By Emily Gold Boutilier

A policy change at Amherst now allows the military to recruit on campus unconditionally.

The college announced in November that it would eliminate preconditions for military recruiters seeking access to students on campus, and also that it would sign formal agreements to ensure that Amherst students may participate in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps at UMass. “We do not wish to hold the college apart from those wanting to serve in the armed forces,” said President Anthony W. Marx in a statement announcing the policy change, “but rather to honor those who would defend our nation.”

Until the policy change, the college required that military recruiters who want to come to campus take part in public forums on the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which since 1993 has forbidden gays and lesbians from disclosing their sexual orientations while serving in the U.S. military. The change puts the college in line with a Supreme Court decision that institutions of higher education open their campuses to military recruiters.

Marx says that Amherst has a strong and ongoing concern about “don’t ask, don’t tell.” As he told the Daily Hampshire Gazette in November, “The college is opposed to discrimination against gays or anyone else. But I think we’re also concerned about not discriminating against those students who wish to serve in the military and the respect that decision deserves. Personally, I worry about a society that assumes that other people will fight for us.”

Marx says the college will continue to invite military representatives and others to take part in forums on “don’t ask, don’t tell” whenever military recruiters visit campus. In addition, Amherst will continue to sponsor other talks on military issues. In April, for example, retired U.S. Army Gen. Wesley Clark and Northwestern University military sociologist Charles Moskos are scheduled to debate the issue of reinstituting the draft.

The Career Center reports that it has now received a call from the U.S. Navy, which plans to recruit on campus in the spring. Until that request, it had been decades since any military recruiter had asked to visit.

 “We believe our new policy is consistent with the law,” Marx said in the November statement, “consistent with our policy opposing discrimination and consistent with our respect of students and alumni who choose to serve in the armed forces.”