Part 1: Do Veterans need Protections on College Campuses?


Discrimination against Veterans on some college campuses.

Veterans Today has decided to do a series on Veterans and College, because we believe that a higher percentage of Veterans either were already pursuing college degrees when their National Guard units were mobilized for the liberation, invasion, or occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan [depending on how one views the wars] or desire to seek access to college in response to the new Post 911 GI Bill. In fact, educational assistance has been the primary recruiting tool (carrot) used by the Army National Guard to attract recruits even before 911 or the wars began.

The first kickoff article we did on this was College Educators for Veterans Higher Education (CEVHE) Formed

Though we may not agree with all premises or findings of this research to make the case that young Veterans seeking a college education today need protection  from discrimination on college campuses. We don’t even have a handle on just how widespread the situations articulated by researchers and Veterans are on college campuses, or how valid they are. However, the need for a balanced debate and approach is essential in academia.

At this point we understand there is a listing of Veteran friendly colleges, a listing of Veteran hositle colleges, and a listing of universities and colleges that present a facade of being Vet friendly but are more interested in getting $$$ from the Post 911 GI Bill that only veterans can bring on campus.

The problem we at Veterans Today have with the current approach is that it is based on (1) a belief that those who do not support the wars DO NOT support the troops, (2) the troops need legal and socio-cultural protections from professors and students who question or do not support their (our troops) wars, and (3) exactly who decides which college campuses are hostile or friendly to America’s Veterans, and who decides which college goes on which listing? (4) Lastly, it may be advisable for the Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Education, and Department of Justice put their heads together on dealing with the issues beyond simply providing $$$ for Vets to got to college.

The Warrior Class

I do know beyond a doubt that our Armed Forces and the American Veterans that come from it today are a WARRIOR CLASS. I also note that the research and complaints expressed by Veterans are politically motivated and lack balanced coverage by researchers on the views of ALL Veterans seeking higher education. One only needs look at those Ivy League and upper crust elite colleges that ban ROTC for whatever reason to note just how much of a Warrior Class we’ve become. If we were to do a survey on which senior officers who run the military services those who graduated from Ivy League or elitist colleges would pale in comparison to those who were accessed from ROTC or the Military Academies.

However, since in our society the Warrior Class is not, and should never be, the ruling class as were the Japanese Samurai of that nation’s several hundred years feudal period, should WE warriors be socially, economically, culturally, politically, or legally be a protected minority or class same as a racial, ethnic, or gender minority? Most of the discussion for this notes the experience of Vietnam Veterans that led many to be considered needing protections under Affirmative Action as a minority class.

I also know for a fact that when I came home from the Vietnam War and filled out applications for employment with the federal government that on the Equal Opportunity or Affirmative Action forms Vietnam Veterans were listed as a group or class of people requiring preference and legal protections in hiring. These so-called employment protections for us Veterans were still present when I filled such forms out again in 1994 and 2000 for two separate government jobs I was hired for.

I am not sure if such affirmative action  programs intended to try to make Veterans a protected minority, or classification, of people still exists in the federal government hiring process or not, but I do know from experience and observation that they have not been universally effective except possibly in two federal agencies (the VA and Dod).

The below presentation by Rear Admiral John E. Gordon, JAGC, USN (Ret.) former Judge Advocate General of the U.S. Navy and an effort by some college professors who happen to be military Veterans contend that due to discrimination and other Veterans Issues on some college campuses American Veterans need legal and civil rights protections.

I will separate my concerns and highlight those areas where I agree or see room for improvement (constuctive criticism) in the points the Admiral raises.

I find common cause in some of his views more so because of the implications on other areas in which Veterans might be discriminated by our society due to both apathy or half hearted and insincere support for our troops and Veterans as reflected by Vets and Wars being off the political radar this election cycle. As mentioned employment of Veterans comes to mind.

The views and comments are those of myself only and may not necessarily reflect the overall views of other editors or writers on Veterans Today, because I’m comparing what is said below to my own experience going to college before the end of the Vietnam War. Keep in mind that the views and experience of a Admiral or General towards war in general and Veterans experience accessing college will of course be different than those of a Major, and the views of a Major will certainly be different than those of a Private, Specialist 4, or Sergeants that are the real boots on the ground.

What I am finding in the research and materials available today is that there tends to be too much Vietnam Era bias in what is written and not enough focus on what ALL VETERANS experience when they return to transition into both of society and academia.

Not being a college professor, or even instructor, my views are those of a layman who once ran an education program for the U.S. Air Force, last attended college  in 2000, and my wife attending college in 2010 and still is.

