Recently, Capt. Fernandez of the U.S. Marine Corp handed out fliers alongside other organizations and business advertising in the UC Breezeway.
While this may seem like a regular occurrence, the presence of military recruiters on university campuses has caused a stir. The military’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy excludes gay, lesbian and transgender recruits who wish to serve openly.
Any university wishing to ban military recruiters because of their discriminatory recruitment practices would be denied funding under the Solomon Amendment.
Despite massive student protests at other universities, including “queer kiss-ins” where students publicly displayed same sex affection in front of military recruiters, Fernandez did not experience any complaints at the University of Miami.
Daniel Westbrook, director of the Whitten University Center, names student apathy toward the issue as the main reason UM has not actively pursued a ban on military recruiters on campus.
“I am aware that it has been made an issue on other campuses, but as for the University of Miami, it has never been brought up by anyone on either side of the issue,” Westbrook said. “If someone has a problem with it they need to express their concern. I will then pass it on to review by the administration.”
Elaine Ruda, member of OUTspoken, a coalition of activists who work to win the fight for equality of people of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities, explained that because they support the troops, they would not protest.
“We would not protest against recruiters because we are at war and it’s unproductive for the time period,” Ruda, a senior, said. “We don’t support the idea of ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell,’ but they especially need troops in Iraq right now and to protest would be pointless.”
Students also felt no need to protest and had few qualms about continuing to have military recruiters at the breezeway, despite the discriminatory nature of the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.
“I don’t want to join the military in the least bit. Homosexuals should be grateful they are not being recruited,” Abdullah Abdussalam, a junior, said.
“I think it’s really hard to fight bigotry on that level,” Cara Facer, a junior, said. “Since the military in general discriminates against gays, that can’t be the actual basis for not wanting them on campus.”
Without a formal complaint from students and with a Supreme Court ruling on the Solomon Amendment pending until June, the campus-wide anti-discrimination policy in the “Student’s Rights and Responsibilities” handbook remains in effect.
The policy states that the university does not discriminate against any individual on the basis of sexual orientation. However, it “does not intend by this commitment to require compliance with this policy by governmental or external organizations that associate with but are not controlled by the university.”
Ruda says that while it won’t protest, OUTspoken hopes the university will change its policy.
“The policy sends a message that we, the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students, aren’t as welcome,” she said.
Thus, the question remains, will military recruiters be banned from campus in the future?
“I guess in June, [the Supreme Court] will answer for us,” Westbrook said.
Cecille Lucero can be contacted at email@example.com.