During the past few days, agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation have knocked on the doors of several students at Harvard and other colleges who turned their draft cards over to the Justice Department last weekend.
Having FBI agents paying visits to a university campus is an ugly business. The fact that the agents are acting within their legal rights--for these students allegedly violated a federal law--makes it no less ugly. It serves to remind us that the war in Vietnam and the recalcitrance of the Johnson Administration have led many students to the desperation point.
Every student in violation of federal statutes should expect a visit from federal agents. But each suspect should know that he may ask the FBI to leave his room if the agents do not have a search warrant; that he is not required to sign a waiver permitting the government to use against him in court anything he says.
Police action in a university community is the inevitable and sad result of the kind of confrontation between citizen and government which occurred in the nation's capital last weekend. And the confrontations, in turn, are triggered by the frustrating war. There will probably be more FBI agents, because more students who don't really want to break the law may decide they must.
The University, of course, should in no way expedite FBI investigation of Harvard students. In the Fall, of 1964, it was revealed that some University officials had arranged appointments between FBI agents and students, and had, in other ways, cooperated with the FBI in campus matters. This is a role a University administrator should never play. It would be especially distasteful now since it would give rise to an inference that could poison the atmosphere of this community--namely that the University agrees with the FBI's position that the peace movement is filled with criminals and conspirators whose every activity must be watched.