Among the expressions of Christmastide cheer received by many men between the ages of eighteen-and-one-half and twenty-six were induction notices from local draft boards across the nation. The event was marked with the haphazardness typical of the present draft setup.
As an example, one of the recipients--an Eliot House senior--had been led to assume that he would be inducted last summer when his deferment expired. However, at that time his long Island draft board indicated that all his preparations for winding up his civilian affairs were unnecessary and that he could attend college this year if he wished. Shortly after he registered, he received a new note from his draft board instructing him to be ready for induction by December; the traditional letter of greetings arrived on Christmas eve.
The confusion cannot be blamed on the draft board; located in an area where men of draftable age are mostly preparatory or college students, and faced with a quota to fill, it probably had little choice. As long as national draft policy consists of conflicting decisions made by several thousand little draft boards as they try to fill arbitrary and rapidly changing demands from above, the question of students status will remain in the same category as the Martian canals.
The solution, up to now buried under piles of letters bemoaning the cruelty of all legislators who would send anyone under twenty into military service, was resurrected last Saturday by Representative Carl Vinson, head of the House Armed Services Committee. As a step toward launching a Universal Military Training system, he proposed a plan which would enable sixty thousand men in the seventeen-to-nineteen age bracket to volunteer for six months of training and eighteen months on active reserve. At least sixty thousand students could achieve some measure of certainty under this program, and it could be expanded into a full UMST program at whatever pace the Army requirements allowed.
To put this into effect, Congress must not only amend the Selective Service Act, but also enact the UMST program it adopted "in principle" last year. Because Army demands are due to grow--and with them the confusion inherent in the present system--a prompt beginning on some program of universal pre-college service is essential.