Much to the surprise and relief of many college administrators, last spring's wave of campus disorders has not resulted in passage of major new legislation designed to cut off Federal aid to disruptive students.
Though some 27 versions of such "anti-riot" bills were introduced during the spring and summer, none of them have yet been passed by Congress. The only ones which appear likely to receive approval are those which say in effect only that colleges ought to comply with existing legislation on the subject.
The legislation already on the books requires that Federal aid be cut off from those students who are convicted in cases arising from a substantial disruption of a university. Deciding the importance of the disruption-in effect deciding whether aid should be cut off-is, however, left to the colleges themselves, who opposed these bills all along. To date, no aid appears to have been terminated at any university.
The summer lull in campus disturbances may be the chief reason why new "anti-riot" bills have not been very successful in Congress. As a staff member of the American Council on Education, the association of 1200 colleges which has led the fight against the bills, put it yesterday:
"The steam has run out but it could build up again easily. My guess is that if we have more serious blowups on the campuses this fall, nothing in the wide world will stop further legislation."
If campuses do begin to boil again this fall, however, Congressional reaction may be somewhat milder than it would have been a year ago. Even some conservative members of both parties appear to have decided that new, tough legislation might be counter-productive; this change in viewpoint is credited with helping to stop anti-riot bills over the summer.
In particular, the report of 22 Republican Congressmen who made an unpublicized tour of campuses, including Harvard, last spring seems to have swung members of their party over to join the core of Liberal Democrats who have opposed the bills all along.
Their report, delivered to President Nixon on July 17, strongly opposed new legislation, saying in part that it would "play directly into the hands of those hard-core revolutionaries. Legislation which treats innocent and guilty alike inadvertently confirms extremist charges that the establishment is repressive and indifferent to citizen needs and concerns."
Republican support came in especially handy two weeks ago, when House Minority Leader Gerald Ford (R-III.) played a major part in heading off an attempt to attach an anti-riot amendment to the bill giving lenders an "incentive allowance" for making loans to college students. Ford induced most Republicans to vote for suspending the rules on the bill, thus barring any amendments to it.
To date, only three anti-riot measures have passed the House. Of these, the only one of any substance is that attached to the State-Commerce-Justice appropriations bill. It would require colleges receiving funds from those departments to give the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare certification that they were complying with the legislation calling for fund-cut aid cut-offs to disruptive students.
This provision slipped through the House early last summer when no one was looking.
Though the State, Commerce, and Justice Departments are not major sources of college funds, the provision will be fought in the Senate. "It's the principle of the thing we're fighting....We're very hopeful that the Senate Appropriations Committee will change the language." a leader of the fight said.
While the chances of this amendment and others like it are good at the moment, the situation could change rapidly. "You tell me what kind of a fall we're going to have on the campuses and I'll tell you the prospects of legislation." remarked a lobbyist for the colleges.