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The first test of President Bok's skill as a crisis manager has developed from his confrontation Thursday with the Pan-African Liberation Committee. The Committee's demand that Harvard divest itself of its shares of Gulf Oil Corporation stock in protest of Gulf's policies in Angola has been met thus far with a confusing and contradictory response from Bok.
First Bok locked the door of Massachusetts Hall on the black students and community people. Then, when the demonstrators retired to University Hall, threatening militant action, Bok agreed to meet that evening with their representatives. Although he remained silent at the meeting on any of the substantive issues, he issued a statement later that night which said: "There is no question in my mind that Portugal has inflicted grave wrongs on Black people in Angola and Mozambique.
If Bok's statement is sincere, we must assume from it that he will use whatever influence Harvard has to deny the Portuguese Colonialists their means of furthering those "grave wrongs."
We agree with the PALC that Harvard plays a role in the oppression of Black Angolans by the fact of its ownership of 680,000 shares of Gulf stock. Gulf is the sole concessionaire of an oil-rich region of Angola. When liberation forces overran the oil fields in 1961, Gulf was forced to stop its drilling. Big corporations take no chances. Gulf has helped finance the Portuguese army's suppression of the Angolese people because its management desires to keep this profit-making area in the hands of "reliable" white Europeans.
Portugal is not a rich nation. It could not finance wars to protect its vestigial empire without the dollar support of American corporations like Gulf. The company paid Portugal more than 20 million dollars in 1969, or half of that year's total military expenditure in Angola. Moreover, special Gulf allocations for military construction and defense forces are written into current contracts. As are Portuguese pledges to defend the oil fields.
And if Gulf is a part of the bloodshed in Angola, Harvard is a part of Gulf. We support PALC's demand that Harvard use its stock leverage to alter Gulf's Angola policy. This would be a major victory, for Harvard has been a crucial pro-management voter in such corporate responsibility proxy fights as Campaign GM. We would propose that as a first demonstration of the concern for the welfare of Black Africans that Bok showed in his Thursday evening statement, he publicly commit Harvard to support for the United Church of Christ's proxy fight for full disclosure of Gulf's role.
If the proxy campaign fails, as it did last year, we will support PALC's demand that Harvard sell its shares of Gulf stock and issue a public statement explaining the divestiture as part of its commitment to socially-responsible investment. We assume that Harvard would then enter similar proxy fights in the other corporations involved in the Portugese colonies in which it holds stock.
The PALC has not asked Harvard to support the Angolese at the expense of the University. The University's financial solvency will not be threatened by its adoption of an anti-colonialism clause in its investment policy. In 1972 it is not shooting the moon to ask men of goodwill to do their best to put an end to the bloody remnants of the 19th century. We ask only that Bok act upon the humanitarian logic of his own statement.
We commend the Pan-African Liberation Committee for forcefully bringing this issue to the community; we assume that since no edict of the Resolution on Rights and Responsibilities has been violated, there will be no punishment; and we welcome the return of activist student involvement in the life of the University.
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