The following text is a transcript of yesterday's full Faculty meeting, where 11 Faculty members discussed University policy toward its South African-related investments. The transcript will continue in tomorrow's Crimson.
STANLEY H. HOFFMANN:
Mr. President, the remarks I would like to make are aimed to explain both the background of the open letter that some of us have signed and my own position in this debate. What I would like to do is to continue where the last debate had left the issue. I'd like to express some doubts about the effectiveness of the present policy insofar as I understand it and also about its overall validity.
The first critique I would like to make concerns the effectiveness of the policy even if one accepts the ends as you have spelled them out. I'm not sure that the means are always adequate. As I understand the policy, it seems to consist of the following pieces. First of all, a recognition--which incidentally is neither left or right--of the basic injustice of the South African regime for the reasons which were given in the ACSR report of 1978 and endorsed a year ago by the Corporation. Secondly, a refusal to divest now as a form of mere posturing or copout because divestiture will make it impossible for us to affect the behavior of companies while exposing Harvard to serious financial losses. And thirdly, a policy which is being advocated is in the terms of my old friend Albert Hirshman a policy of exerting voice rather than exit, voice within the corporations whose stocks Harvard owns to affect the corporations' behavior.
Well, if the purpose is to help the Corporation decide whether to support resolutions advocating corporate withdrawal, within the categories defined in the statement of the President and Fellows of April 1978, which say that such resolutions would be supported in the cases of companies which do not disclose information, do not demonstrate within a reasonable period of time that their employment practices follow the Sullivan principles, or which sell strategic goods and services to the South African government, I'm not sure that the method of case-by-case review which has been adopted will really allow the Corporation to make those decisions, for reasons which I think are made crystal clear in the last ACSR report, which was published in the Gazette of April 6.
What do we find in this report? We find statements which show that the reports we have obtained from companies about employment are not sufficient to give a full picture, that we cannot assess trends, that it is difficult to obtain information about sales, production lines, and customers, and in fact that equal treatment of blacks and whites with respect to wages is not the same thing as promotion of blacks to higher level jobs.
Now, I think even if one believes in the ends of the present policy and in the wisdom of the present course, there is a need for an approach which would be tougher and less time-consuming. As was said in an editorial in the Globe of April 19, I think there would be a need to set specific goals and timetables including for the promotion of blacks, quantifiable and measurable standards of behavior, and there is a need for a much more precise definition of the cases which, to use Brandeis University's language, constitute social injury. The recommendations which have been endorsed by the Corporation case by case are commendable. But I think a case by case process without precise guidelines about what one wants to find in each case is really a hopeless task.
The second problem I find with the policy has to do with the flaws of voice as defined by the Corporation. It seems to me that voice as defined so far is very seriously flawed. First of all, why should Harvard never initiate resolutions in those cases where it finds that the corporations do not meet the criteria which the Corporation has set up? Secondly, what happens if, as the February or January report of the ACSR predicted with a kind of sigh, voice gets us nowhere.
In your second open letter, Mr. President, you suggested that recommendations of withdrawal would be very infrequent. But that suggests a policy which reminds me of the horse in Animal Farm--after each failure one would try again, and one would try again without ever concluding. Now given the very premise of injustice on which the whole operation is based, it seems to me that this kind of policy of just exposing oneself to getting nowhere either because of difficulties of information or because one keeps hoping that the corporations in question will change their behavior, also looks a little bit like a copout. And also on this point, what hope of effectiveness is there for a policy of voice if there isn't a threat if exit in the background, if one does not let companies know that if they do not provide satisfactory answers there is a possibility of divestiture?
In this respect I think there was a contradiction in the remarks made by Professor Spence at the last meeting, because on the one hand he said the first question, which was whether U.S. companies with South African operations should withdraw from South Africa, the answer was yes within three conditions with which I heartily agree; but then when he came to the third question, which is whether Harvard should sell its stock, the answer should be no for a whole series of reasons.
