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U. Iowa Students Protest 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'

This story was written by Mary Harrington, The Daily Iowan

Seven protesters, armed with rainbow-colored signs and just one chant, battled current military policy on Wednesday.

"Don't ask, don't tell, that policy don't work so well" was the slogan heard outside Boyd Law Building Wednesday morning as a few University of Iowa students voiced their dissatisfaction with the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy while a military recruiters interviewed students.

"It's discrimination to say people cannot be who they are," said Daniel Zeno, a third-year law student and coordinator of the event. "Although we have had a history of discrimination in this country, we also have a strong history of saying, 'It's not OK.' "

Calls made to the Judge Advocate General's Corps, which sponsored the interviewers, weren't returned Wednesday.

While Zeno sat at a booth inside the law building collecting signatures for a petition to be sent to the Iowa Legislature, the 28-year-old said he's not protesting the recruiters, or those being interviewed.

Other students expressed similar sentiments.

"While I don't agree with the war, what [the troops] are doing is truly amazing, and they deserve respect," said law student Melinda Eshbaugh, who made protest signs emblazoned with rainbows, "support the troops - all of them," "stop the double standard."

Instead, the small protest was directed at the military's silencing policy, along with the Solomon Amendment, which denies significant funding to schools that prohibit on-campus military recruiting.

As of 2004, an estimated $10 million in "adverse financial effects" would be at stake if the university denied military recruiters access each year, according to a UI College of Law statement.

Students said they thought such recruitment violated the law school's antidiscrimination policies because "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" would be in effect during the interviews.

"It's a clear breach of the university policies," said Ryan Merz, a member of the UI Antiwar Committee.

According to the law-school statement, military recruiters' presence on campus is a violation of the law building's policy and principles of the UI's Policy on Human Rights. It also says a college is in violation of a membership bylaw of the Association of American Law Schools.

If colleges allow employers to recruit on campus, they need to observe the principle of equal opportunity, the bylaw states.

Students protested the policy in 2005 as well, but it has not changed.

Eshbaugh said this protest won't be the only one. Law students hope to protest "Don't Ask Don't Tell" several more times this year when other on-campus recruits take place.

"Our mere presence here raises an issue," Zeno said. "With law schools all over the country, we demonstrate collective opposition."

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