This afternoon a small undergraduate committee will meet to decide the fate of the undergraduate post of the Advisory Committee on Shareholder Responsibility (ACSR)--a committee whose purposes and legitimacy in the eyes of many undergraduates were questioned by the resignation of its sole undergraduate member on Wednesday.
The Undergraduate Committee on Harvard Shareholder Responsibility (UCHSR) must decide whether to appoint an undergraduate to a committee which, according to the resignation statement of Julie Fouquet '80, "stalls" on the issue of Harvard's investment in corporations active in South Africa, does not represent the Harvard community, and is "ineffective."
Most of the UCHSR members believe an ACSR boycott is likely because, as a member said last night, "it's obvious that change on Harvard's investments cannot be brought about within the ACSR...maybe it's time to raise a stink."
Underlying Fouquet's broad allegations, however, are points that question the ACSR's procedures and basic principles--points UCHSR members said they would definitely consider in making a decision today.
In her statement, Fouquet said the ACSR discussed a hypothetical question of whether the Harvard Corporation should be bound to, act if the entire Harvard community favored the initiation of a shareholder resolution in a company. Fouquet alleged that most ACSR members answered in the negative, because, "in the words of one, it was 'too much democracy.'"
Fouquet appears incorrect in extending this example to the larger question of how ACSR members can advocate majority rule in South Africa when they do not approve of democracy at Harvard. Nonetheless, the example seems to dispel any illusions that the ACSR is accountable to the Harvard community.
Lawrence F. Stevens '65, secretary of the ACSR, would not comment on the hypothetical case Fouquet raised. He admits, however, that the ACSR is not designed to be a democratic body, but is instead an advisory committee to the Corporation.
Fouquet's allegations that the ACSR is "stalling" and "ineffective" are based on what she calls the committee's "regression" from the policies outlined last year in its spring report, and the "unrealistic" nature of the case-by-case review it has undertaken.
Fouquet says that, contrary to its report, the ACSR is not planning to take action against corporations that "hedge" the questions in the Harvard questionnaire on corporate activities in South Africa. Instead of taking action against these corporations, the committee has justified the "continued presence" of these corporations in South Africa, she says.
Stevens said yesterday that it is "naive" to believe that all the corporations that receive Harvard's questionnaire will respond in full.
The accumulation of information on the practices of these corporations is an ongoing process, and will "take some time," Stevens said.
Detleve F. Vagts '49, professor of Law and an ACSR member, said last night that the committee may recommend in January that the Corporation draw up shareholder resolutions encouraging corporations to reveal explicitly their policies in South Africa.
Once the ACSR compiles the necessary information, however, further problems arise that would make the case-by-case review "unrealistic," Fouquet says.
The ACSR has reviewed only three of the 125 corporations that have received the questionnaire and this 125 are only one-third of the corporations active in South Africa, Fouquet said.
Stevens said the top one-third of corporations give an indication of "90 per cent" of the effects of U.S. corporate involvement in South Africa.
The ACSR has reviewed only three corporations because of the incomplete information it receives from many corporations and the large amount of time a judicious review requires, Stevens said