Now I think one can argue whether Harvard should sell it now or later, but it seems to me that if one accepts the first position, which is that the companies should withdraw, one cannot reach a kind of peremptory no on the last question. And that brings me to my point about the end of the policy itself. The objective, I gather from reading the President's second letter, is to make the firms desist from forms of behavior that depart from ethical standards and values of the University. Well, in other words what we would like to do is force the various corporations to act in a way which would mitigate or reverse apartheid. Fine, but if the corporations in question, precisely because they employ only a very small fraction of the work force in South Africa, are unlikely to have much of an impact, shouldn't we really redefine the end of our policy? And shouldn't it be redefined in the way which Professor Walzer suggested six weeks ago, as corporate withdrawal except in those circumstances in which the corporations can actually show significant progress? In other words, reverse the presumption, and the burden of proof.
And if the corporations fail to provide that proof, then it seems to me we need not only to have in our arsenal the threat of divestiture, but in fact a policy of selective divestiture. I don't see what would be wrong with it then. It won't end apartheid, that is clear, but nor will staying, and simply hoping that sooner or later some shareholder resolution will prevail won't end it either.
In fact as you say yourself, Mr. President, in your letter, it may be nothing American firms can do will have a perceptible effect on the outcome. Would it be washing our hands of evil? Well, it seems to me there are two ways of washing one's hands of evil. One is to walk away immediately without a fight, but the other one is to stay and pretend that there is a chance of getting anywhere long after one has in fact come to the conclusion that there isn't much of a chance.
Would the reason to argue against divestiture be that the certain injury caused to Harvard by divestiture would exceed any dubious gain from divestiture? In other words, would what the President himself calls the continued financial stake in the perpetration of an immoral regime be so small in these cases as to require that we continue to have this stake, given the interest of the University itself? Well, if this is a reason why the President's statements are in fact so open-ended about the outcome of the policy, if the reason is the calculation of respective evils, then I think one should say so clearly.
And even if this were a reason, it seems to me that it is not decisive, first of all because the damage can be minimized, which is precisely why I along with many of my colleagues recommend at the end of the process selective or strategic divestiture, rather than presuming at the outset that there is nothing one can do, and one should sell everything immediately. And even a small contribution to injustice is something which is not terribly easy to tolerate in a case like this.
There is a symbolic significance and importance both of contributing to it and of ending it and of course we are an educational institution and of course we are linked to the evils of the world but education is not value-free and some of the links are more selective and more chosen than others. So it seems to me that the kind of policy of selective, strategic divestiture is one which does its best to reconcile the various concerns of the University, without concluding that the best one can do is exert one's voice and even one shouts oneself hoarse staying in. That's why I think that our objective should be contributing if possible to the end of apartheid either by provoking improvements in the corporations if at all possible, or by obtaining corporate withdrawal, if possible, and if not, dissociate ourselves from it while minimizing the cost to the University.
Mr. President, colleagues, we have come not to quarrel but to think and to try perhaps to arrive at a common judgment or consensus on what would be the best policy for the University to which we are all committed. Perhaps it has been traditional in the history of Harvard that one never drove the principle that financial investments had no moral aspects whatever to extremes. I don't think any historian at Harvard has recorded that a committee recommended that Harvard should invest in gambling casinos in the state of Nevada or in houses of ill repute in such overseas countries. Europe and elsewhere, where such institutions are legitimate, let us say legal if not legitimate. Even though it was well known that some of these establishments yielded handsome revenues. We have always considered legitimacy as well as financial yield in the activities Harvard chose to be associated with.
What is happening now is we are present at a certain shift in moral sensibilities. We have long shared many views of things we consider evil, and in World War II we have been confronted with evil on a vast scale. But one cannot feel with the victims of holocaust and remain--very well--unfeeling about the victims of apartheid. There is in part a change in age groups. The British writer C.P. Snow writes about his children and their friends that they're very permissive about the sex life of their contemporaries but--I quote him--would not be caught dead serving South African sherry.
I confess I have kept some of the older views of legitimacy. I believe that, let us say, fidelity in love is a major value and that change is not always, let us say, a good thing in these matters. But I do feel that there is a shift that we cannot reverse. Racism has become one of the major glaring offenses against decency in our time. It is in the eyes of many young people at least as illegitimate as gambling or prostitution or other activities that are illegitimate in the eyes of other generations. If we are to educate young people, we must not break our common agreement on legitimacy with them. To be sure it will be said that if we took an exhaustive opinion poll perhaps not a numerical majority would feel strongly about South Africa. But even if it should be a minority such minorities have a way of becoming majorities. I've spent a lifetime in trying to estimate or gauge political and moral changes in world politics. I'm satisfied and convinced that this is one of the secular changes and I should not like Harvard University to be on the wrong side of it or to be damaged by this process of change.
