Harvard Treasurer Links Divestments to Protests
Activists Claim Victory for Movement
The head of the Corporation's investment responsibility committee said yesterday that he credited in part pressure from Harvard's student and alumni protest movement for the University's recent decision to divest of about one-third of its South Africa-related investments.
Roderick M. MacDougall '51, Harvard treasurer and chairman of the Corporation Committee on Shareholder Responsibility (CCSR), said at a press conference yesterday that a new investment guideline which prompted the withdrawal of $160 million in funds in eight major international corporations "was influenced by students and alumni" who protest the University's investment policy.
The treasurer's comments came as student and alumni activists who advocate complete withdrawal of South Africa-related stock claimed partial victory in forcing the recent divestments and called for the continuation of protests until Harvard has no remaining financial ties to South Africa.
The University's new investment guideline, adopted in 1985 after a recommendation from the Advisory Committee on Shareholder Responsibility, a student-faculty-alumni group that advises the CCSR, requires that the Corporation not invest in companies that supply material used directly in the enforcement of aparthied.
A review of Harvard's portfolio following the adoption of that policy ended in Thursday's announcement that the Corporation will divest over the next 12 months of $79 million in stock and $92 million in bonds in such firms as Exxon, Ford and Mobil.
"It is very clear that the policy we have in place was shaped by students," MacDougall told local reporters at ameeting in Holyoke Center. "We are not unmindfulof these pressures" on Harvard to divest of itsSouth Africa-related stock.
But MacDougall also stressed the University'ssatisfaction with its policy of "intensivedialogue" for monitoring its $520 million investedstocks and bonds of South Africa-linked firms. Hesaid the Corporation is still committed toinvesting in those companies that the CCSR judges"do more good than harm" in South Africa.
"We do not believe that all companies shouldpull out of South Africa," MacDougall said. "Ourobjective is to get companies to be forcefulagainst apartheid." Harvard still invests in about80 companies doing business in the segregatednation.
The Other Side
At a separate press conference outside ofUniversity Hall, representatives of the AfricanNational Congress, the 350th Divestment Coalitionand Alumni Against Apartheid emphasized theircontributions to the divestment action and calledfor continued pressure on the Corporation tocompletely severe financial ties with SouthAfrica.
"Divestment is step one," said Douglas Brugge,a member of the 350th Divestment Coalition and afifth-year graduate student in biology.
The University's action represents a "partialvictory [for the movement] because they don't wantto say they're doing it [divesting]. Obviouslyit's a first step in what they will inevitablydo," Brugge said. "This partial divestmentreinforces our notion that we have a chance ofwinning full divestment."
Themsa Vilakazi, chairman of executivecommittee of ANC, the outlawed South Africanopposition group, said, "I think to have theembarrassent of constant demonstrations" atHarvard helped contribute to the decision.
Harvard's move "is significant in the sensethat it is in the right direction. We just need topush them much further," Vilakazi said.
The Southern Africa Solidarity Committee(SASC), the student divestment group, issued astatement yesterday which called for continuedprotests. "Harvard's divestment of $160 million isa partial victory for the generations of studentswho have with rallies, sit-ins and shantiesdemanded that their University cut all ties withapartheid. But our work is not yet done ...Administrators still believe that it is possibleto invest responsibly in South Africa," thestatement read.
Recent activities by divestment activists haveincluded: the election of pro-divestment candidateto the Harvard Board of Overseers, one of theUniversity's two governing bodies; a protest thatforced the cancellation of the gala 350th dinnerin Memorial Hall early last month; and theconstruction last spring of a shantytown inHarvard Yard.
"It's absurd to say [the move] is not a resultof pressure," said Tina Smith '83, a member ofAlumni Against Aparthied.
Dr. Paul Epstein, a member of the 350thcoalition, told the 50 assembled students andpress representatives that the University shouldreinvest the $160 million in development funds forBlack South Africans.
"We want Harvard to begin investing not inshort term profits, but in long term developmentsof the whole region," said Epstein, a School ofPublic Health graduate who spent two years inSouth Africa