Brief synopsis: Alok Vaid-Menon, president of Stanford Students for Queer Liberation, is launching a Constitutional Council case against ASSU President Angelina Cardona for proposing an advisory referendum on ROTC’s return to campus.
As I mentioned in my earlier analysis, I don’t think that SSQL has much of a legal case, but Alok Vaid-Menon’s case is very timely for SSQL’s political campaign against the return of ROTC. In particular, it reflects the weakness of public support for SSQL’s position. A petition in favor of ROTC’s return has garnered over four times as many signatures as the petition against its return (841 to 190 as of 3:00 PM). Staring down those numbers, its tough to believe that having the advisory question is going to end well for SSQL’s campaign against ROTC. (I made a similar prediction back when the bill was first proposed.)
How does moving the argument away from the political sphere to the judiciary help SSQL’s cause?
There are two main ways that this case will help SSQL. First, it raises the prospect that this ballot measure won’t actually appear in April. Even if the legislatures planned to add it in time, if this case is slow to be decided (presuming that the Constitutional Council chooses to hear it), then there might not be time to add the measure to the ballot, even if the Council ultimately rejected Vaid-Menon’s argument. Given that there are only 2.5 normal weeks after this one (“Dead” Week and the first week and a half of spring quarter) in which to make a decision, that could force some sort of a time crunch. If the ballot measure never appears, there’s never a decisive show of student support for ROTC, which weakens the call for its return.
The second way is by moving the argument to the legal sphere, where SSQL hopes that its arguments about the potential violation of Stanford’s (and, here, the ASSU’s) non-discrimination policies will carry more weight. A victory in this arena wouldn’t change public opinion directly, but it might give some pause to people. I’ve heard that SSQL is considering legal action in conjunction with the ACLU if the Faculty Senate does repeal the ban, so this could be a first salvo. (Note: it’s unclear what the grounds would be for such a case, since Stanford’s non-discrimination policy rejects unlawful discrimination – ROTC’s government-mandated rejection of transgender students is, by definition, lawful, if also distasteful.) We’ll see how everything shakes out as the case continues to move along.