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Hamline students vote to bar military recruiters from campus
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The resolution says the military's policy on gays and lesbians -- the "don't-ask-don't-tell" policy -- is discriminatory and clashes with the school's own policies encouraging diversity. (MPR Photo/Marisa Helms)
Hamline University students voted on Tuesday to ban military recruiters from campus. The vote was prompted by a recent circuit court ruling in Pennsylvania saying colleges could deny recruiters access to campus without fear of losing federal funding. University officials say if the circuit court ruling expands nationally, it will take the student's resolution under consideration. But, for now, Hamline's doors remain open to recruiters.

St. Paul, Minn. — Hamline undergraduates voted 80-to-15 in support of a resolution banning military recruiters. Voters included the 39 representatives of student government, and other students. Hamline allows any undergraduate student to vote on resolutions before the Student Congress.

The resolution says the military's policy on gays and lesbians -- the "don't-ask-don't-tell" policy -- is discriminatory and clashes with the school's own policies encouraging diversity.

Graham Lampa, 21, drafted the resolution. The student from Brainerd says the vote illustrates that the school upholds values of equality and anti-discrimination.

"I think that's a positive step towards showing the military and telling the military that we don't agree with their policy. And if more schools join up and keep on pushing this thing forward, then hopefully I think that Hamline will be seen as a pioneering school," he said.

But Junior Nathan Ohler of New Hampshire says the student vote embarrasses him.

"I think that it's basically a disgraceful resolution to begin with, and I don't feel it's appropriate. There's so many good things that stem from the military. In terms of, anybody, coming from a low economic class, can join the military and rise through the wages, rise through the ranks," he said.

The resolution was prompted by a recent ruling in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia. It says a university has a First Amendment right to deny military recruiters access to campus without the risk of losing federal funding.

It's unclear what effect the decision has on states outside the Third Circuit's immediate jurisdiction, which includes Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and the Virgin Islands.

The Hamline students sent their resolution to university administrators for action.

But Hamline has $35 million of federal funds at risk, and University Vice President Dan Loritz says the school won't be doing anything until the courts provide more clarity.

"It's a situation where we have the needs of all our students, in terms of those federal funds. And the federal government has a policy that says that if we don't conform to the Solomon Amendment, they would remove those funds which would be very difficult for our students," he said.

Loritz says the administration may consider the ban if the ruling takes wider jurisdiction.

While most military recruiting takes place in high schools, before students have decided on college, the military considers law schools and other professional schools excellent places to recruit officers.

Department of Defense spokesman Lt. Col. Joe Richard says the DOD will appeal the circuit court's ruling.

He says "don't ask, don't tell" is current law and can't be changed unless lawmakers move to do so. He says denying recruiters access to campus only penalizes students and their job prospects.

"The Department of Defense is following the law as prescribed by the U.S. Congress. So, therefore, any suggestion or notion that our policies are discriminatory, just flies in the face of the facts. That's why any effort to ban military recruiters puts your federal funds at risk. That's our argument. That's our contention," he said.

Hamline is the only school in Minnesota since the Third Circuit ruling where students have moved to bar military recruiters from campus.

There is precedent when it comes to enforcing school diversity policies. In 2001, Hamline dropped association with the Boy Scouts of America on the grounds that their policies against gay and lesbian people contradicted the University's own diversity policy.

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