THE UNIVERSITY'S policy as a shareholder, along with most of its other policies, should be democratically determined. When Harvard owns part of companies that prop racist regimes in Africa, or supply the wherewithal for killing Vietnamese, or fail to provide for the safety of their workers, or subvert democracy in this country by spending large sums of their shareholders' money, all the members of the University are implicated. And all the members of the University therefore have the responsibility -- and ought to have the power -- to find out about such practices and to see that they stop.
Last week for the first time the Corporation disregarded a recommendation of the Advisory Committee on Shareholder Responsibility (ACSR). It abstained from voting Harvard's Eastman Kodak and International Telephone and Telegraph stock on ACSR-endorsed shareholder resolutions calling for disclosure of the companies' political gifts. The ACSR is not infallible, but it represents three of Harvard's constituents: students, faculty and alumni. When both it and the Student ACSR (chosen in a College-wide election last Fall) strongly back a resolution, the Corporation's reasons for not supporting that resolution ought to be very strong.
Which, in this case, they were not. The Corporation believes that all large membership groups -- not just corporations -- ought to disclose their political gifts. Such impartiality is certainly commendable but hardly justifies abstaining on corporate disclosures. Some knowledge beats no knowledge, as any teaching fellow will tell you.
Nor is it enough for Harvard to support disclosure resolutions, as the subcommittee promised, in companies where "the record indicates" substantial contributions. Kodak may be correct in claiming that its affiliates' executives act purely as individuals when they set up funds to help such deserving candidates as Senator Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.). But we see no harm in finding out more about their activities. ITT's little excursions into electoral politics in this country and in Chile may fall outside the scope of the present disclosure resolution, as Hugh Calkins '45, chairman of the subcommittee, was quick to point out. But they're not exactly cause for confidence in ITT's claims of noninvolvement in this country's other political campaigns. And even if they were, it's hard to see why a university, existing for the advancement of truth, should ever oppose -- or even abstain on -- people's free access to information of any sort.
The Corporation should have stuck to its earlier practice of following the ACSR's recommendations.