Defense Department Denizens Coddle California College

Posted: Aug 01, 2007 10:00 AM
Defense Department Denizens Coddle California College

On April 5, 2005, the University of California at Santa Cruz (UCSC) hosted a job fair for students seeking to learn about post-graduate employment opportunities. Along with representatives of 60 companies such as Broadcom, Infineon, and American Express were Army, Navy, and Marine Corps recruiters. Within moments, however, 100 student protesters infiltrated the job fair, surrounded the recruiters’ tables, linked arms to deny access to those tables, and chanted anti-military rants. Meanwhile, another 200 student protesters remained outside the building, barricading the entrances and cheering in support of their compatriots. After what one reporter called “an hour of chaos and tension,” during which the job fair came to a halt, UCSC officials asked the military recruiters to leave and advised protesters that they could distribute their anti-military literature.

On April 11, 2006, UCSC again hosted a job fair. Once again, recruiters from the Army and National Guard joined with other prospective employers; however, this time the U.S. Armed Forces representatives were placed in a separate room, apart from the other job fair participants, a room guarded by a dozen campus police. It was not enough; a riot broke out as protestors, which, according to one press report, included students and faculty, blocked the entrances and demanded that the recruiters be ejected from campus. Police responded as the violence escalated: one arrest was made and an automobile belonging to a recruiter was damaged. As in the previous year, the recruiters were asked to leave the campus, which they did to the regret of at least one student: "It's frustrating. I'm not a Republican. I'm not a conservative. I don't support the war. It's about finding a career."

There was one difference: the riot at UCSC made national news. Bill O’Reilly of Fox News opened his show the next evening with footage of the disturbing images from California, which included darkly clad, mask-wearing, noisy protesters marching shoulder-to-shoulder across the UCSC campus. Much of O’Reilly’s discussion with his guests concerned the Solomon Amendment, which requires colleges and universities, on pain of losing federal funds, to grant military recruiters the same access allowed other prospective employers. Just one month earlier, the U.S. Supreme Court, in an 8-0 ruling, had upheld the constitutionality of the federal law, to which various unidentified law schools and professors had objected. One of O’Reilly’s guests, noting the unanimous ruling, stated that he had urged Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld to withhold the $80 million that UCSC receives annually.

Nonetheless, the Department of Defense took no action regarding the inability of its recruiters to appear at UCSC job fairs. Then, in January 2007, the UCSC cancelled a job fair scheduled for later that month given safety concerns related to its expectation of the type of protest that took place in 2006. Finally, on April 25, 2007, UCSC “anti-war activists held a celebratory rally” after learning that Army and Marine Corps recruiters had pulled out of the April job fair, just one day after UCSC officials had warned them that as many as 400 students would protest their presence on campus. While one student had the courage to speak out against the inability of military recruiters to appear on campus ("There's actually quite a few moderate and conservative students on this campus who are likely to be in the closet for fear of reprisal."), there was no comment from the Defense Department.

There will be one now. On July 25, 2007, Young America’s Foundation (YAF), a non-profit, organization committed to ensuring that young Americans understand and are inspired by the ideas of individual freedom, a strong national defense, free enterprise, and traditional values and one of the nation’s most active groups on America’s college campuses, sued Secretary Robert M. Gates. YAF’s demand is simple: declare UCSC in violation of the Solomon Amendment and withhold the federal funds that it would otherwise receive until military recruiters can appear safely at its job fairs.