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Mississippi Power and Light: Confidential Study Shows 4.5% Black Work Force

By James M. Fallows

Figures collected by the Federal enrolment in a study last year offer new information on the hiring policies of one of Harvard's controversial investments, the Mississippi Power and Light Company.

The statistics-which come from a confidential report filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)-show that the company's work force is four-and-a-half per cent black.

The report also shows that nearly all of Mississippi P and L's 52 black employees work in jobs classified as semi-skilled, unskilled, or custodial.

The hiring record is based on studies conducted in late 1968 and early 1969. According to sources in the government who supplied the report, it is the most recent available count of Mississippi P and L's employees.

Harvard has both direct and indirect financial interests in Mississippi P and L. According to the current Treasurer's report, Harvard holds Mississippi P and L bonds worth $590,000.

Harvard also owns $12.5 million worth of stock in Middle South Utilities Inc., the holding company that controls Mississippi P and L. The Harvard-Yenching Isntitute, in a separate account, owns another $400,000 worth of Middle South stock. Harvard Treasurer George F. Bennett '33 now serves as a director of Middle South.

The University's holdings in Mississippi P and L have been the target of criticism several times in the last five years. Student groups have claimed that the company's hiring practices are discriminatory, while Harvard has consistently denied the charges.

The meaning of the EEOC figures is not entirely clear. A source in the Justice Department said yesterday that the charts showed "clear discrimination-a case that's hard to deny."

But Clifford J. Alexander '55, former director of the EEOC, said yesterday that Mississippi P and L's hiring record might not be significantly worse than those of other utility companies.

Alexander-who is now an Overseer and who completed the University's negotiations during the black construction worker dispute last Fall-said that the nationwide pattern of minority employment in utility companies is "very bleak."

He estimated that the national average for black employment in the utility industry is three per cent-less than Mississippi P and L's.

More specialized figures covering the Southern states show a higher black percentage. According to a study done in late 1968 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, several hundred electric cooperatives in the South and Southwest had work forces that averaged five per cent black.

In states with heavily black populations-such as Mississippi and Alabama-the black employment average climbed to nine or ten per cent-about twice as high as Mississippi P and L's.

According to confidential reports in the EEOC files, there have been several informal complaints of discriminationmade against Mississippi P and L, and at least one case that required a formal EEOC hearing.

In that case, the EEOC investigated charges of "discriminatory job assignment, discriminatory hiring, discriminatory promotions, and segregated facilities."

The hearing record says that "a decision of cause was reached," and that the matter was dismissed after "successful conciliation with the company."

A Federal official who made the records available said that several of Middle South's other subsidiary companies have faced discrimination complaints, and that most have hiring records similar to Mississippi P and L's.

Some of the subsidiaries mentioned in EEOC complaints include the New Orleans Public Service Co., Arkansas Power and Light, and Louisiana Power and Light and several others.

Of these, Harvard has direct holdings in two: Arkansas P and L, in which Harvard owns bonds worth $2,043,802: and Louisiana P and L, where Harvard's bonds are worth $1,912,500.

Under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and several Executive Orders, the companies are required to report their minority hiring records to the Federal government it they hold Federal contracts of a certain size. Mississippi P and L, for example, has a $706,000 Defense Department contract for work at the Biloxi. Miss. Ajr Force base.

Officials of Middle South and of Mississippi P and L deferred comment on the EEOC hiring report Mississippi P and L's Vice President for Personnel, C. E. Jones, was away from his Jackson office, and his associates did not speculate on how the company's employment might have changed in the last year.

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