San Fran Voters Oppose Military Recruiters’ School Access

'College Not Combat' initiative does not ban military recruiters from campuses, but encourages alternatives.

Antiwar activists celebrated a victory Tuesday as voters in San Francisco easily passed a resolution that might make it tougher for the military to recruit soldiers from public high schools and colleges.

Proposition I, also known as the “College Not Combat” initiative, does not ban the military from recruiting soldiers on campus — that would require schools to forfeit federal funds — but it does encourage school officials to offer students alternatives to the perks that come with military service, like scholarships and job training.

According to CollegeNotCombat.org, a “yes” vote for Proposition I implies the voter would “want it to be city policy to oppose military recruiters’ access to public schools and to consider funding scholarships for education and training that could provide an alternative to military service.”

The referendum was drafted last year after students at San Francisco State University began protesting military recruiters on their campus. Todd Chretien, the author of the referendum, said “the impact of Prop I is tremendous” and shows that San Franciscans stand behind the students’ efforts. This win, he says, is only the beginning of a larger effort to get recruiters legally banned from campuses.

“Now that we’ve passed Prop I, we want to change the federal law,” Chretien said. “We expect that this will now spread to other cities, and it should also give confidence to high school and college students to get organized and protest military recruiters at whatever school they come to.”

The measure — supported by Cindy Sheehan and many antiwar organizations — passed with a nearly 60 percent majority vote on Election Day and chalks up yet another success for burgeoning counter-recruitment efforts (see “U.S. Army Misses Enlistment Goal, Counter-Recruitment Efforts Rise” ). After failing to meet enlistment goals many times this year, the Department of Defense announced in November that the Army did not land its annual target, falling short by nearly 7,000 recruits (see “With Big Recruitment Deficits, U.S. Army Acknowledges The Elephant In The Room” ). It was the largest deficit in 26 years.

Chretien also wants to use the Proposition I vote to challenge the No Child Left Behind Act, which allows military recruiters access to sensitive information on students, like their home addresses, telephone numbers and other personal data. Students and parents can “opt out” by signing a form stating that that information should be kept private.

Last November San Francisco voters backed Proposition H, which called for the city to urge the government to take immediate action to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq. It passed with a 63 percent majority and has since spread elsewhere. On March 1, 46 towns in Vermont signed a resolution that called for troops to come home.

Bonnie Weinstein, an organizer for Bay Area United Against War, calls the passing of Proposition I on Tuesday “a fantastic victory” and says it opens doors for future counter-recruitment opportunities.

“This gives us more chances to go to campuses and talk to young people and give them an alternative view of the military so that they have a rounded picture before they make a decision, which right now, [I don't think they have],” she said.

Army spokesperson Douglas Smith said the military supports any measure that calls for offering scholarships and job training to students, but that Proposition I would not impact recruiters’ ability to visit the schools.

“How can we be critical of something that provides students those kinds of opportunities?” he said. “As long as they’re in compliance with the No Child Left Behind Act, we see it as an admirable thing. We don’t see any reason why schools shouldn’t provide alternatives to students along with the option of going into the military.

“We know every student is not going to enlist,” Smith added, “and we don’t need every student to enlist. To me it seems like having more choices will be good for the students of our country.”

Meanwhile President Bush has said he has no plans to pull troops out and that Americans must accept “nothing less than complete victory” on the war on terror (see “Bush’s ‘Major’ Speech Paints Grim Picture Of War On Terror, Provides Few Details” ).