IT WAS LEARNED last week that the Harvard Personnel Office has refused the request of David Kelston, a Public Health School research assistant, that it "supervise" his work at Harvard as partial fulfillment of his alternate obligation as a I-O conscientious objector.
The Personnel Office offers two rationales for its decision. The director of personnel, John W. Teele, cited first a 25-year-old rule-the University could not request "deferments" for its employees because an individual's status is "between him and his board."
Accepting a conscientious objector as an employee, however, is not a request for his deferment. Kelston has held I-O status since 1967, before he came to Harvard. Winning that classification did not depend on the availability of work at Harvard. Kelston holds his deferment on the merit of his convictions, and only asks, with his draft board's approval, that Harvard allow him to fulfill the deferment's terms in its employ.
The associate director of personnel, John B. Butler, later stated that Harvard could not act as supervising employer for a C.O. because it would violate the confidentiality of the employee's record. Although Harvard would, if the employee requested it, provide any information to a draft board, it could not promise in advance to sign the Selective Service forms necessary to certify his alternate service.
Preserving the privacy of a student or employee's record is indeed important, but invoking it as the reason for refusing Kelston's request is tenuous. Harvard provides undergraduate males with certification of enrollment so that they can retain their II-S status. There is no reason that it should not extend equal cooperation to holders of I-O status.
Harvard may fear that employing C.O.'s would be a "political" act. But it is difficult to see how the filing of legally required forms could reflect on the University's policy toward the draft, the Vietnam war, or even conscientious objection.
Mr. Butler stated that responsibility for the ruling rested with the Personnel Office. The University should take the necessary steps to overrule Personnel policy and make it known, publicly and to state Selective Service directors, that Harvard is willing to serve as an alternate service employer. To do less would discriminate against people who are fulfilling their service obligation in as legal and legitimate a way as, say ROTC candidates.