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Citing favorable developments in his country this weekend, South African Archbishop Desmond M. Tutu yesterday proposed a new divestment plan for Harvard, reopening the door on an issue most administrators here had said was permanently shut.
Tutu, who was elected to Harvard's Board of Overseers on a prodivestment slate last year, said that he raised the South African issue at the Board's regular meeting in Cambridge yesterday, and that the Board would likely discuss divestment at its next meeting.
Tutu said he sensed the Board was committed to the South African investment issue, given the wide-spread enthusiasm over recent decisions to legalize anti-apartheid groups in that country.
"I think that we are seeing a momentum in that particular situation," Tutu said in a press conference at the Charles Hotel. "And my reading is that there is a far greater willingness on the part of those on the Board to consider getting...tougher than they have been. And they are saying we ought to put it on the agenda."
Overseers President John C. White-head, who only months ago said that divestment was a "closed matter," confirmed last night that the Board would take up the matter in two months if Tutu asked.
"If [Tutu] would like discussion, I am sure there will be discussion," he said. "And maybe by that time, there will be changes that cause Harvard's policy to change...The general idea was to watch and wait."
Whitehead said the Overseers Executive Committee has final say over the agenda, but added that "nobody is going to duck discussion of the subject."
But Whitehead was still skeptical about the impact Harvard's decision could have.
"I don't suppose [South African President F. W.] De Klerk is waiting to hear a message from Harvard on the subject," Whitehead said.
Yesterday's statements were the first hint in more than a year that the30-member Board of Overseers--which generallyapproves the policies of Harvard's chief governingboard, the Corporation--would consider changingHarvard's stance on the $139 million it hasinvested in South Africa-related companies.
Until this weekend, Harvard's topofficials--including President Derek C. Bok--hadsaid the divestment question was settled.
But Tutu said that after he spoke on SouthAfrica for about 10 minutes at yesterday'smeeting, the Board showed new enthusiasm forefforts to urge the end of apartheid.
Tutu's announcement reflected more than mereoptimism about Harvard's mindset--it alsoreflected optimism about the changing situation inSouth Africa.
Tutu was cautious, doling out strong criticsmfor the white government's racist policies. Inbetween the criticisms, however, he sprinkled somerace praise for South African President F.W. DeKlerk.
Last week, De Klerk announced that NelsonMandela, the leader of the African NationalCongress (ANC), would be released from his 27-yearimprisonment. In addition, he said that the ANCand 31 other Black political groups would belegalized. And he promised the legalization of 374apartheid dissidents, as well as a halt toexecutions.
"We have to give Mr. De Klerk the benefit ofthe doubt," he said. "He has said in his speechthat what he is hoping to see is the emergence ofa new constitution which would entail universalsuffrage...the possibilities for a new start inour country are very strongly underlined andencouraged by what he said."
But Tutu tempered his praise with a sternwarning that change has only been promised, andnot implemented. Thus, he asked that Harvarddivest completely of its remaining South Africanstock in three months unless South Africa:
. releases Mandela;
. gives general amnesty to all politicalprisoners and exiles;
. indicates that it will repeal the Group AreasAct, which mandates segregation in neighborhoodsand towns;
. moves to repeal the Land Act, which gives thewhite minority 87 percent of the land;
. and takes steps to repeal the PopulationRegistration Act, which classifies people by theirracial group.
Tutu said he had told De Klerk in a meetingthat if South Africa complied with those demands,anti-apartheid forces "are going to say to ourfriends immediately, `implement this, liftsanctions.'"
Tutu said it was important for Harvard todivest because the University is a trend-setterwhose example would be followed.
"Harvard is Harvard," Tutu said. "You know, youdon't sniff at it. Things that Harvard does ordoesn't do have an impact way beyond the kind ofimpact you'd expect from an educationalinstitution. What Harvard does or does not do issomething that would be copied by otherinstitutions."
"Institutions seem to have a kind of life oftheir own in some ways. They have done otherthings, and it isn't as if...they haven't moved onthe matter of divestment. They have got aparticular policy. What we want them to have saidsort of categorically was we will not invest incompanies that are operating in South Africa--wewant them out."
"You are making a choice about whether `I am onthe side of freedom,' or `I am on the side ofoppression,'" Tutu said.
Other Overseers News
Besides discussing South Africa, Whitehead saidthe Board of Overseers also discussed theCorporation Committee on ShareholderResponsibility (CCSR), composed of members ofHarvard's seven-member Corporation, the chiefUniversity governing board. Specifically, theoverseers discussed whether the CCSR was complyingwith the recommendations of the Advisory Committeeon Share-holder Responsibility in several proxyvotes.
In addition, Whitehead said, Bok gave anhour-long report on Harvard's responses to thedrastic changes in Eastern Europe and the SovietUnion.
Most of the meeting, however, was spentstudying the relationships between Harvard and thescientific research industry. Specifically, theoverseers were concerned about preservingHarvard's independence from research fundingsources
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