The symbolic effect of this special treatment of military recruiters was important, but the practical effect on recruiting logistics was minimal. In 2002, however, the Air Force took a hard line with Harvard and argued that this pattern did not provide strictly equal access for military recruiters and thus violated the 1996 Solomon Amendment, which denies certain federal funds to an education institution that “prohibits or in effect prevent” military recruiting. It credibly threatened to bring an end to federal funding of all research at the university.
This penalty would not have hurt the law school, which has virtually no such funding. But it would have hurt other schools at Harvard, principally the medical school and the school of public health. It would have eliminated about 15% of the university’s operating budget.
After much deliberation with the president of Harvard and other university officials, we decided to make an exception for the military to the school’s nondiscrimination policy. At the same time, I, along with many faculty and students, publicly stated our opposition to the military’s policy, which we considered both unwise and unjust, even as we explicitly affirmed our profound gratitude to the military. Virtually all law schools affiliated with large universities did the same.