WASHINGTON -- The entitlement mentality produces petulant insistence on an ever-higher ratio of rights to responsibilities. Unsurprisingly, this mentality flourishes on campuses, where tenured faculty and privileged students live entitled lives supported by the taxes and generosity of others. The mentality was on vivid display in the Supreme Court last Tuesday when an association of 36 law schools and faculties asserted an audacious entitlement.
Many schools bar military recruiters because the schools oppose the ``don't ask, don't tell'' policy that prevents openly gay people from serving in the military. The schools asked the court to declare unconstitutional, as a violation of the First Amendment protections of freedom of speech and association, the law that denies federal funds to any school that denies military recruiters the same access to students that any other employer enjoys.
Federal assistance to institutions of higher education was about $35 billion last year, so the schools flinch from the price tag on their gay rights principles, which in this case dovetail neatly with their anti-military prejudices. The schools cite the principle that government cannot condition receipt of a government benefit on the loss of a constitutional right. The government replies that Congress frequently makes the receipt of federal funds conditional on the recipient doing certain things to further a legitimate government interest, such as recruiting.
And the government denies that the law on recruiters' access abridges schools' rights of speech and association. The schools' lawyer argued that it does because the ``forced hosting'' of recruiters amounts to a ``crisis of conscience'' over compelled and subsidized speech. The schools say they are compelled to communicate a message of support for the military's policy regarding gays, and to subsidize the military's message of disapproval of gays. But last week Chief Justice John Roberts said that ``nobody'' infers an academic institution's support for the views and policies of every employer allowed to recruit on campus. And as Justice Sandra Day O'Connor noted, schools are free to communicate their moral and political stances constantly. Certainly schools are not bashful about doing so. But the court has held that ``students may not be regarded as closed-circuit recipients of only that which the (school) chooses to communicate.''