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The Corporation yesterday decided to abstain on a shareholder resolution that calls on the American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T)--in which Harvard owns about $20 million of stock--to set up a special committee to evaluate its nuclear weapons development.
The abstention goes against last month's recommendation by the Advisory Committee on Shareholder Responsibility (ACSR) to support the resolution which asks AT&T to appoint a committee to examine the "moral, social, economic and national security implications" of the company's operation of the Sandia National Laboratories in three Western states.
At the Sandia laboratories, AT&T conducts research and development on nuclear weapons systems for the U.S. Department of Energy.
Yesterday's decision represents a slight change in policy for the Corporation, which last year had opposed the same resolution on the advice of the ACSR.
The advisory committee makes non-binding recommendations to the Corporation on ethical issues Harvard may encounter as a stockholder.
In a statement released yesterday, the Corporation Committee on Shareholder Responsibility (CCSR) said it decided to abstain because it did not wish "to establish a confused or inconsistent record" on shareholder resolutions, since the ACSR has in two years come to two separate conclusions on the same issue in close votes. Last month, the ACSR approved the resolution 6-4 with one abstention.
And College Treasures George C. Putnam '49 said yesterday that the Corporation wanted more time to consider a reversal on the issue.
Not Our Business
The Corporation feels that nuclear arms control "isn't something you can deal with at the corporate proxy level," but rather should be dealt with by the executive and legislative branches of government, Putnam added.
But Timothy Smith, director of the coalition of church groups that proposed the Sandia resolution, yesterday criticized the Corporation's reasoning, saying. "It is too easy to say the responsibility for the nuclear arms race lies with the U.S. government."
Many companies have a "vested interest" in seeing nuclear arms construction continue. Smith said, adding, "You can't abstain on the nuclear arms race."
Smith said last month that Harvard support for such a resolution would have symbolic importance in showing increased public concern about the dangers of nuclear war, even though other AT&T shareholders would undoubtedly reject the motion.
One student member of the ACSR said yesterday that he was not suprised by the Corporation's action. Frederick T. Smith, a first-year Law School student, cited the closeness of the ACSR's vote, saying. "To reverse a precedent we needed a stronger consensus than we had."
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