My Pro-Peace, or anti-Iraq/Afghanistan War views, in addition to my Vietnam War experience also influence my take on how Vets are discriminated against and hopefully adds something to the ongoing discussion that I strongly believe is missing – balance views that lead to balanced, fair, and impartial research.

Thus, I may not totally agree with everything a Flag Officer is coming up with, but I disagree respectfully for that is the only way to reach balanced view points.

Robert L. Hanafin, Major, U.S. Air Force-Retired, GS-14, U.S. Civil Service-Retired, Veterans Today News Network

Protected Class Status and Veterans

Presented by Admiral Gordon at the Conference for Improving the College Education of Veterans At the Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges, Washington, D.C. October 22, 2009

I will only address those aspects of Admiral Gordon’s presentation that I find agreement or concerns with, for I have not asked his permission to reprint his entire paper. However, I will provide a link to where it can be found in entirity.

“It is either unlawful or against higher educational policy to discriminate against college students on the basis of sex, race, religion or sexual orientation. There is some apparent evidence that US military veterans students are subject to various discrimination by our higher education institutions.” Rear Admiral John E. Gordon, JAGC, USN (Ret.) former Judge Advocate General of the U.S. Navy

We at Veterans Today find that this will of course depend on college or university and in most cases based on anti-war, anti-military, or pro-war, pro-military-industrial complex view points and attitudes at a college or university.

For example the last college my wife and I attended and currently attend, Wright-State University not far from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and with close ties to the base, and the defense industry, has this official policy that could potentially be adopted by all higher education institutions as part of their affirmative action programs for faculaty, staff, and students.

Wright State University is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer. It is the university’s policy to prohibit discrimination and provide equal opportunity to all employees and applicants for employment, without regard to their race, sex (including gender identity/expression), color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, disability, veteran status, military or sexual orientation.

We are assuming that the same non-discrimination policy applies to students as it does faculty and staff at Wright-State in Ohio. In contrast, let’s take a look at a campus that has a reputation for being anti-military and anti-war the University of California, Berkeley. I’m not picking on Berkeley, I could have used Kent State in Ohio as an example of a campus with a reputation that remains symbolic of the Vietnam anti-war movement.

BTW, UC Berkeley uses the Nondiscrimination policies of the University of California state wide system.

Nondiscrimination Policy Statement – Student-related matters

The University of California, in accordance with applicable federal and state law and University policy, prohibits discrimination, including harassment, on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, age, medical condition (cancer-related), ancestry, marital status, citizenship, sexual orientation, or status as a Vietnam-era veteran or special disabled veteran. This nondiscrimination policy covers admission, access, and treatment in University programs and activities.

Inquiries may be directed as follows: Sex discrimination and sexual harassment: Nancy Chu, Title IX Compliance Officer, (510) 643-7895; Disability discrimination and access: Sarah Hawthorne, A.D.A./504 Compliance Officer, (510) 642-2795. Other inquiries concerns regarding discrimination or harassment may be directed to the Campus Climate and Compliance Office, 200 California Hall, #1500, (510) 643-7985.

Readers will note that whereas Wright-State in Ohio has a broader definition of non-discrimination against Veterans based on disability, veteran status, or military affiliation per se (meaning ROTC I believe), UC-Berkeley, CA has a more narrow definition of discrimination against Veterans of only status as a Vietnam-era veteran or special disabled veteran. Though the special disabled veterans category (or class if you wish) may embrace young Veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan War there is nothing in the official policy at any University of California campus that embraces protections for younger Veterans of the 21st Century wars.

If this is the official policy at other colleges than (1) some movement towards standardization needs to be made, and (2) what is glaringly missing becomes clear as one studies the work being done on discrimination against Veterans Today (no pun intended) and that is ‘discrimination based on political views or affiliations’ needs to be included in any Non-Discrimination policy developed by a college or university.

To me this aspect could be the most important to finding a scale of balance in protections for Veterans in all roles within our society to include transition from the military to our society, transition from society into, or back onto college campuses, and lastly transition back into our society and workforce after college (despite an economic meltdown).

However, as readers shall see focusing protections against discrimination based solely on a faculty, staff, or students political views will not be balanced or fair IF such protections favor one view (left, moderate, or right-wing) over another.

“This presentation makes the case that veterans should receive protected class status and discusses how this can be achieved. [There are] various forms of discrimination that a veteran of a U.S. Military Service may be exposed to as a student or a potential student at an institution of higher learning. There is a substantial body of law regarding discrimination in job hiring practices and in processes and standards for admission to colleges and universities, but very little if any applies to overt, subtle or perceived discrimination based on an individual’s status as a veteran.”