Let me add a consideration of the most realistic politics--there are 25 million black Americans in this country. South African apartheid, racism, is a deadly insult to every one of them. There are over 250 million black Africans south of the Sahara in over 20 countries. Racism and South African apartheid is a deadly insult to all of these. There are 5 million white South Africans and 300,000 white Rhodesians (or a little less by now thanks to emigration). The small groups, we know this, sometimes become hardened in their prejudices in long backlash periods. This is what brought about the bitter resistance against the abolition of slavery, and produced the Civil War in American history once. We can have such things again should we confirm unwillingly and unwittingly the accusations of the radical Marxists that the nexus between liberalism and private enterprise, democracy on the one hand and South African racism on the other is indissoluble. This is what is claimed.
I do not believe in it. I believe that democracies can cut the links between racist regimes if voice and persuasion have proved to be unavailing. But what I believe is one thing, and what our actions will tell the world could be another. A gesture from Harvard would be more than a gesture. We are after all something of a flagship in higher education in the United States, and perhaps in a good part of the world beyond our border. We might be able, and I think it is expected of us now by the young and sometimes by the not-so-young, that we might be able to send an unmistakable signal of the direction in which we want to go. This does not mean we have to be theatrical, or unrealistic, or excessive.
I do not think we can go on an infinite regress investigating all the financial moralities of all the corporations down to the last one-tenth of one per cent of financial purity. The world is not that pure. But we could announce that it is the policy of Harvard to reduce and eventually cut its links to any substantial supporter of the South African apartheid regime. We could define this target and say that on the face of it we shall consider a substantial supporter any corporation that has more than one per cent of its assets in South Africa. I'm speaking of the per cent of assets because otherwise we would have to cut all relations with all companies that are big. A big company obviously will have somewhat more a big percent of a big company's more than of a small one. But we have to begin somewhere.
It could be that the company can persuade us that their efforts to reduce apartheid in their own operations are worth making an exception. Or it could be that on the other hand a smaller company fills only the modest orders of handcuffs for the South African police--we might not choose to have Harvard associated with that operation. But on the whole I think a one-per-cent rule might make a tolerable guideline. If we have identified a target we might then proceed step by step very much in the line as indicated by the open letter of Professors Hoffmann, Walzer, Hibbs and others--I mention my departmental colleagues because I know them best--I do think we could then begin, first by voting on shareholder resolutions, both resolutions demanding information and then shareholder resolutions demanding cuts in links that we consider objectionable.
We could secondly then initiate such resolutions if it turns out that the practices are substantial, seriously objectionable, and either reports are not forthcoming or else there is no sign of improvement, we might then announce a policy of non-acquisition. We might then go a step further eventually and divest, and we might try to do this in cooperation with other professional associations and other institutions of higher education. When I became president of the American Political Science Association back in 1969, we introduced a policy of publishing the full details of all our corporate holdings. Our members were free to write in and raise objections. We had a committee to deal with these things, and we have found that the American Political Science Association did not go bankrupt in the 10 years that followed. We could actually continue to function, perhaps with a marginally better conscience.
Now Harvard's investments are vast and the American Political Science Association is puny in comparison to them. But it seems to me that it could be done. In the end we need to work for Harvard in a positive way. I do not know whether any student representatives are present in this room, or whether anybody wishes to broadcast what is said here. There are? I would like to say that if our students collect money for a Biko fund to bring black students from South Africa here, they might logically be interested in admitting that this is a good university. Otherwise they would not do their South African colleagues much of a favor.
If we want to do these things with a good university and trying to make it better we have to work together. I do think we are all committed to make Harvard a better University, and I urge that we set a signal by announcing a policy that is moderate but unmistakable, that we get that which divides us a bit out of the way, so that we can together get together what unites us--a better University. Thank you.
