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How Elena Kagan worked to limit military recruiting at Harvard

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Defense Department documents show that Kagan’s efforts to hinder military recruiting immediately attracted the attention of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, among other Pentagon officials. “What can we do about that?” Mr. Rumsfeld asked in a memo to his general counsel.

Even later, after the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Defense Department’s position, Pentagon officials worried that Kagan might encourage students to organize noisy protests to disrupt military recruiters on campus.

“We’re all searching for a way to limit the polarizing nature of [the opponents to military recruiting] who now rattle sabers over an intent to shout down the military,” one memo says. “Dean Kagan is a case in point … as she reportedly ‘encouraged students to demonstrate against the presence of recruiters … [and to] express their views clearly and forcefully.’ ”

Two controversial policies

At the heart of the military recruiting issue are two controversial policies. The US military has long discriminated against homosexuals, forcing anyone who openly acknowledges that they are gay or lesbian to leave the armed services. In protest of that policy, Harvard and many other universities have taken action to ban or limit the ability of the military to recruit on campus.

Harvard requires all potential recruiters to agree not to discriminate against its students based on sexual orientation. Those who agree to that policy are granted full access to the school’s office of career services. Those who don’t are denied access.

Concerned that such school policies might undermine military recruitment, Congress passed the Solomon Amendment in 1996. The law threatens the withdrawal of federal funding from any university that denies military recruiters access to students on campus that is equal with all other prospective employers.

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