Divestment Opposition Persists Despite Tutu's Overseer Election

Alumni pro-divestment activists cheered when South African Archbishop Desmond M. Tutu won his bid for a seat on the 30-member Board of Overseers this June, but soon wondered if the election was just the sweet coating to a very bitter pill.

Throughout a hostile campaign, Harvard-Radcliffe Alumni Against Apartheid (HRAAA) supporters had said Tutu's presence on the Board could force a vote on the University's $163.8 million in South Africa-related investments.

It was not known how the other four successful candidates--Labor Secretary Elizabeth H. Dole, researcher Dr. Bernadine P. Healy, actor John A. Lithgow '67 and attorney Peter L. Malkin '55--stood on the divestment issue. Yet HRAAA supporters said Tutu's election alone could tip the scales their way.

But if there was a majority in the making, it wasn't apparent at the Board's last meeting in June. There, HRAAA's supporters couldn't muster enough support to block passage of the Young Report, a controversial set of proposals to give the University more control over future overseer elections.

The day before Tutu's election was announced, the Board approved most of the report's recommendations, even though HRAAA supporters said it was just a heavy-handed attempt to defeat their pro-divestment movement.

Meanwhile, HRAAA officials announced that Tutu would not be able to attend the Board's first meeting, University administrators sounded the "I told you so's," and HRAAA officials said they couldn't say when--or even if --Tutu would begin regular attendance.

HRAAA officials said they were not disappointed and insisted that Tutu was a moral force for the Board even from Cape Town.

Newly elected Board President John C. White head said divestment was a closed matter as far as the Overseers were concerned. He said it wouldn't be on the agenda this year.

Or anytime soon, for that matter.