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Conscientious objectors: Yale University sparks a protest when it joins the growing list of schools that are letting military recruiters back on campus. (Behind the Headlines).

Yale University is known as one of the gay-friendliest schools in the country, a reputation reinforced by its declaration October 1 that it would challenge the reemergence of military recruiters at its law school. Like many law schools, Yale's has barred military representatives from recruiting on campus for more than a decade because of the military's antigay policies. But this year, threatened with the loss of $350 million in federal funding for Yale, law school officials say they were forced to allow the recruiters back on campus.

But when they showed up October 4 they were met by a protest staged by nearly 200 students and faculty members. (Similar protests have recently been held at Harvard Law School and Georgetown University, where officials say they have also been forced to allow recruiters back on campus.)

The Advocate spoke to Matt Alsdorf, 28, of Yale Law School about the Yale protest.

What happened at the protest?

Students dressed in suits [and put on] camouflage gags to symbolize the fact that military recruiters are gagging the free speech of students.

The military policy doesn't say gay students can't interview. It says they won't be considered if they "tell" recruiters they're gay.

Yes. But we can only be considered if we keep silent or lie. That's an untenable position for students to be in.

Does the law school support your protest?

Dean Tony Kronman gave a speech on the importance of the school's nondiscrimination policy. He said anything that happens on campus should be open to all students.

Do many Yale graduates, gay or straight, ever really consider a career in the military?

Well, not many students signed up for interviews. But that is our point. The military is shooting itself in the foot with its policy, and not just with gay students. How many straight people want to serve in a workplace where gay people are not allowed? Here, at least, there are not many. It also doesn't help that the military is literally forcing its way into the interview program. They are not engendering a lot of goodwill.

Has the war on terrorism or the conflict with Iraq affected your protests?

The war can cut both ways. One of the things people are reading into the current situation is that the Bush administration is trying to use pro-war sentiment to steamroller schools into accepting military recruiters. The Solomon amendment [a U.S. law that denies some federal funds to educational institutions that "prohibit or in effect prevent" military recruiting] hasn't changed, but they are using the new scenario to enforce it now. The Department of Defense is trying to capitalize on that sentiment.

Do you think some people are afraid to participate because they'll be seen as unpatriotic?

The war is really not the issue here. A lot of protesters support the war on terrorism. We're trying to be clear that we are not antimilitary. What we are saying is that the DOD is restricting its pool of potential service men and women. The policy freezes out some of the best and brightest.

How has the campus reacted to all this?

The faculty here is never unanimous about anything. But the amazing thing is that it voted unanimously that we are already in compliance with the Solomon amendment. Here, at least, it is relatively universally understood the policy is ludicrous and counterproductive. Now we just have to convince the rest of the country.
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Author:Bull, Chris
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Date:Nov 12, 2002
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