Elections for the ACSR
THE ADMINISTRATION'S DECISION to hand-pick two undergraduate members to serve on the newly created Advisory Committee on Shareholder Responsibility (ACSR) raises further doubts as to the University's willingness to permit student opinion to influence investment policy.
Already the exclusion of University employees from representation as well as the relegation of the committee to a purely advisory role, promises that the ACSR will not be a fully effective or democratic forum for the articulation of a socially responsible investment policy. The committee is to offer its non-binding counsel only on "problems of shareholder responsibility of general interest" that are referred to the committee by the Corporation. The most crucial political question facing Harvard investment--the philosophy by which the University should spend and earn its money--is not an intended part of the ACSR's agenda.
Certainly, as the Administration must realize, student representation may well legitimize the committee without in any way changing its conception. However, the selection of students on the basis of Administration interviews plainly opposes even their formal position as representatives of undergraduates. Having predetermined the character of the issues to be discussed by the ACSR and having limited the committee's power to influence the resolution of those issues, the Administration is now seeking to predetermine the ACSR's membership as well. Unless the committee is intended to fulfill only a cosmetic function, spreading the veneer of social consciousness over an investment policy beyond its control, its representatives must be democratically chosen and the character of their task left to the committee to decide.
It is the position of at least the members of one Home that worrying about the process of selection magnifies the importance of a committee of cripplingly restricted scope. They argue correctly that only through a broader-based committee with decision-making rather than advisory powers could the University achieve fundamental change. Only such a body would recognize the collective responsibility of overseers, administrators, teachers, students, and workers for the moral implications of the investments that support Harvard.
THIS POSITION ALONE misses the opportunity at hand. Student participation on the ACSR would publicize what only Overseers have been allowed to know until now: the specific ways to greater corporate responsibility open to Harvard through voting its stock. At the very least, an election offers a practical means for raising issues of the committee's powers and of the scope of its jurisdiction. Unless undergraduate representatives are elected to the committee neither their participation in the committee as now conceived nor any attempt on their part to change the role of the committee can carry serious weight.
Students should sign petitions in support of the Harvard-Radcliffe Lobby's demand for undergraduate elections while continuing to focus their attention, in alliance with faculty and graduate students, on fundamental questions of the ACSR's character. Regardless of the Corporation's supposed good intentions, no constituency can be expected to take seriously a "representative group" over whose agenda, policies, and membership they have no control.