Corporate Drug-Testing

Don't Let Them Recruit

THE COMMON WISDOM has it that the current crop of college students--us--is a self-indulgent breed. College seniors entering the real world are said to be liberal on social issues but conservative on economic matters. In other words, we are being told, Yuppies want to have their cake and eat it too. They want to make lots of money and then be left free to spend it on pleasures and vices of their own choosing.

This alleged tenet of the Yuppie faith is being put to the test by several companies recruiting graduating seniors on campus this semester. Of the 150 companies which will come to Harvard over the next several weeks to lure seniors, eight--including the prestigious investment banking firms Kidder, Peabody and Morgan, Stanley--have informed the Office of Career Services (OCS) that applicants vying for positions with them have to undergo drug-testing before being hired.

The response of students to this new requirement? An officer at Kidder, Peabody reports that he has "noticed a much higher level of applications" this year. Apparently it is easy for many individuals to ignore their alleged principles--or at least the one that says what people do in their private lives is not subject to outside scrutiny and judgment--once they are put to an economic test. As one senior told The Crimson when asked how he As one senior told The Crimson when asked felt about taking a drug test in order to get a high-playing job: "It's okay, because I'm clean."

No, it's not. Drug-testing by private firms is a constitutionally--and ethically--suspect practice in which increasingly large numbers of companies are deciding to engage. Although such testing is not illegal, this may well not be the case once its constitutional validity has been adequately tested in the courts. Many think that the presumption of guilt implicit in forcing an individual suspected of no wrongdoing and posing no threat to his colleagues will not stand up to such a challenge. We're among them.

Until opponents of drug-testing have their day in court, though, there is something we can do about this unnecessary, pernicious practice. For starters, the OCS can refuse its services to the eight firms that have expressed their commitment to mandatory drug-testing.

Students would still be able to deal with the companies on their own if they wanted to. But Harvard would send a message to the business world that it does not want to provide services for companies which pursue personnel policies repugnant to the ideals of a great liberal university. And if the companies want to pursue such policies, they can recruit on their own--or somewhere else.