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Alumni Association Candidates Sweep overseers Election

HRAAA Blames New Election Rules

By Maggie S. Tucker

Beating out an independent prodivestment slate, Harvard Alumni Association candidates swept this year's Board of Overseers election, sources close to the process confirmed yesterday.

Only one year after South African Archbishop Desmond M. Tutu was voted onto the governing board, not one person nominated by Harvard Radcliffe Alumni Against Apartheid (HRAAA) was elected to fill any of the five open seats.

Although alumni anti-apartheid activists were encouraged by last year's results, they said yesterday that losses in the most recent election might stall efforts to force the University to divest of its $168 million in South Africa-related stocks.

"It certainly is a setback," said Judith s. Lieberman '63, a Tufts University research scientist who was nominated by HRAAA this year.

Since 1986, HRAAA has nominated overseers candidates by petition in an attempt to force a Board vote on the divestment issue. But despite sporadic wins in the past, HRAAA officials charged yesterday that new election guidelines had weighted this year's competition against them.

The new guidelines, presented last year in the Young report, were endorsed nearly unanimously at the Board's 1989 June meeting. These rules reduce the number of alumni association nominees from 10 to eight and require that non-official candidates be listed at the bottom of the ballot.

Robert P. Wolf '54, HRAAA's executive director, said yesterday that these measures were intended to minimize pro-divestment candidates' chances for election.

"They tilted the playing field, and not surprisingly, the people on our team rolled off the end," Wolff said.

Since HRAAA began nominating candidates, four representatives of the alumni group have won seats on the Board.

Overseer Peter H. Wood '62, who was elected to the Board as an HRAAA candidate in 1986, also said he believes yesterday's election results were a direct result of the bylaw revision.

Calling the HRAAA losses "predictable," Wood said rule changes were made to "make it harder for write-in candidates to get elected."

"The changes were an effort to weaken the electorate," he said.

Under the original version of the Young Report, the alumni association would have also included an endorsement letter for its candidates with the ballots mailed to alumni.

However, that section of the proposal was withdrawn earlier this year following negotiations between Harvard attorneys and HRAAA. Which had threatened to bring the issue to court.

But despite mid-year calm, prodivestment alumni said yesterday they are not satisfied by the latest turn of events.

Calling the elections "an illusion of democracy," HRAAA candidate David J. Scondras '68, a Boston city councillor, said the new guidelines only compounded an "institutional inertia" which already made outsiders election to the Board difficult.

The names of the new overseers will be announced after Commencement exercises today.

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