Med Students Urge Divestment
Students Council of HMS Endorses Petition Signed by 164
More than half of the about 300 first and second-year medical students have signed a petition urging President Bok to set a timetable for divesting University investments from companies which do business in South Africa.
The Medical School Student Council decided last week to endorse the petition, which was started by another student group, and will send a letter to President Bok.
Signed by 164 students, the petition stated that "by refusing to end its complicity with the Botha regime, Harvard is manifesting a gross lack of sensitivity to injustices against peoples of color."
In the next Student Council meeting, on April 7, the council will determine the content of the letter of endorsement that will accompany the petition.
The letter is an unusual move for the approximately 25-member council which does not often discuss political issues, said Student Council Chairperson Atoosa Pezeshgpour '82.
"It was the signatures of so many students that instigated the discussion in the first place. Our relation to the outside has usually been with community work and that's generally agreed upon as non-political," Pezeshgpour said.
Organizers said that they were pleased with the positive response from the often apolitical Med School student body.
"On the whole, the level of political awareness is as great as I've seen anywhere," said Pezeshgpour.
"There has been quite a bit of concern over this particular issue [divestment]. There was a very strong base of support for the petition among the students," said first-year Med School student Matthew R. Anderson, a member of the Health and Human Rights Group (HHRG), the committee which organized and presented the petition.
"This university is supposed to be a community and we're trying to make our voice heard in that community. The petition is one more thing that can push the administration toward divestment," Anderson said.
"Another consideration on our part is the effect in the U.S. When a major university refuses to divest, it really encourages racist attitudes in our own society. Making a statement like this is making a statement against racism," Anderson said.
Stephen N. Valef, member of HHRG, said that the group decided to circulate the petition in the past month because the students now would be the most appropriate time. "Now, generally things are coming to a head. Derek Bok will be coming back from his sabbatical, and Alumni Versus Apartheid are running again," said Valef.