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Corporation Reviews South Africa Policy

By Linda S. Drucker

The Harvard Corporation and its Advisory Committee on Shareholder Responsibility (ACSR) will consider changing Harvard's investment policy to allow deposits in banks that loan money to the South African government for humanitarian and medical purposes.

The present policy--a blanket prohibition on investments in banks that make any loans to the South African government--"is simply too restrictive," George Putnam, the University's Treasurer and a Corporation member, said recently.

Putnam added that the present policy is now "under review," but that the Corporation would not alter it before consulting with ACSR, which is independently reviewing Harvard's investment policy.

Putnam and Robert Stone, another member of the Corporation's Committee on Shareholder Responsibility (CCSR), said they would seek a policy allowing the University to treat each loan individually.

"The Corporation is not interested in giving South Africa more guns, but we should not oppose loans which clearly can be identified as humanitarian," Stone said Thursday.

Milton Katz, Stimson Professor of Law and Chairman of the ACSR, said yesterday the ACSR's independent review is proceeding without the Corporation's intervention. "We have not asked their views, and they have not offered them," Katz added.

Several alumni and faculty members of the committee--including two of the three members of the South Africa subcommittee--also said this week they favor a "more flexible" policy on bank loans.

But student representatives to the ACSR yesterday charged the Corporation with "seeking to evade the only concession it made to student pressure in 1978."

Not Subtle

"The Corporation's motives are not too subtle," Patrick Flaherty, one of the ACSR's graduate student representatives, said yesterday, adding, "Without continued student pressure, they attempt to renege."

The Corporation's decision to review its policy comes barely two weeks after it was learned Harvard had sold $50 million in Citicorp notes when that bank agreed to loan money to South Africa--the first time the Corporation's three-year-old prohibition had resulted in a sale.

Sources close to the Corporation said yesterday that while the Corporation had been "unhappy" with the policy since its inception, the desire to reconsider was sparked by negative business reaction--and possibly, a financial loss--resulting from the recent sale..

While acknowledging that reaction to the sale had been "very negative." Putnam said that "what disturbed businesses most was Harvard's inability to differentiate between the loans."

"They simply can't understand why we see things in terms of black and white," Putnam added.

Citicorp vice-president Robert L. Brannon said yesterday the $250 million loan that prompted Harvard to sell its notes was to be used to build schools, housing projects, and hospitals for South African Blacks. The loan will be strictly monitored to ensure that it is used for the intended projects, he added.

Student representatives to the ACSR yesterday contended that all credit to the South African government bolsters the apartheid system.

"A loan to build schools for Black children will free money to be used for the military," Kenneth Propp, the law school's representative to the ACSR said yesterday. "There is no way to get around the fact that all credit is basically fungible.

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