Meaning that Admiral Gordon recognizes that some forms of discrimination against Veterans are already covered by laws such as in job hiring practices (Veterans preference for example which most of our readers know has been a joke since the Vietnam War with only two federal government agencies even half ass respecting them the VA and DoD) and in an institutions processes and standards for admission to colleges and universities, thus he leaps over them.

“A great deal of this discrimination [on campus] resulted from the severe emotion that this country experienced during the Vietnam War. Prior to that event, military service was honored by our schools and was often considered an advantage. Veterans of that war [WWII] were clearly mainstream and universally revered and respected.”

Good point, in fact there was hardly no resistence to the WWII draft (conscription), because the nation as a whole was committed to the war effort. The degree of national shared commitment and sacrifice today is worse than it was during Vietnam. Today, apathy towards our military, veterans, and the wars are the rule of the day.

What the Admiral fails to point out, and on-going research confirms, is that initially the WWII GI Bill, or at least the educational aspects of it, were not welcome on most college campuses for ‘elitist’ socio-cultural, economic and political reasons. However, it was the economic incentive that drove most colleges to give Vets a go. In most cases Veterans of WWII would prove to be superior students than those elitist professors and students would ever dream of.

“But all that changed during the Vietnam War. The lack of popular support for the war itself spilled over to the people who served even though in most cases those who served were not volunteers but were conscripted. Being spit upon and being called “baby killers” became commonplace for people in uniform. This in turn put pressure on many universities to shut down their ROTC units and deny military recruiters access to students. It was only a natural evolution that the college culture took on some of those feelings, resulting in various forms of discrimination to those students who have served their country.”

The Admiral’s assessment above is knee deep in partisan conservative bias and not a balanced, impartial view, I believe his socio-political views and ‘his’ Vietnam War experience influences about every aspect of his life. Put another way in comparison just as the left-wing, liberal, or anti-war views of college professors during the Vietnam War influenced every aspect of their lives, so in turn did the conservative to ultra-conservative views and attitudes of especially those in the military officers corps influence most every aspect of their lives.

However, academic studies have shown a few misconceptions above or at least debatable conclusions. Let’s take each point the Admiral makes.

(1) The reason for the shift in attitudes on college campuses was opposition to THE DRAFT combined with a very unpopular war that tore the nation apart. THE DRAFT was the main driving force behind the initial anti-Vietnam War protests on college campuses and the war was an afterthought of student protests focus on the civil rights movement. In fact, it is fair to say that unlike the Pro-Peace movement today, the anti-Vietnam War movement was spearheaded by academia, college professors, and students upset about the draft. This incentive still has a profound impact today. In contrast, today the Pro-Peace movement is spearheaded by those with the most to lose and those who can relate to unpopular and extended wars – Veterans and Military Families.

(2)  The lack of popular support for the war itself spilled over to the people who served [the Sir No Sir anti-war movement within mostly the Army] even though in most cases those who served were not volunteers but were conscripted. This is a myth of Vietnam that even right-wing Veteran or revisionist Vietnam War researchers debate or try to debunk.Using B.G. Burkett’s book Stolen Valor as root source conservative Veterans claim that the “in most cases those who served were not volunteers but were conscripted [drafted]. See B.G. Burkett’s Stolen Valor, Liberal Myths of the Vietnam War, Part 3: Age, race and class [and the Draft], and Americans who served in Vietnam did so willingly, valiantly, and with honor. Point is that despite Admiral Gordon’s claims that in most cases those who served were not volunteers but were conscripted most conservative assessments reflect that as Burkett’s Stolen Valor points out “Americans who served in Vietnam did so willingly, valiantly, and with honor” and most were volunteers not draftees. I personally believe that a significant number of young men were drafted, and a significant number of those drafted were sent to Vietnam. One only need look at the photos and movies of Long Bin Prison to note the stokade (prison) was filled with prodominantly black troops that either failed to adapt or refused to fight a white man’s war against another minority group – Asian.

“Being spit upon and being called “baby killers” became commonplace for people in uniform. This in turn put pressure on many universities to shut down their ROTC units and deny military recruiters access to students.”

I believe the above to be half truths or biased perceptions that are politically motivated and used in fact by Vietnam Era Veterans across the political spectrum. As reported in Newsweek and Slate back in 2007.

“The myth of the spat-upon Vietnam veteran refuses to die. Despite Dr. Jerry Lembcke’s debunking book from 1998, Spitting Image: Myth, Memory, and the Legacy of Vietnam, and [Slate reporter Jack Shafer’s] best efforts to publicize his work, the press continues to repeat the fables as fact.”

