When the Solomon Amendment, the law that requires universities to allow
military recruiters on campus, first passed in 1995, the
bill's co-sponsor Rep. Richard Pombo (R-CA) declared an intention to
"send a message over the wall of the ivory tower of higher
education." On December 6, the "ivory tower" will send a message back.
In court, the oral argument will be presented for FAIR v.
Rumsfeld, the Supreme Court case which will decide the fate of the
Solomon Amendment. On the street, thousands of students, teachers
and peace activists will participate in the National Day of
Counter-Recruitment, holding rallies and educational events in almost
every major city. The day of protest, organized by Campus Anti-War
Network (CAN) and endorsed by Cindy Sheehan, Howard Zinn and
Kathy Kelly, is expected to be the largest student counter-recruitment
action organized around the Iraq War to date.
"A military that is an unequal employer and that funnels people into an
immoral war should not be able to recruit on campus," said
Ian Chinich, a member of Rutgers Anti-War and an organizer of the
December 6 protest. "We hope that the public and the anti-war
movement realize that counter-recruitment is one of the most effective
strategies for fighting against the war and is also a moral
Yet the Solomon Amendment now curbs most counter-recruiting efforts:
schools that prohibit recruiters or do not provide them with
"equal access" to campus are denied all federal funding. In 2002, the
law was toughened, so that even if only one department of a
university-for example, its law school-bars recruiters from campus, all
federal funds are withheld, including critical money for
medical and psychological research that the nation depends on.
Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights (FAIR), a national
organization of law schools that is serving as the plaintiff in the
case against the Solomon Amendment, argues that the mandate to allow
recruiters on campus violates universities' constitutional
right to freedom of speech.
"Just as civil rights advocates have a First Amendment right to boycott
a racist business, law schools have a First Amendment right
to boycott discriminatory employers," said Joshua Rosencrantz, one of
FAIR's attorneys, who calls the Solomon legislation a
violation of schools' right to freedom from compelled speech. He also
cites a freedom of association violation: the Solomon
Amendment attempts to control the people and organizations with whom
universities ally themselves.
Though the parties challenging the Solomon Amendment in court oppose
recruiters mainly for their discriminatory policies, the
organizers of the December 6 day of protest also oppose them on
anti-war grounds. The Solomon Amendment makes the military's
messages of violence a mandatory part of students' college experience,
says Counter-Recruitment Day endorser Kathy Kelly, who
coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence in Chicago.
"It is foolish and dangerous to rule that U.S. education facilities
must instill military culture and the solutions pursued by the
U.S. military in every institution of higher learning," Kelly said.
Counter-Recruitment Day organizers also hold that military recruiters
use deceptive, manipulative strategies to convince students to
enlist. The recruitment drive is aimed primarily at lower-income
Americans, says Elizabeth Wrigley-Field, an NYU student and a head
organizer with CAN.
"Recruiters take advantage of the inequality and segregation of this
country, in which a whole segment of society is written off,
and hold up joining the military as a way out," Wrigley-Field said.
According to a recent CAN report, recruiters often lead students to
believe that joining the military will enable them to pay for a
college education. Yet only 15 percent of soldiers complete a college
degree, and less than 10 percent use Army funds to do so. In
terms of job training-another promise the military makes to new
recruits-an American Friends Service Committee report notes that
veterans earn 11 to 19 percent less than non-veterans with similar
"It's very sad to realize that young people graduate from colleges
loaded up with loans to repay and that one of the only means to
get assistance with education is to enlist in the military," Kelly
said. "How much wiser it would be if U.S. wealth and productivity
could be directed toward assisting young people, with no requirement to
join the military; to learn languages, learn skills
desperately needed in third world countries, and learn the basics of
Counter-recruitment, then, is not simply about getting recruiters out
of the schools: it's about presenting young people with
alternatives to enlisting. Many of the Counter-Recruitment Day actions
will involve direct protests staged at recruiting stations,
in which protestors will distribute information to potential recruits.
The Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors, an
endorser of the Dec. 6 protests and a key player in the
counter-recruitment movement, councils prospective recruits in the dangers
of military involvement, non-military ways to finance college and
alternative service learning opportunities.
In the past couple of months, the counter-recruitment movement has seen
a string of successes. Sixty percent of voters in San
Francisco approved a proposition last month to kick recruiters off
campuses and fund non-military scholarships. The first national
student-organized anti-recruitment day, Not Your Soldier Day of Action,
rocked 40 campuses on November 17. As the verdict on FAIR v.
Rumsfeld draws closer, activists are crossing their fingers for another
victory, hoping that if given the chance, schools will say
no to recruiters on campus.
"The majority is with us in opposing the war and military recruitment,"
Wrigley-Field said. "It's time to get that majority
organized to get recruiters out of our schools."
To find out about National Counter-Recruitment Day events near you, see
Maya Schenwar is a recent graduate from Swarthmore College and has
written for In These Times and Conscious Choice magazines, as
well as for Common Dreams. Her work has been syndicated on Alternet,
the Alternative Press Review, Chicago Indy Media and U-Wire.
She loves to sing, write stories, dance around the kitchen and think of
good names for bands she will never have.