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University May Seek Election Compromise

By Adam K. Goodheart

Faced with the threat of a lawsuit, Harvard officials have said that they may alter plans for controversial changes in the Board of Overseers election process, a lawyer for Harvard-Radcliffe Alumni Against Apartheid (HRAAA) said yesterday.

The changes--approved last year as a proposal called the Young Report--would make it more difficult for independently nominated candidates to win seats on the alumni-elected governing body. HRAAA members have fielded an opposition, pro-divestment slate each of the past five years, and said they would sue if the Young Report were implemented in this spring's election.

Frank Deale, a New York public interest attorney representing HRAAA, said Harvard lawyer Michael W. Roberts told him Tuesday that the University is reconsidering one of the Young Report's most controversial provisions: a clause requiring that a statement from Harvard's official nominating committee be included with all ballots.

"We had told them we were persuaded that that change was against the law and that we were considering suing," said HRAAA's executive director, Robert P. Wolff '54. "Roberts said he felt confident our concerns would be allayed by the information he would convey."

Deale said Roberts promised to give him further details after the next Overseers meeting on February 4. One possible compromise would call for the committee's letter to be included in a special issue of the Harvard Gazette rather than sent out with the ballots, Deale said.

If Harvard promises in writing that the statement will not be mailed with the ballots. HRAAA will drop its plans to sue, Deale said.

Four of HRAAA's pro-divestment candidates have won Board seats in recent years, including South African Archbishop Desmond M. Tutu. Critics have charged that the Young Report was an attempt to keep any others from being elected, while University officials have said they merely want to provide voters with better information about nominees.

The Harvard Corporation--which must consent to all major changes in University policy--has not approved any amendments to the Young Report, according to Corporation member Robert G. Stone '45. Stone would not say whether the Corporation has discussed making any such changes.

Deale said he suspects that University officials are reconsidering the Young Report because they realize that it violates state laws.

"There are laws in Massachusetts prohibiting private parties from discriminating against an individual based on the individual's point of view," Deale said. "Either Harvard can allow HRAAA to include its own statement with the ballot, or no one can."

Roberts could not be reached for comment yesterday.

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