President Nixon signed yesterday the new draft bill which makes the men of the Class of '75 the first undergraduates since World War II to be subject to military induction.
Those who receive induction notices, however, will be able to postpone induction until the end of the academic term in which the induction date falls.
The current freshman class, and all succeeding classes, will now be classified I-A, "Available for Military Service," instead of being given the II-S student deferment.
Upperclassmen will be allowed to keep their deferments provided they can convince their local draft board that they are "satisfactorily pursuing a full-time course of instruction," and have not reached their 24 birthday or graduated.
Just Like the Rest
Under the new regulations, freshmen will be inducted according to the number assigned to their birthdate in the annual draft lottery, just like their contemporaries who have not continued in school.
However, it seems unlikely that many freshmen will be drafted in the near future because few of them are old enough. Men do not get their lottery numbers until the calendar year in which they have their 19th birthday, and they are not eligible for induction until the calendar year in which they turn 20.
Few freshmen--most of whom were born in 1953--will therefore be called up until 1973. Two years ago, the Nixon administration set 1973 as the date when the armed forces would be manned exclusively by volunteers, but few officials within the military believe now that this will be possible.
Many freshmen are concerned about their draft status, judging from the increase in the number of them that have consulted the draft counselors at the Office of Graduate and Career Plans (OG & CP).
OG & CP counselors report that some freshmen have expressed regret over the abolition of the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) at Harvard. Students in ROTC are allowed to stay in school until they graduate. Some freshmen have told the counselors that they are considering commuting to Worcester Polytechnic Institute to enroll in the ROTC program there.
Other freshmen are considering taking off a semester to enlist in the National Guard, which would commit them to a four to six month tour of duty and later service during summer vacations.
The current draft bill was stalled in Congress for seven months; this caused the first gap in military conscription since World War II. More than half of the Senate's time this year was consumed by debate on the bill, which was finally passed 55 to 30 on September 21.
The crucial debate did not focus on student deferments, but rather on an amendment proposed by Sen. Mike Mansfield (D-Mon.) which called for a declared national policy that all U.S. troops be withdrawn from Indochina in nine months, if U.S. prisoners of war in North Vietnam are released. The amendment was passed by the Senate but killed in a House-Senate conference.
Despite the lengthy debate, in the end Congress gave Nixon almost precisely what he had asked for originally: a two-year extension of the draft, authority to and student deferments, and no significant limitation on his war or defense policy