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Military Presence at Career Forum Sparks Student Protests
Published on Monday, October 3, 2005 by the Harvard Crimson (Cambridge, Massachusetts)
Military Presence at Career Forum Sparks Student Protests
by Laura A. Moore
 

The presence of military recruiters at the 24th annual Career Forum on Friday attracted the attention of activists from across the political spectrum, with protesters standing outside the Gordon Track and Tennis Center while students and employers mingled inside.

Members of the Harvard Initiative for Peace and Justice (HIPJ) met in front of University Hall North at 11:00 a.m. on Friday to challenge the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which bars openly gay citizens from joining the military.

“The military is violating Harvard’s discrimination policy by not allowing gay people in the military. So technically they shouldn’t be allowed on campus,” said Samantha M. Tejada ’09, who watched the HIPJ protest in front of University Hall.

“But what I’ve heard is that the government will revoke funding towards Harvard if we don’t let them on,” Tejada added, referring to the 1996 Solomon Amendment that allows the Secretary of Defense to deny federal funding to institutions of higher learning if they prohibit or prevent the Reserve Officer Training Corps or military recruitment on campus.

But the presence of military recruiters sparked anti-war sentiments as well. Johnhenry R. “Hank” Gonzalez ’06, a HIPJ member, said he hoped their protest would have a more profound effect than simply getting the military recruiters out of Harvard.

“One specific thing I think we should get on the agenda, all over the country, is bringing the troops home now, and ending the war in Iraq,” he said.

Harvard’s Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, Transgender, and Supporters Alliance (BGLTSA) also protested the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy outside of the Gordon Track and Tennis Center, but did not directly take issue with the war in Iraq.

“We’re just here to support the queer community and to tell them that it’s not okay that we’re not allowed into their organization,” said Joshua D. Smith ’08, the political chair for the BGLTSA. “We don’t single out the military—we believe that all organizations that discriminate...should not be allowed on campus to recruit.”

But not all reactions to the military recruiters’ presence were adverse. The Harvard Republican Club (HRC) staged a counter-protest in response to HIPJ, meeting at University Hall South at 11:20 a.m.

“We hope to show that there are two sides to this argument,” said HRC spokesman Joshua M. Reilly ’08. “There are so many people walking through here and we don’t want people just to think that this is the only side of the issue that’s being held on campus.”

Associate Dean of the College Judith H. Kidd had warned HIPJ on Thursday that the rally would be an “unauthorized event,” since the group did not have a protest permit, and that Harvard University Police Department officers would be on the scene. But despite the commotion stirred up by the HIPJ and HRC activists as they walked from the Yard to the Gordon Track and Tennis Center, gathering people and chanting as they went, the protesters did not disrupt the usual flow of the Career Forum.

“That’s what we’re most concerned about,” said OCS Director William Wright-Swadel. “[If] the students can come in, learn what they need to learn, communicate what they need to communicate in a way that doesn’t disrupt the event, we’re perfectly content.”

Students that attended the Career Forum seemed unfazed by the presence of the protesters, who were not allowed inside the building.

“You know, everyone’s entitled to their opinion,” said Cambridge S. Ridley ’06. “If there were more [protesters] and if they were getting really violent, I’d be upset because this is an important moment for me in my career search.”

Students at the forum said that, although it was heavy on corporate career options, they were satisfied with the event.

“I’m interested in media entertainment,” said Ellen T. Yiadom ’06. “I kind of wish there was more as far as that was concerned.” But she added that OCS has “lots of resources...set up for me to go and look up information, and sort of do my own search.”

Sgt. Kale E. Webster, a U.S. Army recruiter at Friday’s event, said he was unable to make any official comments about the Army or their presence at the Career Forum, but said that about 15 to 20 students expressed interest in the Army.

Over 2,000 Harvard students and 140 employers attended the forum, according to Wright-Swadel.

Copyright © 2005, The Harvard Crimson Inc.

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