A CNN/Opinion Research poll question falsely claimed that as Harvard Law Dean, Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan “barred military recruiters from campus.” In fact, Kagan did not bar military recruiters from campus, and Harvard Law students had access to military recruiters during her entire tenure as dean.
CNN poll falsely claimed Kagan “barred military recruiters from campus”
From a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll, conducted May 21-23:
Kagan did not bar military recruiters from campus
Kagan consistently followed the law, and Harvard students had access to military recruiters during her entire tenure as dean. Throughout Kagan's tenure as dean, Harvard law students had access to military recruiters -- either through Harvard's Office of Career Services or through the Harvard Law School Veterans Association. Moreover, Kagan consistently followed existing law regarding access to military recruiters. Kagan briefly restricted (but did not eliminate) access to recruiters only after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit struck down the Solomon Amendment, which required law schools to grant equal access to military recruiters or lose federal funding. AsThe New York Times explained in a May 6 article:
[Kagan's] management of the recruiting dispute shows her to have been, above all, a pragmatist, asserting her principles but all the while following the law, so that Harvard never lost its financing.
[E]ven when she ... briefly barred the military from using the law school's main recruitment office, she continued a policy of allowing the military recruiters access to students.
Kagan allowed military recruiters access to Harvard Law School's Office of Career Services. In the 1980s and 1990s, based on its anti-discrimination policy, Harvard Law School refused to allow military recruiters to use the school's Office of Career Services (OCS) because of the military's discriminatory “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” policy. In 2002, after the Bush administration threatened federal funding at Harvard, Kagan's predecessor as dean created an exception to Harvard's anti-discrimination policy and allowed military recruiters access to OCS. When Kagan became dean in 2003, she continued to allow military recruiters access to OCS.
After an appellate court -- including a Reagan appointee -- ruled Solomon Amendment unconstitutional, Kagan prohibited Harvard's career office from working with recruiters for one semester. In 2004, a three-judge panel of the 3rd Circuit held 2-1 in FAIR v. Rumsfeld that the Solomon Amendment violated First Amendment free-speech rights: “The Solomon Amendment requires law schools to express a message that is incompatible with their educational objectives, and no compelling governmental interest has been shown to deny this freedom.” Judge Walter Stapleton, a Reagan appointee, joined the majority opinion in the case. Following the 3rd Circuit's ruling, Kagan revoked the military's exemption from Harvard's non-discrimination policy and reinstated the restrictions against military recruitment through OCS for one semester in 2005. After the Bush administration threatened to revoke Harvard's federal funding, Kagan once again granted military recruiters access to OCS.
During that one semester, students still had access to military recruiters via the Harvard Law School Veterans Association. The New York Times noted on May 6 that “even when [Kagan] ... briefly barred the military from using the law school's main recruitment office, she continued a policy of allowing the military recruiters access to students.” As Kagan explained in a September 2005 letter to her colleagues:
The Law School's anti-discrimination policy, adopted in 1979, provides that any employer that uses the services of OCS to recruit at the school must sign a statement indicating that that it does not discriminate on various bases, including sexual orientation. As a result of this policy, the military was barred for many years from using the services of OCS. The military retained full access to our students (and vice versa) through the good offices of the Harvard Law School Veterans Association, which essentially took the place of OCS in enabling interviews to occur.
I reinstated the application of our anti-discrimination policy to the military (after appropriate consultation with University officials) in the wake of the Third Circuit's decision; as a result, the military did not receive OCS assistance during our spring 2005 recruiting season.
Kagan joined 39 other Harvard Law professors in arguing that the military was misinterpreting the Solomon Amendment. Kagan joined a Supreme Court brief filed on behalf of 40 Harvard law professors. The brief argued that the government's interpretation that the Solomon Amendment required schools to provide full access to military recruiters was incorrect. The brief argued that the Solomon Amendment did not require schools to provide special access to military recruiters. Thus, because Harvard applied the same anti-discrimination policy to the military that it applied to all employers, the brief argued that Harvard was not in violation of the Solomon Amendment. In 2006, the Supreme Court disagreed with Kagan's argument as well as the 3rd Circuit's First Amendment ruling and reversed the 3rd Circuit's decision.
Kagan pledged to defend Solomon Amendment as solicitor general despite her personal views. In a written statement during her confirmation process for solicitor general, Kagan wrote:
As I stated at my confirmation hearing, I know well the facts and issues involved in Rumsfeld v. FAIR, 547 U.S. 47 (2006), and I feel confident in saying that had I been Solicitor General at the time that the 3rd Circuit held the Solomon Amendment unconstitutional, I would have sought certiorari in the Supreme Court, exactly as then-Solicitor General Paul Clement did.A fortiori, now that the Supreme Court has upheld the Solomon Amendment, if confirmed I would vigorously defend it against constitutional challenge. I would not recuse myself from participating in or personally arguing such a case because I would feel confident in my ability to supply such a defense given the responsibilities and role of the Solicitor General. I understand that role as representing the interests of the United States, not my personal views. I indeed think that I would enjoy, as well as be deeply honored by, the Solicitor General's position if I am fortunate enough to be confirmed. The advocate's role is frequently to put aside any interests or positions other than those of her clients. And as I hope I expressed at my confirmation hearing, I would take enormous pride in representing and advancing the interests of the United States as a client -- even if I would not myself have voted for every one of its statutes. [emphasis added]
Military veterans debunk claim that Kagan is anti-military
The Washington Post quoted Lt. Col. Robert Bracknell, who received a masters degree at Harvard Law while Kagan was dean saying, “I didn't think she demonstrated any bias by doing what the university required her to do.” The Post also reported Bracknell saying “I found her to be very . . . interested in what I had to say.” In addition, in 2009, three Iraq war veterans attending Harvard Law School wrote in a letter to the editor that Kagan has “created an environment that is highly supportive of students who have served in the military” and that "[u]nder her leadership, Harvard Law School has also gone out of its way to highlight our military service." The Harvard Law Record later reported on the veterans' letter, quoting Iraq veteran Geoff Orazem as saying, “Kagan has great respect for the military.”
Kagan has also repeatedly praised the military, veterans, and cadets.