Senior Starts Committee To Discuss South Africa

In an attempt to stimulate interest in divestment, an Adams House senior this week mailed a letter to 100 seniors to propose the foundation of a committee to discuss South Africa-related issues.

Jonathan E. Martin said that he decided to propose the committee, which he called the Ad Hoc Class of 1988 Committee against Apartheid, to get seniors to work together on South Africa-related issues.

He denied the committee was related to the decrease in pro-divestment activity on campus. "The proposed committee is not a reaction to the lessening of activity at Harvard and around the country in antiapartheid programs," Martin said. "We would have thought about doing something as a class no matter what."

For the past four years, members of the senior class have organized fund drives for the Endowment for Divestiture (E4D), which holds gifts from the senior class in escrow until the University divests from corportations that do business in South Africa.

The E4D account currently holds about $20,000, and if the University does not completely divest by 2003, the fund's graduate board will donate the money to Cambridge charities or Phillips Brooks House.

Martin said he does not know if the proposed committee will organize an E4D fund drive. He stressed that his letter, which proposes organizational meetings on November 11 and 17, is only an exploration.

"Harvard students are wary about doing things they won't [have control over,]" Martin said, adding he did not want to drive students away by setting an agenda for the committee in advance.

Although Martin sent letters primarily to seniors who belong to organizations that might support divestment, to house committee officers and class officers, he said all seniors are invited to participate. "We can't send letters to every senior," he explained.

First Class Marshall Tab T. Stewart '88 said he probably would not get involved with Martin's committee. "I'm representing the entire class, so although my personal feelings might agree [with the committee], I can't be actively involved," Stewart said.

Last year's E4D campaign "fell apart organizationally," according to organizer Evan O. Grossman '87-'88. But Grossman said he believes that Martin is doing a service for the Class of 1988, because "he will get people together. There can be a lot of interest for this sort of thing," Grossman said.

In addition to collecting money for E4D, previous graduating classes have sponsored various pro-divestment projects. Seniors have "worn sashes or held balloons that said 'Divest Now,' written the message on their hats, held educational speeches and forums on the topic during commencement week, and even had more serious protests," Martin said.

Several years ago, two-thirds of the graduating class at Harvard Law School pledged not to work for law firms that represented South African clients.