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South African divestment activism might be at a temporary lull at Harvard, but at other campuses across the country, sparks continue to fly during the cold winter months.
Dartmouth gained attention this month when its pro-divestment shantytown was torn down first by students against divestment and later by the college. Following Dartmouth's lead, shantytowns have sprung up at Stanford and Brandeis Universities.
Students at Brandeis last week constructed a 50-foot-long shanty. Since that time, activists have taken turns staying in the shanty throughout the day and night, said senior Eric D. London, associate editor of The Justice, the Brandeis student newspaper. A fire provides the only heat, London said.
Brandeis students also conducted a non-binding divestment referendum showing 84 percent of respondents in favor of divestment, London said. He said the administration is not planning to remove the shanty but will not commit to total divestment despite overwhelming student support for it.
"The administration has dragged their feet, but they've been relatively receptive," London said.
Stanford's month-old shanties were torn down early this week, while members of the student activist group Stanford Out of South Africa took shelter from a rain storm, said senior Lisa L. Lynch, an editor of The Stanford Daily. The pro-divestment group Thursday rebuilt the two-structure shantytown out of cardboard boxes, Lynch said.
Students at Brown University this week made 10 mock graves complete with tombstones, moss, and flowers in preparation for this weekend's meeting of Brown's governing boards. The trustees' main agenda item: should the University divest?
Nine of the graves signify people who died fighting apartheid in South Africa and slavery in America. The 10th grave stands for the people yet to die in the struggle, said N. Andrew Cohen, general manager of the Brown Daily Herald. The pro-divestment activists are keeping a round-the-clock watch over the graves to prevent vandalism similar to that which occurred at Dartmouth and Stanford.
The administration has not objected to the protest. "The grave sites seem to fit the standards of decorum," said Brown Dean of Students John Robinson.
In response to a faculty vote last semester urging divestment if apartheid isn't abolished before 1988, Brown now offers an optional pension fun which has no ties to South Africa-related companies, Cohen said.
The faculty at Cornell University last spring held a similar vote favoring divestment. In a subsequent faculty referendum in September, more than half of the roughly 2300 faculty members responded, said Professor Philip E. Lewis, a member of Faculty and Staff Against Apartheid. Though 56 percent of the faculty voted in favor of divestment, and 44 percent voted in opposition, the trustees of Cornell last month rejected divestment.
But Cornell has created an optional retirement fund that does not have South Africa-related investments. This fund exists only as a supplement to the mandatory pension fund, Lewis said.
University of Pennsylvania
A 20-day student sit-in in the hallways of the main administration building at the University of Pennsylvania ended Monday, said senior Adrian J. Goldszmidt, former managing editor of The Daily Pennsylvanian.
Each night during the sit-in, 25 to 30 anti-apartheid students slept in the hallway outside the University president's office. The students were protesting the disciplinary charges brought by the university against seven students. The seven are charged with violating protest rules as stated in the university's Guidelines on Open Expression by entering the president's office during an earlier sit-in held on the day the university trustees voted not to divest, Goldszmidt said.
One of the seven students is a South African national who, if suspended, will lose his visa and be forced to return to his homeland, Goldszmidt said. The other six students also face possible suspension.
Despite the focused attention the issue of divestment is receiving from students and faculty on campuses nationwide, administrators don't seem to be yielding to student pressure.
Said Cornell's Lewis: "What's going to happen [with divestment] will depend on what happens in South Africa."
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