Lawmaker Unveils Plight of Vietnam Veterans: Says College Jobs Given to Others

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Higher education's "disaffirmative action" against Vietnam War veterans, who have equal status with women and racial minorities under affirmative action, is attracting attention on Capitol Hill and beyond the Beltway.

If Rep. Gerald B.H. Solomon of New York gets his way, no federal money will flow to institutions or other contractors that fail to file with the federal government a required report documenting whether veterans are employed at an appropriate level.

"It's disturbing to think that anyone would even consider discriminating against veterans, but I'm sorry to say that that's the case," said the nine-term GOP congressman. "And the Department of Labor has done little, if anything, to enforce the law."

"In some places, this discrimination is blatant and deliberate," he said. "At some of our largest and most prestigious universities, for example, it's estimated that only 1 percent of the employees are veterans."

Mr. Solomon said that one distinguished veteran with a doctorate in his field was invited for interviews with 80 schools, but contact was broken off by 76 of them when his military background was revealed.

"I know of no evidence that qualified vets of any era have been subject to discrimination by colleges," said David Merkowitz, spokesman for the American Council on Education, the umbrella lobbying group for higher education.

"Where colleges and universities have a special interest is student admissions and federal aid," he said. "We support affirmative action in hiring, but we haven't made extra efforts to address that aspect of it."

"Vietnam era veterans, and the handicapped, have equal status with women and racial minorities under affirmative action regulations," reminded Alan Charles Kors, professor of history at University of Pennsylvania, who has long chafed at what he calls the "double standard" of institutions.

"You can't have it both ways if you're on the cultural left," Mr. Kors said.

Universities typically have detailed guidelines, statistics and enforcement mechanisms for affirmative action in hiring women and minorities, he said.

"When I was chairman of a search committee for arts and sciences at Penn, I had to fill out a whole set of forms about how many women and minorities were in the department and in the search," he said. …