NEAL KOBLITZ '69:
I would like to call attention to a certain discrepancy. In describing the company-by-company approach at the December 12 Faculty meeting, the President said that the ACSR would in each case weigh any positive contributions to black employees against "what they might be contributing to apartheid by the taxes they paid, any strategic materials they supplied, the effect that their existence there might have on American policy and other relevant factors." But this promise of a fair and balanced procedure is not borne out by an examination of the information available from the companies.
I have spent several hours studying all of this material in Lamont Library and have found that, while many companies are willing to argue their case by supplying some limited information on labor practices, hardly any of them supply information on the all-important strategic side of the equation--taxes, the nature and amount of strategic goods and services, connections with the military and police, and so on. Only a handful do answer some of these questions but even they do so in a sketchy, evasive and self-serving fashion. The case-by-case approach, based as it is on information supplied by the corporations themselves, offers no possibility of making a realistic judgment.
But there is good information on the strategic side of the equation which is available on an industry-by-industry basis. Within the last few months the IRRC (Investor Responsibility Research Committee) has released four studies of the major sectors of the economy which comprise the bulk of U.S. corporate involvement in South Africa--the computer and electronics industry, the minerals industry, the automotive industry and the oil industry. The IRRC presents all sides of the question and in each case it is abundantly clear that the corporations do far, far more to support than to weaken the apartheid system. Studying the issue on an industry-wide basis will make it clear why an increasing number of moderate voices, such as the NAACP and the AFL-CIO have recently hardened their positions and now oppose all corporate involvement in South Africa.
I believe Harvard should take a public stand for corporate withdrawal. I further believe that the most effective action is divestiture from companies that continue their South Africa operations. Some supporters of corporate withdrawal instead advocate keeping Harvard's money in those apartheid-related stocks and, in Professor Walzer's words, "making a fuss at shareholder meetings." But we should not have illusions about the possibility of implementing change directly through a shareholder vote. Management always controls well over half the votes through proxy and, in the cases I've examined, the votes for resolutions opposed by management average about 3 per cent, and in all cases were less than 9 per cent of the total vote. The value of shareholder resolutions is through the publicity and indirect pressure they generate and, in terms of that type of impact, there is no question that divestiture constitutes a much stronger stand and is so perceived by the corporations, the press and the public-at-large.
There will not be time here to answer all the questions addressed to those who support the divestiture position so I wanted to ask you, as you leave today, there will be copies of a document called the 'ABCs of Divestiture' at both tables near the two exits. This is an attempt to deal with all these questions and includes comprehensive reports applied to President Bok's open letter on the divestiture question. I hope you are able to read thoroughly both President Bok's letter and also our reply to it.
In conclusion, I'd like to quote from the IRRC report on what happened at the University of Wisconsin on this issue. "In May 1977, the State Attorney General informally advised the regents in a letter to sell the University's securities in firms doing business in South Africa. The attorney general's recommendation to divest was based on a state law that prohibits the university from 'knowingly investing grant money and gifts in companies that practice discrimination.' The letter to the Board was prompted by growing student concern over the University of Wisconsin's stockholdings in companies operating in South Africa. In January 1978, the state attorney general reaffirmed his position calling for comprehensive divestment of all South Africa-related securities in a lengthy legal brief to the president of the University of Wisconsin system. In the brief, Attorney General LaFollette stated that the no discrimination standard is the emphatic embodiment of the public policy of the State of Wisconsin against unlawful discrimination. The Board of Regents voted in February 1978 to sell all stocks in companies with subsidiary operations in South Africa." Just as the University of Wisconsin decided that investment in South Africa is inconsistent with the University's professed belief in racial equality, as an alumnus as well as a Faculty member, I strongly believe that Harvard, too, should help further the goal of racial justice by divesting from all corporations which operate in the Republic of South Africa. Thank you.
WALLACE T. MacCAFFREY:
Mr. President and colleagues, I rise to disagree...with what most of the previous speakers have said. I share their premises about the inhumanity and the inhumaneness of the regime in South Africa and I'm sure a commonly-held belief in the University: that is for shareholders and companies operating in South Africa there is a certain social responsibility which falls upon us. But I think I differ as to goals and as to strategies.
