With the suggestion that all college students should receive military training in four-month vacation doses, President Seymour of Yale has given a concrete basis to the discussion of what the role of colleges in national defense should be. Two things stand out in the proposal. First, President Seymour assumes a permanent emergency and proposes a long range program to preserve colleges in that emergency. Second, he recognizes that the colleges' contribution to defense cannot be in the form of training, except in the case of technical courses. He advocates fitting Yale into the national training scheme rather than turning it into an independent armed camp.
Here at Harvard the Student Defense League and the Faculty Committee on Military Training are attacking the problem from a different approach. They propose, in addition to purely technical courses, a program of training in defense subjects to aid the draftees. This program has met with comparative apathy from the students and from the Army and Naval officials. It is in effect an attempted compromise between complete gearing of college to training and the complete divorce of college from training.
It is a compromise, however, that is no longer possible as it was in the last war. Then the colleges were able to turn themselves over to military training, secure in the belief that their work was a definite contribution to the building of an army. Now there is a notable lack of enthusiasm in the colleges. The technical changes in warfare and the realization of the danger of the crisis make this move away from the cavalier spirit that pervaded the campuses of 1917 both desirable and understandable. Training an army now is a highly technical process. The German Panzer division has replaced the Rough Riders of T.R. as the basic conception of an army. Panzer divisions can only be trained by the War Department. The inadequacy of college lectures in assisting draftees has been borne out by the lack of encouragement, in marked contrast with the last war, from the planners of our future Army and Navy.
The issue before the colleges is thus squarely put by President Seymour's proposal. Either they should accept his grave view of the situation and gear themselves to a permanent program of military training, or they should accept the operation of the draft in the normal course of events and not change their program at all. In any event, a compromise is useless. A superficial course of lectures will aid no one and merely serves to divert the University's attention from the basic problems of why the war is fought to the mechanical details of how it is fought.