THE PRESIDENT OF the University of California is much concerned with the debate over the draft. He wants to shift the terms of the debate from "Hell, no, I won't go" to a discussion of constructive alternatives. The man responsible for getting President David Saxon's views before Washington's decision-makers is Peter Goldschmidt, the university's representative, or "lobbyist," in the nation's capital.

"What he's thinking about is universal service with no exemptions, for the handicapped, for men and women, something combining CETA, the Job Corps, the Peace Corps, everything," said Goldschmidt, whose job is, first, to find out who is thinking what about the draft, and then to promote Saxon's views, via the California congressional delegation, among the capital's lawmakers.

Goldschmidt, a lawyer, regards himself as a "legislative advocate." I do what a lawyer is supposed to do. I represent the views of my client in whatever forum is necessary."

Having worked here for the university 11 1/2 years, he is the dean among Washington's college and unversity lobbyists. Like other representatives of academic institutions, he is not required to register as a lobbyist, nor does he have anything to do with campaign financing, the meat and potatoes of many such operations.

"I'm difficult to put into a neat cubbyhole," Goldschmidt said recently. He thinks of himself primarily as a "troubleshooter," and he says he differs from many of his colleagues, whose principal purpose for being in Washington is to channel federal funds into their respective universities. "I'm not a broker in grants," he said. "I put people together if I think there is a community of interest, but I represent the president of the university first and no particular campus or individual." Although he is certainly instrumental in seeing that the University of California receives more than $300 million in federal funds each year, Goldschmidt sees his primary function as being broader. "My focus is institutional," he said. "I try to see the big picture."

"People ask me what I do," he remarked, "and I tell them it depends on which season of what year."

Certain things -- like the hassle over the federal budget -- recur each year. Other matters are one-time affairs such as recently considered legislation which would have covered workers in one of the university's research laboratories under parts of the National Labor Relations Act. In short, anything happening in Washington that affects the nine campuses, five medical schools, three research labs, law and graduate schools of the university or any person who is part of that complex is potentially Peter Goldschmdit's business.

Currently, he and representatives of other universities are arguing for fuller funding of Title VI of the National Defense Education Act, essentially a program to teach teachers how to teach school children about foreign affairs. The legislation authorizes spending up to $75 million in fiscal 1981, which happens to be the figure in the Carter budget. However, as Goldschmidt noted, "If the drums are beating correctly, we're not likely to get that."

Another area of immediate concern is the cost of housing for university personnel. Goldschmidt is investigating the possibility of using tax-exempt bonds to help young assistant professors with salaries of between $15,000 and $20,000 a year buy homes in southern California's inflated real-estate market. The university, which draws its faculty from all over the country, fears that the 24 percent increase in the cost of living there may discourage talented young academics from coming to southern California.

President Saxon, who is chairman of the research subcommittee of the Association of American Universities, is also interested in the amount of paperwork required of federally-funded research projects. "We did a paper on reviving the partnership between the federal government and the universities on research," said Goldschmidt. "The threat is too much time is spent on paperwork, not research. It's a matter of productivity."

When the University of California opened its Washington office in 1963, it was among the first such institutions to do so. Today about 50 colleges and universities have offices here, and many others have people who regularly spend part of their time here. The University of California spends about $100,000 annually to pay Goldschmidt and provide him with an office and staff.

The first office was in a "California townhouse" which also housed representatives of other state institutions, including the legislature. Goldschmidt and his staff now share cramped and cluttered quarters in a highrise office building on Connecticut Avenue with a representative of the state's community and junior colleges and a representative of California State University.

Being an effective lobbyist, Goldschmidt says, is "a matter of having finely tuned antennae to pick up the blips," and knowing what will be important in the future.

Developing such antennae comes with spending time in this parculiar city but it is also the result of cultivating far-ranging interests that may be useful. Goldschmidt religiously reads all the information coming into his office from the university. "When I latch onto a name [of someone at the university], I talk to the person," he said. This approach has led him down some curious avenues, from the development of a calculator for preschool children to the cultivation of sturgeon and a possible domestic caviar industry. Somewhere, he explained, in the vast entity of the university there is someone working on these things. When a project "ripens," as Goldschmidt puts it, he tries to provide a Washington showcase for the effort by drawing it to the attention of legislators and government agencies. It is no coincidence that this also provides a showcase for the University of California itself.

Goldschmidt goes back to California about once every six weeks to talk with saxon and visit individual campuses.

An administrative assistant helps him plow through the daily quota of reading material which includes the Congressional Record, the Federal Register, and the daily newspapers, in addition to association newsletter and material from the university itself.

Also important are Goldschmidt's contacts with his colleagues from other educational institutions and associations. These include organizations such as the National Education Association, which Goldschmidt calls a lobby in the "classic" sense; coalitions such as the Committee for the Full Funding of Education Programs, which brings a conglomeration of individuals and associations interested in education together, including outsiders such as the AFL-CIO; informal forums such as the Governmental Relations group Luncheon, 40 or more Washington-based education representatives who eat together twice a month; and other smaller groups. One constant in Washington lobbyist is that you never know who you will need next as an ally. "If I have a problem and you have an expert," explained Goldschmidt, "well . . ."

He also cultivates contact within the government. The university's three laboratories, at Berkeley, Livermore and Los Alamos, keep Goldschmidt in touch with the Department of Energy. The university's medical schools, deep sea drilling project, and agricultural extension service all involve different government agencies. Few institutions have fingers in as many pies as the University of California.

His office is full of sourvenirs of California projects in which he has had a hand. One is a small slab of rock he uses as a paperweight. Written in black on the gray rock is the figure, "370.6." It is a piece of rock from a geothermal well. "At 370 feet, they hit boiling water in a desert in the Imperial Valley," he said. Yet another project which comes under the enormous umbrella of the University of California.