The argument made frequently in favor of divestiture, total or gradual, rests, it seems to me, upon the assumption that such an act on our part would have a moral and educative value, first of all upon the boards of the multinational companies, and secondly, current American public opinion--perhaps more distantly even in South Africa itself. That's a speculation, a judgment where each one of us has to make his own estimate of a possible future action. My own judgment here is that we perhaps here in Cambridge overestimate the effect of our actions and our opinions on the rest of the world. I spend a large part of my professional life in other places than this demi-Eden's other paradise, and I'm less disposed to believe that America-at-large waits breathlessly to know what Harvard's actions in such matters will be. I doubt very strongly that divestiture would, in fact, influence public opinion or the opinion of the management of the great companies. Moreover, it seems to me that we would, in fact, I suspect, see a flurry of headlines in the New York Times, something less than a nine-days wonder. And it seems to me that such an action risks being one of those gestures which gratifies those who make it more than it benefits those in whose behalf it is made.
I do think, however, that there are much more modest strategies and goals which in fact can be pursued by the Harvard Corporation. I think as shareholders in large multinational companies, we do have some very modest--and I emphasize that word--very modest amounts of leverage in the management of those corporations and that we can indeed affect, in a very modest and a very minor way, the plight of at least some black South Africans: those who are employed by American companies operating in that country. I mean not only that their incomes may be improved, their working conditions ameliorated, but more important still, at least a small--and it would be no more than a handful as we well know--number of black Africans would be raised to positions of responsibility and acquire some of the techniques of management and technology which will be so vital in the management of a future South African society. And I believe that it is within the reach of the Harvard Corporation to further this very modest goal, one which will produce some real--however small--benefits for a particular group of black South Africans in whose welfare we are concerned. I have no illusions that actions of this kind can break apartheid or break the power of the regime in South Africa. But I do suggest that actions of this kind might have small but measurable benefits on the fate of some few black South Africans.
JOSEPHINE R. B. WRIGHT:
This is the first time I've spoken before this awesome body, and it may very well be the last, since many of us who are junior members of the Academy are becoming migrant workers. I want to address myself to our links to the South African experience. I want to focus on the apartheid experience as a reason why we must take action. I'm here to respectfully yet vehemently disagree with the statements issued by President Bok and the recent change of policy on the part of Harvard's Committee on Shareholder Responsibility. As a woman who is on the faculty of Harvard's embattled Afro-American Studies Department, I'm in a unique location to have a somewhat uncommon status within the University. It is from my humble location in this great community of scholars that I see fundamental connections among the experiences of blacks and women here and abroad. Because of my own experience, I thought that I would examine the available information about conditions of women and of the general health, education and welfare of families in the republic of South Africa to present as my part of the debate today, because I'm interested in looking at the South African experience.
In South Africa, a country the size of most of Western Europe, 13% of the land is set aside for 18 million blacks, 87% per cent of this land is available for 16% of the population that is white. Yet while about half of our blacks live on what are called "reserves" or "bantu stands," 29% live in white urban areas and 24% live on white farms. Most blacks who live on white-held farmland or in cities are strictly temporary. Apartheid is a system which keeps half of all blacks as temporary visitors, subject to immediate removal or resettlement to the hinterland.
But let's examine the experience of women under such a system. Women are viewed as a potential threat to the breakdown of the geographical separation of the races in South Africa. This separation is based on keeping blacks from permanently settling in towns and cities. The migration of women to join their husbands to form family units in cities is seen as destabilizing. So women, for the most part, are restricted to the rural reserves, prohibited from moving to join their husbands. The reserves, or synthetic homelands, are remote, dry areas, populated by the old, the sick, women and children. Men are away, working in the mines. Pass laws prohibit rural women from entering towns and cities.
The apartheid homeland policy imposes a fixed, traditional social structure on rural Africans. Women, who occupy the lowest rungs of this structure are usually prohibited from owning land or carrying out official business. If a rural woman is lucky, she is unemployed but receives checks from her husband who is away working in the mines. She cultivates a small, dry plot of land to feed her family. She is unable to move or to read. If she is unlucky, the rural woman has been removed to the reserves from an illegal area. She lives in exile. Many women spend their days collecting firewood and carrying water from the nearest river or well. Rural women are discouraged from seeking paid employment; there are few paid jobs. But if hired--and 13.6% of rural women are--the rural woman gets the most temporary, menial job and is paid the bottom of the wage scale for equal work.