We at Veterans Today have yet to come across definitive evidence such as a police report or reliable media source from the Vietnam Era that affirms the urban myth of Veterans being spit upon in significant numbers to make an issue of it.

“One of the early vet-spit stories appears in First Blood, the 1982 film that was the first of the Rambo stories. John Rambo, played by Sylvester Stallone, claims to have been spat upon by protesters at the airport when he returned from Vietnam. “Protesting me. Spitting. Calling me baby killer,” Rambo says. “Who are they to protest me?”

Like other urban myths, the spit story gains power every time it’s repeated, and nobody challenges it. Repeated often enough, it finally sears itself into the minds of the writers and editors at Newsweek as fact.”

Could it be possible that a or a few Vietnam Veterans were spit upon? Frankly no more or less than the saliva let loose on anti-war protesters.  Since the end of the Vietnam War both the left and right-wing have tried to out do each other on the spit myth.

“In researching the book, Lembcke found no news accounts or even claims from the late 1960s or early 1970s of vets getting spat at. He did, however, uncover ample news stories about anti-war protesters receiving the saliva shower from anti-anti-war types. It’s possible that a Vietnam veteran was spat upon during the war years. Lembcke concedes as much because nobody can prove something never happened.”

3. [The Spit Upon Baby Killers attitude] in turn put pressure on many universities to shut down their ROTC units and deny military recruiters access to students. This is most likely the most accurate thing that Admiral Gordon said above. Although I was attending Air Force ROTC at the University of Maryland, College Park from 1974 to 1977, our campus was less than 30 minutes drive or by bus from the Anti-War Protests in DC that did not end until  the Fall of Saigon in 1975. In my experience in college and ROTC, we had a period of apathy similar to our entire society today toward anything military. However, the shutting down of ROTC units and denial of military recruiters access to a college campus depended on the institution and how committed the faculty and students were toward ending the Vietnam War or worse yet blaming us troops for participating in it.

In a lecture at Duke University on the pros and cons of the All-Volunteer Force in September 2010 (just over a month ago), Secretary of Defense Robert Gates mentioned this aspect of banning ROTC units mostly from Ivy League Colleges and Universities. Gates also mentioned that even if ROTC units were allowed back onto Ivy League campuses the problem would be getting children of the elite to voluntarily go into the military [regardless what their politcal views are]. I personally believe this part of Admiral Gordon’s concerns are legitimate though the root causes today may not be the same as during Vietnam.

However, the reasons stated by Kathy Roth-Douquet and Frank Schaeffer in their research and book AWOL: The Unexcused Absence of America’s Upper Classes from Military Service – and How it Hurts Our Country present a more comprehensive and broader look at why children of America’s elite do not serve in our All Volunteer Force and contribute to keeping ROTC units off Ivy League campuses. Unlike Admiral Gordon’s narrow focus zeroed in on lingering anti-Vietnam War attitudes on Ivy League and other campuses resisting militarism, the insight gained by Roth-Douquet and Schaeffer is socio-economic, and political in nature while the Admirals is purely politically motivated.

Roth-Douquet and Schaeffer attempt to answer the hard questions that remain hidden from the public eye even today in November 2010 because of the nation’s and our societies aversion to THE DRAFT based on moral and political grouns.

What happens to a country when its elite won’t serve in the military?

How did we change from a nation where military service was a duty of citizenship — akin to paying taxes or serving on a jury — to one where simply being asked to consider time in uniform is an infringement of civil rights?

Kathy Roth-Douquet and Frank Schaeffer trace this societal shift, arguing that the schism between America’s military and its opinion-making class threatens the nation’s welfare. That their stories are rare is a recent phenomenon. In 1956, 400 of Princeton’s 750 graduates served in uniform. By 2004, only nine members of the university’s graduating class entered the military. Harvard, Yale, Brown, Columbia and many other schools do not even allow ROTC on their campuses. The gulf is growing in Congress, too. In 1971, three-quarters of our representatives had military experience. Now, fewer than a third do, and that number drops with each passing year. Some citizens see no problem with this. We are indeed fortunate not to live in a militarized society, and our hyper-capable armed forces enjoy, at least superficially, broad support from the American people.

At Least Three Dangerous Consequences of a Civil-Military Divide

Roth-Douquet and Schaeffer argue convincingly that there are at least three dangerous consequences of a civil-military divide.

