(CNSNews.com) - A conservative youth group has filed a lawsuit aimed at the University of California-Santa Cruz, arguing it should lose federal funding because it allowed military recruiters to be harassed and forced off campus by student protesters.
The Young America's Foundation (YAF) accused the school of violating the Solomon Amendment, which requires colleges to allow military recruiters access to their campuses to be eligible for federal aid.
If successful, the lawsuit -- filed against Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates to compel him to enforce the Solomon Amendment -- would deny UC-Santa Cruz $80 million in funds.
In 2005 and 2006, military personnel attended campus job fairs to provide information and to enlist students. Both times, the military recruiters were driven from the campus by angry protesters, which reportedly included both students and faculty.
In 2007, the military recruiters opted out of the job fair.
William Perry Pendley, president of the Mountain States Legal Foundation, told Cybercast News Service that the school consistently allowed the recruiters access to the campus, but he said the school took no appropriate action to deal with the protesters and enforce the law.
"There's certainly action that the university can take," Pendley said. "They can make it clear to students and faculty members that if they prevent military recruiters from appearing and if they interfere with the university's ability to comply with federal law, they'll be expelled."
According to the Solomon Amendment, a college is denied federal money if it prohibits or prevents "the Secretary of a military department ... from gaining access to campuses, or access to students (who are 17 years of age or older) on campuses, for purposes of military recruiting in a manner that is at least equal in quality and scope to the access to
campuses and to students that is provided to any other employer."
Because the other corporate representatives were allowed to stay on the Santa Cruz campus while the military recruiters were forced to leave, the university is in violation of the Solomon Amendment and should have funding pulled, said Pendley.
He compared this case to those of students who openly violated Title IX, which prohibits school athletics from discriminating on the basis of sex, and said that the outcome in such a case would be different.
"Students who don't comply with Title IX will be expelled. It's as simple as that," said Pendley.
Pendley had previously tried to bring the case to the attention of the Department of Defense, which is charged with enforcing the Solomon Amendment.
In 2006, he wrote a letter to former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, urging him to take action against the school, but Pendley never heard back from Rumsfeld, and the government declined to take any action.
Two volatile encounters
Military recruiters first experienced problems at a UC-Santa Cruz job fair in April 2005. Attended by 60 employers, the event was quickly disrupted by a throng of rowdy anti-war protesters who chanted, shouted, and banged on windows.
Protesters who infiltrated the fair reportedly surrounded the military recruiters' tables to prevent other students from viewing their literature. After an hour, the recruiters left the event.
A similar protest occurred at the 2006 job fair, and one person was arrested. A recruiter's car was reportedly vandalized. The recruiters again left the school, and they declined to attend the 2007 job fair.
The school responds
Despite the pending lawsuit, a UC-Santa Cruz spokesman said the school had done nothing wrong - that all rules and regulations had been applied and followed.
This "administration has consistently strived to uphold protection for everyone's First Amendment rights, including the right of students to discuss job prospects with all prospective employers at a career fair and the right of individuals or groups to hold a legal and nonviolent protest," Tim Stephens, a UC-Santa Cruz public relations officer, told Cybercast News Service.
"The campus has consistently complied with all requirements of the Solomon Amendment," said Stephens. And "standard campus judicial process was followed to investigate whether students violated the campus code of conduct and to take appropriate disciplinary action," he said.
The participation of faculty in the protest was investigated, said Stephens, but "the campus is not aware of any allegations of violations of the faculty code of conduct."
When asked to describe these judicial and investigative processes, he declined, saying that such procedures were confidential.
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