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Bok Outlines Harvard's S. African Efforts

Presidential Open Letter Defends Investment Policy

By Jonathan M. Moses

In a lengthy open letter released today on Harvard's South Africa-related policies, President Derek C. Bok reaffirms his opposition to divestment and outlines the steps the university has taken to work against apartheid.

The 17-page letter, which comes at a time of increasing criticism of Harvard policies in South Africa, reviews the university's efforts to fight apartheid.

"In response to requests by faculty members, students and alumni," Bok wrote in the introduction to the statement, "The Crisis in South Africa--One University's Response." "I am making the following report to the Harvard community in order to provide a comprehensive review of the university's current activities concerning this important subject."

Defending the university's decision not to divest, Bok wrote that the Committee on Shareholder Responsibility (CCSR) takes the position that companies can improve the lives of the their own employees in South Africa. As an investor, the university can exercise leverage and ensure that positive steps are taken toward aiding Black South Africans, Bok wrote.

"The most obvious result of divestment would be that the university would lose the influence it currently has to try to persuade companies to oppose apartheid and improve the lot of their Black employees," Bok said in the statement.

The report describes the educational programs, student, faculty and staff activity, and the university's investment policy as the three ways in which Harvard has had an impact on the South African situation.

Harvard makes these efforts despite what Bok said is a traditional reluctance by universities, "to take formal positions on ethical and political issues in the outside world."

But Harvard opts to become involved with these issues because it has "a moral duty to avoid making investments in order to profit from a system so at variance with the university's fundamental values," Bok wrote. These values are intellectual freedom and individual dignity.

The Bok report then lists point-by-point Harvard's role in opposing apartheid. Among these efforts are:

.the South African Fellowship program which brings Blacks to Harvard on scholarships. Harvard has recently expanded its committment to $1 million over three years.

.Harvard's participation in and initiation of the South African Educational Program, extant since 1979. The national program spends $6 million in bringing about 85 Black South Africans to study at American universities.

.an internship program currently under consideration which would send Harvard students to serve in educational, health, legal, and other organizations in South Africa which help Blacks. Prominent Black South African leaders, activists and faculty members have vociferously criticized this program.

.Bok's initiative, along with other college and university presidents, to lobby Congress for anti-apartheid legislation. The president has also testified on Capitol Hill in favor of such legislation.

.contributions to funds and demonstrations against apartheid by other members of the Harvard community.

.Harvard's participation in several consortia which help identify and obtain information on companies which do business in South Africa.

.Harvard's role as an investor in setting standards for companies which do business in South Africa and its adherence to a policy of intensive dialogue to encourage companies in which it holds stock to improve their treatment of Blacks.

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