The experience of urban women is only slightly better. About 1/4 of African women live in towns and cities. About 1/3 of urban women work. It is the most difficult for black women of all the groups in the Republic of South Africa to remain in towns and cities. Policy prohibits women from moving to cities, discourages married women from remaining in town, prevents women from taking apartments under their own names. Most employed, urban African women are domestic servants for whites or are involved in child care, food processing, the garment industry or nursery and primary school teaching. Women employed in public service must be single and mobile. They are likely to be dismissed if they marry. There are no black women attorneys, engineers, architects, pharmacists--indeed no black women university professors in a work force which is 92% black.
Poverty is rife in the Republic of South Africa, a developed country. Subsistence level for an urban family is considered by the South African government to be $150 per month. Income for a family of five, then, is well below the subsistence level. This takes its toll. While the life expectancy for whites is from 65 to 72 years of age, blacks can expect to die before their late 40s. Infant mortality is about one in a dozen live births for blacks versus one in 50 for whites. And in some rural reserves, infant mortality may be as high as one in every four births. In some places, half the children die. The South African government declines to publish these statistics. Yet it is known that severe nutritional deficiencies--kwashiorkor, scurvy, pellagra, beri-beri, leading to tuberculosis virtually stamped out in other developed countries, is common in the rural areas. This starvation which occurs in underdeveloped countries is intolerable in the breadbasket of the African continent. South Africa has farmland as rich as California or Florida. In restricted urban ghettos such as Soweto in Johannesburg, 61% of the population lives in dire poverty, 45% of the children are malnourished. Dwellings are overcrowded. Only 1/4 of the adults have more than an elementary school education. What we have here is a time bomb.
In a subject closer to home, the Republic of South Africa spends ten times more on the education of the average white student than it does on the average black student. Education for whites is compulsory and free. Education for blacks is voluntary and costly. Blacks have to pay to send their children to school. Even so, 75% of blacks have an elementary education. This is compared to 100 per cent for whites. 66 per cent of whites have high school diplomas, while a shocking 4% of blacks do. Out of 18 million blacks there are several thousand college graduates; perhaps 500 blacks receive bachelor's degrees annually. Yet over 9,000 whites yearly receive college diplomas.
The Republic of South Africa is a country of 4.3 million whites, 2.4 million coloreds, 700,000 Asians and 18.6 million blacks. Non-whites comprise 71 per cent of the population. We're debating about a country in which over 3/4 of the population is disenfranchised--no vote; economically enslaved, through subsistence wages and abject poverty; and physically removed, restricted to wastelands far from the rich economy of the country. This subjugation is militarily enforced as we saw in the Sharpeville experience military repression of 1960 and Soweto more recently in 1976. And this experience is rationalized through an ideology of virulent racism. Blacks have no vote, are subject to immediate removal, are not permitted to gather, work as non-permanent migrants, cannot hold property in 4/5 of their native land, work for subsistence wages and have uncommonly high levels of poverty and malnutrition in a developed country. They must carry passbooks at all times and must obtain government permission to change jobs. Is this something other than slavery?
Now, Harvard is one of the most prestigious universities. I would say, in the world. And I'm confident that a clear message from Harvard--indeed a clear and succinct message from President Bok will have a tremendous impact on corporate policy, on our government's policy toward the Republic of South Africa and on the worldwide climate of opinion. I'd like to encourage the Harvard Corporation to make an unambiguous public statement in opposition to the South African regime, to make no more investments in companies that hold South African investments, to support or to initiate shareholder resolutions about corporate withdrawal from South Africa, to publicize these actions, to form coalitions with other institutions carrying out similar policies. And to ultimately adopt a policy of strategic, timely, divestiture of stock if corporations do not respond to pressure. Thank you.
