EXCLUSIVE: Harvard Law military recruitment not diminished by Kagan's tenure

Right-wing media figures have perpetuated the falsehood that Elena Kagan banned military recruiters from Harvard Law School during her tenure as dean. Not only did students have access to military recruiters throughout Kagan's tenure, Media Matters for America has learned that military recruitment did not drop as a result of Kagan's actions.

Right-wing media push false claim that Kagan “kick[ed] military recruiters” off campus

As Media Matters has noted, right-wing media figures have stubbornly latched on to the falsehood that Kagan “banned military recruiters” from campus while she was dean of Harvard Law School. Examples include the New York Post, Glenn Reynolds, Sean Hannity, Bill Kristol, Gateway Pundit, and Erick Erickson.

Harvard Law data: Military recruitment not diminished by Kagan's tenure

Harvard students had access to military recruiters during Kagan's 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. Kagan became dean of Harvard Law in June 2003. In accordance with Harvard's pre-existing nondiscrimination policy, she barred the school's Office of Career Services (OCS) from working with military recruiters for the spring 2005 semester after the U.S Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit ruled that law schools could legally do so. During that one semester, students still had access to military recruiters via the Harvard Law School Veterans Association. During the fall 2005 semester, after the Bush administration threatened to revoke Harvard's federal funding, Kagan once again granted military recruiters access to OCS.

Harvard's data shows Kagan's actions did not adversely impact military recruitment. The notion that military recruitment was adversely affected by Kagan's actions is contradicted by data Media Matters obtained from Harvard Law School's public information officer. The prohibition on Harvard Law's OCS working with military recruiters existed during the spring 2005 semester, meaning that it could only have affected the classes of 2005, 2006, and 2007. However, the number of graduates from each of those classes who entered the military was equal to or greater than the number who entered the military from any of Harvard's previous five classes.

Number of Harvard Law School graduates who entered the military, by graduating class:

2000 -- 0
2001 -- 3
2002 -- 2
2003 -- 2
2004 -- 3
2005 -- 5
2006 -- 3
2007 -- 3
2008 -- 2
2009 -- 2

Former Harvard Law School Dean: "[T]he practical effect on recruiting logistics was minimal." In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, former Harvard Law School Dean Robert Clark wrote (emphasis added):

As dean, Ms. Kagan basically followed a strategy toward military recruiting that was already in place. Here, some background may be helpful: Since 1979, the law school has had a policy requiring all employers who wish to use the assistance of the School's Office of Career Services (OCS) to schedule interviews and recruit students to sign a statement that they do not discriminate on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, and so on.

For years, the U.S. military, because of its “don't ask, don't tell” policy, was not able to sign such a statement and so did not use OCS. It did, however, regularly recruit on campus because it was invited to do so by an official student organization, the Harvard Law School Veterans Association.

The symbolic effect of this special treatment of military recruiters was important, but the practical effect on recruiting logistics was minimal.


In November 2004, however, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals found that the Solomon Amendment infringed improperly on law schools' First Amendment freedoms. So Ms. Kagan returned the school to its pre-2002 practice of not allowing the military to use OCS, but allowing them to recruit via the student group.

Yet this reversion only lasted a semester because the Department of Defense again threatened to cut off federal funding to all of Harvard, and because the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the Third Circuit's decision. Once again, military recruiters were allowed to use OCS, even as the dean and most of the faculty and student body voiced opposition to “don't ask, don't tell.”