First, it hurts the nation’s ability to make sound military choices. Uniformed service is not a prerequisite for individual expertise in the conduct of war. Abraham Lincoln — arguably America’s greatest wartime president — never served in uniform (although he spent three months in an Illinois militia). In the aggregate, however, we benefit from having veterans in every corner of our decision-making apparatus: as presidential advisers, members of Congress and active citizens. Without them, our civilian leaders embody less and less of that wisdom forged in harm’s way, and the problem perpetuates itself: If young people don’t serve today, then we won’t have older veterans in leadership positions tomorrow.

Second, a schism between the military and the rest of us weakens the armed forces. Absent broad and deep ties throughout society, the military becomes “them” instead of “us.”

Roth-Douquet and Schaeffer fear that such a force “will be overused and underled and that support will run out fast for any project that becomes a political liability.”I personally believe this is the APATHY we see today between those who make the political decision in our society (the elite) and those who implement that policy (the middle and working class).

Consider that Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, unlike most political leaders today, both had children in uniform in the Second World War. Whether such personal connections actually affect policy is almost impossible to say, but common sense supports the authors’ assertion that “the grunt on the ground is best equipped, best trained, and best served when the opinion makers have a personal stake in his or her well-being.”

Third, the greatest problem with an isolated military, however, is even less tangible. “When those who benefit most from living in a country contribute the least to its defense and those who benefit least are asked to pay the ultimate price, something happens to the soul of that country,” write Roth-Douquet and Schaeffer

That argument makes for the most powerful reading in the book: “We are shortchanging a generation of smart, motivated Americans who have been prejudiced against service by parents and teachers. Their parents may think they are protecting their children. Their teachers may think they are enlightening them. But perhaps what these young people are being protected from is maturity, selflessness, and the kind of ownership of their country that can give it a better future.” Above was paraphrased from a book review at FRANKSCHAFFER.COM

As readers will note, most of the concerns I raise about Admiral Gordon’s presentation focus on what I perceive to be a lack of political balance making the rationale for providing protections to young Veterans Today, unbalanced, unfair, incomplete, and partisan politically motivated and biased towards conservative to right-wing Veterans only.

As my graphic above accurately shows, the Admirals assessment intentionally leaves out protections for Veterans who question their role in their war(s) then oppose them becoming part of the Pro-Peace or anti-war movement. In fact, the 21st century U.S. anti-war movement is spear headed by Veterans and Military Families NOT academia.

There is also no comparison of the number of professors or non-Veteran students hitting the streets to protest war during Vietnam and the Global War on Terror. Today most of academia and college students are AWOL from the PEACE movement, for they do not have Skin in the Game or potentially have skin in the game via THE DRAFT!

I do not argue that we do not need legal protections for our Veterans, for I certainly believe that we do. However, what is missing is the essential ingredient to any balanced and unbiased research or protections for that matter.

Such research must consider and respect various political view points to be successful. It will be hard but not impossible to reach conclusions based on considering all political views given the degree of polarization in our nation today. Does that mean we need not try?

Part Two will continue with Admiral Gordon’s Presentation of why he feels Veterans need protections from discrimination on hostile veteran college campuses.

Author Details
Readers are more than welcome to use the articles I’ve posted on Veterans Today, I’ve had to take a break from VT as Veterans Issues and Peace Activism Editor and staff writer due to personal medical reasons in our military family that take away too much time needed to properly express future stories or respond to readers in a timely manner. My association with VT since its founding in 2004 has been a very rewarding experience for me. Retired from both the Air Force and Civil Service. Went in the regular Army at 17 during Vietnam (1968), stayed in the Army Reserve to complete my eight year commitment in 1976. Served in Air Defense Artillery, and a Mechanized Infantry Division (4MID) at Fort Carson, Co. Used the GI Bill to go to college, worked full time at the VA, and non-scholarship Air Force 2-Year ROTC program for prior service military. Commissioned in the Air Force in 1977. Served as a Military Intelligence Officer from 1977 to 1994. Upon retirement I entered retail drugstore management training with Safeway Drugs Stores in California. Retail Sales Management was not my cup of tea, so I applied my former U.S. Civil Service status with the VA to get my foot in the door at the Justice Department, and later Department of the Navy retiring with disability from the Civil Service in 2000. I’ve been with Veterans Today since the site originated. I’m now on the Editorial Board. I was also on the Editorial Board of Our Troops News Ladder another progressive leaning Veterans and Military Family news clearing house. I remain married for over 45 years. I am both a Vietnam Era and Gulf War Veteran. I served on Okinawa and Fort Carson, Colorado during Vietnam and in the Office of the Air Force Inspector General at Norton AFB, CA during Desert Storm. I retired from the Air Force in 1994 having worked on the Air Staff and Defense Intelligence Agency at the Pentagon.
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