Mr. President, I confess at the outset that I know very little about South Africa. The one time I was invited to lecture there, the government of that country chose for reasons of its own to deny me a visa, so that I never had the experience that perhaps some others have had in direct observation of what transpires there. But I have observed for the last dozen years or so the persistent efforts, sometimes successful, to drag the University into political positions which it is not competent to make, given its structure and purposes, and which, in each case, led to consequences that were diametrically opposed to the intentions of those who urged them.
Which reminds me of an account I like to reread from time to time by James Logan, who was William Penn's secretary in the course of their voyage to America. The crossing was long--three months. Penn was a personage of distinction by this time and often edified the company with pious discourse stressing, as he usually did, the virtues of non-resistance and brotherly love. Came a pirate. And the crew cleared the decks. Logan, who was an enthusiastic young man, began pushing munitions around and readied, with others, the ship for action. Fortunately, the pirate proved not to be a pirate and the guns were then stowed away. But Logan had noticed that in this whole affair Penn had quietly withdrawn to his cabin and didn't emerge until after it was over. The outcome was a long disagreement which affected Pennsylvania politics for many years, with the younger man, Logan, demanding consistency. Either non-resistance was appropriate, in which case Penn should have attempted to dissuade the captain from firing upon the pirate, or it was not, in which case he should have lent a hand. Penn was older and wiser and he had a different understanding of the situation. Penn had a mission. That mission was not to conciliate pirates or to yield to them or to fight with them. That mission was to get to America. And a proven, calculating man knew that the best way to get to America at that point was to get out of the way.
This university also has a mission. The same mission it had in 1879, 1779, and 1679. That mission is not to perfect an imperfect world. It is to pursue and advance learning. Mr. President, I need the income from $20 million dollars. When I say "need," I don't mean would like to have or wish or could use, I mean need. To keep the roof of Widener from falling in, to preserve irreplaceable collections, to maintain an instrument of learning incomparable in the world. You get the money and I'll spend it. And I'll spend it in such a fashion that will justify the attainment of it.
It's a hard world in which we live, one which only marginally responds to our own wishes. Those who stretch too far will overreach themselves and tumble into frustration. Those alone can get something done who confine themselves to that for which they are trained--that which is their function. I have no assurance that the kind of humane values that a citizen of the 1930s, which I count myself, will long endure. But our predecessors began to teach in the wilderness. Our successors someday may again have to teach in the wilderness. And there may come a time when people will not have it clearly in mind which Cambridge is which, but they will still recognize the name as they do Santa Catherina or Alexandria or Monte Casino or Saint Golun, not for the empires of which they were a part, not even for the systems of belief they sustained--but for the learning they managed to preserve.
I find it rather interesting to come back to Harvard to hear this discussion having spent two years in the government trying to effect change in the South African government and realizing what a resistant body it was. In my first reaction--as I listened to the debate--was that it was a somewhat improbable debate. Wasn't it a case of academic hubris, of thinking that in this case the effects of some intellectuals sitting in one part of the world was going to strongly affect events in another part of the world. But as I thought further about it. I came to the conclusion that though there may be a sense of improbability about the debate in some ways, essentially there is a good reason for focusing on South Africa. I agree with the first two premises in the open letter which has been circulated. But I think one should perhaps ask the question of what effects we have from two different points of view.
One reason we might focus our attention here and violate the presumption, with which I agree in President Bok's letter that the University should not be another political pressure group, but should only deviate from that in exceptional circumstances. One reason for possible deviation from that presumption would be that there were extremely large effects in this case, but that's clearly not true, in fact the causal chains that link things happening in Cambridge, Mass., with things happening in South Africa are extremely thin. The other reason one might be concerned with South Africa and violate the presumption of political inactivity would be because of the enormity of events at the other end of the very thin causal chain, and the particular distastefulness in how that affects our job as a community of scholars dedicated to teaching. And there I think there is a cause for concern. It strikes me that the system of organized racial discrimination in South Africa on a governmental basis is totally antithetical to the values of a liberal University. The fact that citizens cannot escape that ascribed position which is reinforced by power strikes me as the opposite of the individualism we seek for and the individual endeavors that we're engaged in.
