As the Rev. Jesse Jackson's fiery criticism of Harvard's investment policy drew the attention of thousands yesterday. Harvard tried to insure that those reading and watching reports of the pro-divestiture rally got both sides of the story.
At a post-rally press conference, Vice President and General Counsel Daniel Steiner '54 countered charges waged by Jackson and others that Harvard directly supports apartheid by holding onto its investments in companies with South African operations.
Outlining Harvard's policy of extensive dialogue," Steiner said the University believes it can do more to counter oppressive conditions in that country as a shareholder than it could if it severed all its links to companies with operations there.
Steiner said that Harvard is "much in agreement with Mr. Jackson," and that Harvard shares the opposition to apartheid expressed by speakers at yesterday's rally. Harvard disagrees, Steiner said, with Jackson's view that divestiture is the most effective means of combatting apartheid.
"Our goal is not divestment; divestment is a failure for us," Steiner told the dozen or so television, radio, and newspaper reporters in attendance. "There's disagreement, but that's to be expected in a free society."
The Steiner press conference, organized by News Office personnel in a small Science Center classroom, followed a decision among top officials that in light of the pro-divestiture rally, "the University had an obligation to speak its point of view," Harvard Spokesman David M. Rosen said.
Steiner spoke on the University's behalf instead of President Bok because "Bok had a variety of appointments" yesterday in Cambridge, Steiner said. Harvard's top lawyer, Steiner is considered Bok's most trusted aide.
No Rising Tide Seen
Steiner cited a Crimson survey conducted this week, which indicated that 33 percent of Harvard undergraduates support complete divestiture, in saying that opposition to Harvard's policy does not constitute "a rising tide."
"Only one third of students polled favored divestment," Steiner said.
Other results of the Crimson poll--a random telephone survey of 479 students--showed that one third of students favor selective divestiture based on ethical or other considerations, that 14 percent oppose any sale of stock, and that 19 percent are unsure of their position on the controversial divestiture issue.
Steiner did not cite these results.
Facing a group of microphones and tape recorders, Steiner explained at the 15-minute conference that Harvard holds approximately $580 million of stock in about 100 companies which do a "small part"--usually less than 1 percent, he said--of their business in South Africa.
Harvard maintains investments in those companies, Steiner added, "not because of the fact that they do business in South Africa, but despite the fact that they do business in South Africa."
When a company fails to respond to Harvard's ethical urgings, Steiner told reporters, University policy calls for it to consider selling its stock in that company.