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Change Investment Policy


ALL MEMBERS of the University community should join in supporting the demands for changes in Harvard investment policy proposed recently by the Southern Africa Solidarity Committee (SASC). After four weeks of thoughtful dialogue, the members of this new student group voted to demand that Harvard support, and where necessary, initiate shareholder resolutions calling for the withdrawal of U.S. corporate investment from South Africa. It also demanded that Harvard sell its stock in targeted companies lending support to South Africa, starting with the commercial banks that make direct loans to the South African government.

The recent political crackdowns by the apartheid regime, which have resulted in the banning of the remaining moderate black leaders and the outlawing of their organizations, has returned South Africa to the media spotlight. But the denial of social, political and economic rights to the black majority in South Africa is not new; it has proceeded for decades, and for years leaders of the anti-apartheid organizations in South Africa have called upon foreign multinationals to withdraw their investments as a means of hastening the downfall of the apartheid regime.

This call, echoed by U.S. groups such as the NAACP and the Congressional Black Caucus, becomes even more urgent in light of South Africa's latest efforts to insure that U.S. corporations continue to provide support for the apartheid regime: last Friday, the South African government invoked powers that enable it to order U.S. owned plants in South Africa to provide strategic materials for the regime, or alternately face the seizure of their goods.

TO DATE, HARVARD has paid little more than lip service to the social issues involved in the maintenance of its $1.4 billion portfolio. In 1972, when President Bok explained why the University would not meet student demands and sell its stock in the Gulf Oil Corporation, then a leading financial prop of the Portuguese colonial regime in Angola, he argued it is not normally wrong to hold stock in companies engaged in repressive activities "in view of the constructive actions a shareholder can take."

But the record since 1972 makes Bok's words ring hollow. Just last spring, Harvard refused to support five of six shareholder resolutions calling for either withdrawal or non-expansion of U.S. corporate activity in South Africa. Harvard also abstained on a resolution that would have required Manufacturers Hanover Bank to stop making loans to the South African government.

As the oldest and richest University in the nation, Harvard packs tremendous institutional clout in academic, government and corporate circles. The symbolic, as well as direct economic import, of an activist stand by Harvard in favor of the human rights of South Africa's black majority cannot be underestimated. The students, alumni, faculty and other employees of the University must help push Harvard toward the socially responsible position on this issue.

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