So in that sense, although the causal chains are extremely thin--indeed, my first reaction upon returning from Washington is that they were too thin to be worthy of the attention of this body, my second thought is that, in fact, there is a direct connection of something that is central to our endeavors in teaching, and that we teach by what we do, as well as by what we say. And if we showed no concern in a circumstance where there was even a thin causal chain to events and values which are antithetical to those we hold, we would in fact not be doing an effective job of teaching. With that said, however, I think we have to pay a bit more attention to what we teach, and I notice in the letter circulated by my colleagues, the open letter, that what we should be doing is following a strategy to advance the cause of withdrawal. I wonder about that. It seems to me that the cause is not withdrawal, the cause is to help black South Africans escape from the situation they're in, and the fact that withdrawal is a way to do that is a debatable point at least. I think you could make the argument that, in fact, there are other ways to do it more effectively. If we look at the case for pure withdrawal, I think we should ask ourselves are we doing pure withdrawal to help South Africans or to have a sense of purity ourselves? If it's the latter, it's an odd thing to do as teachers. Pontius Pilate with clean hands has never been an inspired moral teacher. So surely it must be to have an effect on the opportunities and lives of black South Africans.
But I think if we are looking in that direction, then complete withdrawal or divestiture is in fact not the most effective strategy. Indeed, I think you could argue that the strategy the Corporation is following is in fact more moral than its alternatives. When we teach morality in international politics in Government 40--which Professor Hoffmann and I share, and in which we disagree--we tell students that they have to look at the intentions. And I think we all share the same intentions, as I indicated in my agreement about the premises. But then we also have to look next at the effects. Which means giving a realistic appraisal of what the causal chains are, and how best to use them.
And the third thing we have to look at is competing moral claims. If those causal chains are extremely thin, and the effects very small, then competing claims (for example, next generations of education here at Harvard), is something that has also to be weighed in the balance. When I look, then, at the courses that are open before us. I think the course of complete withdrawal looks the most pure and the most moral, at a first glance. But I would not want to teach my students that that is, in fact, the most moral course, because I don't think it has the most effect on the opportunities for black South Africans. If you look, instead, at a mixed strategy, you can. I think, have a more effective situation.
Let me describe a third strategy, which I encountered in discussing this with a friend at the Business School, which I haven't heard represented here yet, which is the argument that we should have a laissez-faire position. Lay off. Essentially, investment and economic change are producing the opportunities for blacks to move up in their positions, and also the kind of basic turmoil which would undercut the system. It strikes me that doesn't make quite enough sense in the following way: it's almost a crude Marxian argument, the political superstructure will follow the economic substructure; it ignores the effects of political symbolism. That there's more than just economic change which causes social change.
And that symbolic acts do matter. But the difference, then, is not should we do nothing, but how should we use the symbolism, (small as it is), which Harvard University possesses. It seems to me the complete withdrawal approach is to wrap it up into one ball and shoot it at once. And I think that will be quickly forgotten, and quickly ignored, in South Africa.
If we're looking, instead, at the question of how do you try to affect opportunities for black South Africans, (whether it be moving up to foreman a bit earlier and challenging the racial system in occupation, or whether it be on facilities and so forth), and if you're looking for effects on white South Africans of the younger generation; how do you continually try to de-legitimize the system in their eyes? And if you're looking for effects on American corporations, so that they continually realize there is this problem with which they must deal--to which they must pay attention--then withdrawal is not the most effective strategy. You can have a dual strategy, of essentially maintaining your positions in voting shareholder resolutions to encourage opportunities for black South Africans, and also a strategy of divestment only in cases where there is particularly egregious behavior. In other words, when a corporation refuses to live by these kinds of principles, it's a more restrictive view of the presumption that Professor Hoffmann offered. And it seems to me in those circumstances you will have a more effective position over a long term than you will to have a once-for-all use of your symbolism, and a loss of your continuing influence. I think in either case we have to realize, though, that the effects are going to be very small. And that the reasons why we continue this, is because of the way it does affect our own role here as a community of liberal scholars involved in teaching and research.
I guess the thing that strikes me is that it would be a mistake for us to allow the Harvard community--the students we teach to think that, somehow, the problem here is between the resistance of a group of conservatives who want to pay no attention to this, and the open-mindedness and humanitarianness of another group who say, "let's make a strong gesture." There is, in fact, a middle position of people who feel both, who feel that they