South African Archbishop Desmond M. Tutu, whose candidacy for the Board of Overseers stirred up a hornet's nest of controversy last spring, will attend his first Board meeting this weekend.
Sources in both the United States and South Africa said yesterday that Tutu recently decided to attend the meeting, the second scheduled since his election, because he was already planning to visit the United States this weekend.
They said Tutu may stay in Cambridge for no more than a few hours, and added that the Archbishop probably would not have the opportunity to discuss the University's $138 million invested in South Africa-related companies.
"He is only coming for a very brief visit in the States," said Lavinia Brown, Tutu's secretary in Cape Town. "He has an engagement in Washington, and [the dates] happened by chance to include the Harvard meeting."
Tutu was one of a slate of candidates nominated for the Board of Overseers by Harvard-Radcliffe Alumni Against Apartheid (HRAAA). The group has nominated candidates for the past four years in the hopes that the Board, which advises the seven-member Harvard Corporation on University policy, would vote to divest.
HRAAA Director Robert P. Wolff `54, however, said Tutu would only discuss divestment this weekend if it was already on the agenda, a possibility several overseers said was unlikely.
Ever since the University's governing boards affirmed their policy of selective divestment last fall, officials have said the matter was closed. Overseers President John C. Whitehead has reiterated that stance throughout the fall.
"We've got a pretty full agenda," Whitehead said yesterday. But he added, "If anyone raises an issue, we will certainly discuss it if we have time."
But if divestment activists do not expect his appearance to force any immediate changes in investment policy, they at least felt vindicated by Tutu's sudden decision to attend this week's meeting.
Tutu's candidacy--and more specifically his ability to attend six annual meetings in Cambridge--was the center of unprecedented debate in last year's Overseers election.
When HRAAA nominated Tutu for a post on the 30-member Board, critics said the archbishop could not fulfill his duties as an overseer since he would not be able to attend most of the Board meetings.
Tutu did, in fact, miss the first Board meeting in October. Just last month, he said in a letter that he would be unable to visit the United States at all this year, according to Whitehead.
HRAAA's opponents had also said candidates like Tutu were only interested in one issue--divestment from South Africa--and were thus ill-suited to discuss the broader educational issues that come before the Board.
Yesterday, HRAAA officials and supporters said Tutu's attendance this weekend would prove those critics wrong.
"It seems to me to demonstrate quite clearly that all the charges last year that he wasn't going to be a real member are false," Wolff said.