DOWN IN SOUTH CAROLINA the other day, Greenville Technical College summarily suspended 104 of its students. Their offense? They have the wrong nationality; they are citizens of Iran. "This is a punitive action and it's intended that way," the vice chairman of the school's board of regents, Robert C. Crawford, explained. "Some innocent people will suffer. But there are innocent people in the U.S. Embassy, too."

A few days earlier, a member of the Virginia General Assembly from Fairfax County, Warren Barry, asked Gov. John Dalton to suspend all the Iranian students attending the Old Dominion's public colleges. Gov. Dalton responded Thursday by directing those schools to review "all their policies relating to foreign students." He mentioned admissions, financial aid, tuition and fees.

Unlike the action in South Carolina or that requested by Del. Barry, Gov. Dalton's directive has at least a facade of propiety to it. It applies to policies concerning all foreign students, not just those who are Iranian. But why, all of a sudden, is it necessary for Virginia's institutions to review their policies? Is it only because, as the governor's statement suggests, Virginia taxpayers are "heavily subsidizing" foreign students? We suspect not; if that were so, Gov. Dalton should have ordered a review by each school of its policies toward all students from outside Virginia, not just those from outside the United States.

Striking out at students who neither initiated the taking of hostages nor can arrange their release is a weak and un-American way of venting frustration.

It is possible that Virginia's schools do need to review their policies toward all out-of-state students or (less likely) toward foreign students. But if that is so, Gov. Dalton should postpone his directive until the present crisis is over -- not seem to be responding to Del. Barry's malevolent request.