Politics and Money Walk Hand-in-Hand
MUCH as we would like to live in a world where issues can be labelled political or apolitical, life is not that easy. Issues such as investment in South Africa do not stay locked in their rooms. They slip under the cracks in the doors into all aspects of our lives.
Tom Warren focuses on the worth-while and so-called apolitical nature of the senior class gift. However, while the class gift may not appear to have anything to do with South Africa, it is not devoid of ethical and political implications. The commendable purpose of the class gift does not diminish the need to take a stand against injustice in South Africa.
The Endowment for Divestiture (E4D), created by members of the Class of 1983, provides seniors with the opportunity to use their position as potential class gift contributers for the expression of their dissatisfaction with Harvard's South Africa investment policies. Since 1983, alumni and seniors have continued to contribute to E4D--money which is invested in socially responsible companies by the Calvert Group.
If Harvard divests or apartheid ends, the money in the fund will go to Harvard. If neither of these two events has occurred by the year 2003, the money will be donated to an appropriate charity within the Harvard community.
WARREN would prefer that seniors not address the questions over investment policies when giving to Harvard. There is nothing obviously wrong with giving to the senior class gift. However, Warren himself acknowledges that all the sources for the University budget "are interconnected." The senior class gift is part of this pool of money, and a contribution to it cannot be apolitical because it funds investment in South Africa.
University officials do not want us to examine contributions in the context of this moral framework. They would prefer that we give our money--no strings attached. However, giving with strings attached is one of the few ways seniors can communicate with Harvard because the University depends heavily on alumni donations.
Unfortunately, the University does its best to undermine this type of communication. The threat implicit in the appeal for class gift contributions is that if seniors do not give, or choose instead to give to E4D, undergraduate extracurricular or educational opportunites will suffer. Warren states that "[w]hen the money's not there," programs such as "varsity athletics or professional dramatic productions" will be harmed. Warren assumes that the University would be willing to sacrifice the quality of undergraduate life should senior class donations decrease.
However, it is likely that the University would restore any decrease in the class gift in order to maintain scholarship funds and extracurricular activities. After all, the size of the senior class gift does not determine the scope of educational opportunities at Harvard. It is disappointing that the University portrays these opportunities as contingent on our unconditional acceptance of its investment policies--that is not what education is supposed to be.
If we feel strongly about Harvard's immoral investment policies in South Africa, then we should say so and not accept the statement that the senior class gift is apolitical. Warren's announcement that the senior class gift is "apolitical" is too simple a construction of the world. People try to remove many actions from a moral framework by stripping them of their political significance. Unfortunately, the world we live in is fraught with more painful moral dilemmas.
Jen Honig '88 of Dunster House is co-chairman of Endowment for Divestiture. Betsy Fishman '88 of Leverett House is secretary.