Drop Down and Give Me Those Names! Should Army Recruiters Access Student Files?
As Watson Bridge descends into University Park, the sign comes into view. It is large, visible and clearly for students. The sign shows a select group of young, multicultural recruits staring solemnly into the distance, and the caption says, “There’s strong. And then there’s Army strong.” As I pass by the sign, I think, “There’s maimed, and then there’s Army maimed.” In the postmodern era of mindless, commercial advertisements for everything from bathrooms to ballrooms, overexposed and underpaid students are not buying the airbrushed images that the Army advertises. George Orwell would be proud.
In a move that should (but doesn’t) shock us, the Bush administration and the Department of Defense have decided that they have the right to run the government like the time-tested and U.S.-approved regimes of Augosto Pinochet, the Shah of Iran and good, old Suharto of Indonesia. The Department of Defense announced a new “get-tough” policy with colleges and universities that choose to keep students’ private information private. Under the rules that take effect on April 28, Defense officials said that they want the same access to student directories as other prospective employers. The Department of Defense “will honor only those student ‘opt-outs’ from the disclosure of directory information that are even-handedly applied to all prospective employers seeking information for recruiting purposes.”
Directories are important tools for Army recruitment because they include the names, birthdates, phone numbers and academic pursuits of college students, which can be used to identify the students with the knowledge and interests that are particularly useful to the military. The new policy also no longer lets schools ban military recruiters from working on campuses solely because they find that no students have expressed interest in joining the military. If other employers are invited, the military says that it must have the same access. Federal funding can be cut off if colleges and universities do not give recruiters and ROTC programs campus access. While student financial assistance is not at risk, other federal aid, especially research funding, can disappear if a school does not cooperate.
In other words, if postmodern students aren’t excited about the glossy, re-touched pictures across the street from UC Irvine at the military recruiting station, the Defense Department has taken the liberty of kidnapping their personal information and treating the military as an “employer.” How, exactly, is the military an “employer?” It certainly cannot be one from a legal standpoint, since employers can be sued for on-the-job injuries that occur as a result of employer negligence. The military’s entire $3-trillion existence is all about getting maimed, burned, eaten by acid and other unpleasantries that don’t quite suit the conservative calm of the Orange County elites who vote for war but don’t actually want to be in one.
The issues includes not only student privacy and Orwellian-style government