide the military with full access to students for recruitment purposes or risk termination of certain federal funds.

The reason for the Solomon Amendment was that certain law schools had begun to prohibit the military from recruiting their students because of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy regarding sexual orientation. The logic of the law schools makes pretty good sense; our school’s anti-discrimination policy doesn’t allow discrimination of any kind, yet the military discriminates against people of a certain sexual orientation. That violates our policy.

Under the terms of the Solomon Amendment, refusal by any law school to permit military recruiters to participate in its career services programs would make the entire University ineligible to receive certain federal funds, including research grants and scholarships. Under these terms, universities were forced to cave in and once again allow military recruiters on campus.

GW has chosen to fight this battle. Don’t worry, this court battle won’t cost you your Pell Grant – military recruiters are still allowed to visit GW. However, our university is sending a message.

In a press release issued shortly after the decision to join FAIR, the law school summarized the reasoning of this constitutional challenge.

“By joining the FAIR, The George Washington University Law School faculty seeks the freedom to uphold its strongly held views against all forms of discrimination based on sexual orientation without incurring the significant financial hardship that loss of federal funding would create for both the University and its students,” the statement read.

Personally, I agree with the University’s decision to join FAIR. I hope the case is successful and the amendment is ruled unconstitutional. But this isn’t my immediate concern. This is about a student voice. This is about the importance of our input when the University takes a stand on an issue like this.

We all have a vested interest in the value of this institution’s name. Each of us hopes that as potential employers read our resumes they nod approvingly when they review our educational credentials. Simply because we are here, we are invested in the GW image.

When our university attaches its name to any project or idea – particularly a controversial one like the Solomon Amendment – it impacts us. I want our faculty and administration to know that students are invested in controversial decisions and are willing to share their opinions about them. Without that commitment, we will lose our ability to set the direction of our school and guide its progress.

By discussing the decision to join FAIR, we can tackle an opportunity to show we are invested in this school and do care. I urge each of you to research the issue and become educated about it because your university has chosen to make it an issue for you.

Here is my challenge: take this opportunity to show that you care. The Student Bar Association and Student Association are holding a forum about the issue Tuesday, Jan. 20, from 5 to 6 p.m. in room L202 in the Law School building (18th and H streets). Agree or disagree, but discuss, be heard – that is the most important thing.

Remember, every action taken by GW is a reflection on you. Take the opportunity to be sure that reflection is true. You need to care.

-The writer is a first-year law student and a Student Association senator.

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