Overseers to Discuss Divestment Question
The Board of Overseers will discuss the divestment issue at length at its next meeting, the president of the governing body said this weekend.
The meeting will mark the first time in a year that the Board has put the divestment issue on its agenda. While some overseers have discussed the issue informally at recent meetings, there has been no discussion of the issue by the Board as a whole since last December.
Overseers President Samuel C. Butler '51 said the 30-member Board will take up the issue at its meetings on December 6 and 7.
Butler said the discussion, announced at the Board's last meeting in September, did not come at the request of three overseers who were elected to the Board on a prodivestment platform. "It was my decision," he said.
Overseers said last December's discussion focused on individual boardmembers' opinions on the issue and that there was no attempt to achieve a consensus or make a recommendation to the Corporation. The seven-member Corporation has final authority over the University's investment policy.
But that meeting was unusual because Overseers Secretary Robert Shenton stopped taking minutes of the meeting when the divestment discussion began. Butler said yesterday that no minutes were taken to ensure "as full and frank a discussion as possible."
"There wasn't any real reason to have it as a formal item," Butler said, adding, "it would be easier" if overseers' remarks weren't recorded.
He said he has not yet decided whether to record this year's meeting on divestment. Even if the remarks are taken down as minutes, they remain confidential.
Several overseers contacted over the past week said they were not aware that last year's discussion was not recorded and said they were not sure whether the minutes should be taken this year.
But some overseers said they thought the contents of the discussion on divestment should be conveyed to the Corporation.
"What's clear to all the trustees is that they are in an advisery capacity. Whether it's on the record or off the record doesn't matter as much as whether the Corporation can hear thediscussions," said Overseer Peter H. Wood '64, whowas recently elected to the Board on apro-divestment platform.
"It's certainly worth discussion of thematter," said Theodore Chase '34, a former memberof the University's Advisery Committee onShareholder Responsibility (ACSR). "If theoverseers [arrive at] a consensus on the issue,they should report it to the Corporation."
The discussion of divestment comes at a timewhen the issue has largely faded from the publiceye. Since attracting wide attention from shantiesit built in the Yard more than a year ago, theSouthern Africa Solidarity Committee (SASC) hasfor the most part disintegrated.
Despite the election of two prodivestmentoverseers to the Board this year, even alumni saythey sense a falling off of interest in the issue.Two weeks ago, the group that sponsored thepetition candidates, Alumni Against Apartheid(AAA), decided to widen its agenda beyonddivestment. Organizers said they made the decisionin part because they didn't feel they couldattract new members to the organization solely onthe basis of divestment