Harvard abstained from voting its $14 million in Mobil Oil stock yesterday on a shareholder resolution to require Mobil's affiliates abroad--particularly in South Africa--to begin programs to establish equal employment opportunities. The Advisory Committee on Shareholder Responsibility (ACSR) had urged Tuesday that Harvard support the resolution.
The Corporation's subcommittee on shareholder responsibility also abstained on an ACSR-backed resolution calling for reports on conditions in the Continental Oil Company's mines. It voted Harvard's $76 million in IBM stock against ACSR-endorsed resolutions calling for shareholder nominations of IBM directors and for information on IBM's South African operations.
Harvard voted its $6 million in Con Oil stock for a resolution to have the company stop searching for oil off the coast of Namibia, and against a resolution to have the company set up an energy policy committee, as the ACSR recommended.
Hugh Calkins '45, chairman of the Corporation subcommittee, said yesterday that the subcommittee's disagreements with the ACSR had no special significance. The subcommittee's failure to follow the ACSR's advice follows its abstention last week on two ACSR-endorsed resolutions that called for information on two companies' political gifts.
"I don't think anything is going on except that we've agreed with the advisory committee on some, but not all, of their recommendations," Calkins said, in a telephone interview from his Cleveland, Ohio office. "The differences are not terribly great."
The subcommittee stated that it would have supported the Mobil resolution if it had been certain that the ACSR--and the United Church of Christ, which sponsored the resolution--were correct in saying that it called only for "proper means" and "legal ways" of ending racial discrimination.
Former Mobil Chairman
Albert L. Nickerson '33, a subcommittee member and former Mobil chairman, did not vote on the Mobil resolution. George F. Bennett '33, the University's treasurer, favored voting Harvard's stock against the resolution.
Disclosure on environmental protection and mine safety measures and on minority hiring is "important and of legitimate concern to shareholders" in Con Oil, the subcommittee said, but not in the "extensive detail" called for by Campaign Continental, the group of Miners for Democracy and Ralph Nader staffers which solicited proxies for the Con Oil resolution.
"The trouble with all these resolutions," Calkins explained, "is that they have good points and bad points." He said the subcommittee would probably have supported a resolution that restricted itself to Con Oil's apparently accident-prone coal mines, instead of asking for information on the company's other operations as well.
IBM has assured Harvard that it will disclose statistics on its black South African workers' salaries and opportunities, the main category of information the ACSR had asked for, Calkins said.
The subcommittee said it thought the IBM proposal for shareholder nomination of directors was insufficiently considered, and that "the appropriate method of change" may be through revised Securities Exchange Commission rules rather than shareholder resolutions in individual companies.
The subcommittee plans to re-examine next week its policy of supporting disclosure of political gifts only in companies whose gifts are known to be "substantial," Calkins said. The ACSR requested the re-examination last week, when Harvard said it would abstain on disclosure resolutions aimed at Eastman Kodak and International Telephone and Telegraph.
ITT's annual meeting is March 9, so the subcommittee presumably could still vote for disclosure by that company