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Boston attorney discusses draft

By Chris Schechter

Boston attorney Louis Font spoke last Monday to educate students about current draft laws. Font, who spoke before the current cease-fire in the Persian Gulf war, expressed concern that students may be drafted after the conflict has ended, when a continued military presence will have to be maintained abroad.

He warned students that present draft legislation is far more expedient than legislation that had been in effect during the Vietnam War. "The Pentagon has learned since Vietnam how to handle dissent, the press -- and how to use speed," Font said.

The discussion, sponsored by the counseling section of the Office of the Dean for Student Affairs and the MIT Episcopal Chaplaincy took place in the West Lounge of the Julius A. Stratton '23 Student Center. A panel of Harvard Law School students and MIT administrators took questions after Font spoke.

Font, a graduate of West Point Military Academy and Harvard Law School, faced criminal charges during the Vietnam War for refusing to serve on active duty. He was the first West Point graduate to refuse to serve. Font now specializes in military law and conscientious objector cases.

Font said that due to a change in the requirements for volunteers of the armed services in 1985, the armed services has increased manpower, making draft less likely.

In addition to the usual number of years of required active service, an extra two years of inactive reserve status was added to all military contracts.

In 1980, draft legislation was changed to modify the induction process. After receiving a notice that he has been drafted, a student has 10 days to respond. He will then be summoned to take his physical. If a student passes his physical, he is immediately incorporated into the service.

"This puts students in a very different frame of mind," Font said. "You are not about to protest on your way to the physical if you may not be able to come home afterwards."

Moreover, this physical can be ordered to take place at any time of day or night. "Young people are going to be treated with the same speed, viciousness and quickness as are the Iraqis." Font said.

The second significant change brought about in the 1980 law states that student deferments can only extend to the end of the semester. "This is not to be fair, but rather to do away with student protest," Font said.

Also if a student were drafted, he would have only 10 days to file a discharge for medical, religious or dependency reasons, or as a conscientious objector.

A conscientious objector would have his case reviewed by a military board, and after appeal may have to present his case in front of the federal courts and face criminal charges.

If there were a draft, it would begin with 20-year-old males, proceed up to 26-year-olds, and, if need be, would finally call upon 18-and-a-half-year-olds.

Stanley G. Hudson, associate director in the student financial aid office, who attended the discussion, said that the financial aid office would need proof of registration for a draft in order to grant federal financial aid.

The discussion was initiated by Scott Paradise, MIT Episcopal chaplain, who wanted to "inform and make sure that students knew and understood their rights."