Faculty Debate

The following text is the conclusion to Wednesday's Faculty meeting. The Crimson thanks WHRB-FM for the tapes of the meeting.


President Bok, Dean Rosovsky. I, in this building, am usually referred to as Ann Spence's husband, though I somewhat more recently have been referred to in considerably less flattering terms.

I have served on the ACSR for two years, almost, this year as its chairperson, and my colleagues occasionally emit sympathetic sounds when I tell them this. I in fact regard this as a privilege rather than a burden, and I'm pleased to be here today to have a chance to talk about it.

Like some other lapsed academics who have gone into politics, however, I am considering returning to academic life next year. I would like to address my remarks on the South Africa issue not directly to what has been said today, at least initially, but rather by way of posing what seemed to me, having spent some time thinking about it, are the central questions that one inevitably confronts in worrying about this issue.


The first question, and one that one cannot escape, is should companies withdraw from South Africa? By companies I mean U.S. companies with South African operations. The answer to this question should, I think, be yes, unless the following two conditions are met:

First, that they decline to sell products or services to the government, the military, or the police that materially support the continuing implementation of the apartheid system;

Second, and equally important, that they adopt employment policies that are designed to train and promote non-white South Africans as rapidly as possible, and that in the interim they treat them equally with respect to wages, benefits, facilities, union negotiations and in every other dimension of the employment contract, and;

Third, that they report the results of these efforts annually or semi-annually for an extended period of time, and in sufficient detail so that shareholders like Harvard and others who are interested can make reasoned judgements about the extent to which they are or are not contributing to the well-being of black South Africans.

That these conditions should hold notwithstanding the present and potential future legal impediments to their implementation.

In thinking about thus issue, which has for me, and I think for a number of other people been the most difficult issue to deal with, there are many facts and observations that one makes and then cogitates about. I would like simply to draw your attention to a few of them that seemed to me particularly relevant.

First, if a United States manufacturing operation were to be withdrawn from by a United States corporation, that management would be replaced, perhaps by another multinational, perhaps by South African companies, and in the worst case, by a state-owned corporation, with the obvious implications for how it might be run.

Second, and I think in my mind overwhelmingly important, is that there is a drastic shortage of educational resources in the South African economy and polity. This is documented by educators, the Committee on Race Relations, and is the legacy of a history of devoting virtually no resources to the education of roughly 80 per cent of the population of that beleagured country. I therefore place particular importance on the remark I made earlier on the importance of training and the development of skills which will make admittedly minor contributions to a very sad situation; but it seems to me and has seemed to others to be at least some movement in the right direction.

On the other hand, and it would be dishonest of me not to state this, the fact that companies are there is in implicit support of the status quo and explicit by virtue of the fact that they pay taxes. They contribute to the stability, at least in the short run, of the economy, and they contribute to the stability, at least in the short run, of the economy, and they contribute to the prestige of the existing administration by virtue of the fact that U.S. corporations are there. There are examples of companies that have modified their policies in South Africa or withdrawn under particular circumstances. Polaroid withdrew its manufacturing operation and instructed its distributor not to distribute its products to the government for use in the infamous passbook system. That distributor did not obey those instructions. Polaroid found out about it and severed its connection completely with South Africa, and I think appropriately. Several American banks which in the past have made loans to the South African government have ceased to make those loans and so announced it publically; a number of others have not made such public announcements but in fact have stopped making those loans. Those loans are, in the view of the Harvard Corporation and the ACSR, direct support--or direct enough support--of the apartheid system to be stopped, for us to want to stop them.

Finally, a very recent example, the Burroughs Corporation, which had in the past been selling computers to the government, was asked in the form of a shareholder resolution from a number of church groups to stop selling anything to the government, and they responded by saying they would not invest further in South Africa at all, and they would not knowingly sell either products or sales and service to any organization that was involved in oppressive work.