Alumni Group Seeks Post-Divestment Agenda

When Harvard-Radcliffe Alumni Against Apartheid (HRAAA) was formed in 1986, one of its primary goals was to elect pro-divestment candidates to the Board of Overseers, the University's junior governing board.

And for several years, it was successful in doing so. By 1989, four Overseers had been elected as petition candidates to the 30-member alumni governing board--three under HRAAA's auspices and one independently.

Each year, Harvard alumni elect five Overseers to six year terms. Since 1986, HRAAA has fielded its own slate of candidates against the official nominees of the Harvard Alumni Association.

Since 1989, however, no petition candidates have been elected to the Board--the result, HRAAA officials charge, of Harvard Alumni Association campaigning against "one-issue" candidates and of election reforms that "titled the playing field" in favor of official candidates.

And now the organization' moral trump card--divestment from South Africa--has been weakened by a series of South African political moves, including the release of Nelson Manuela and the passage of the De Klerk referendum.


It is no wonder, then, that HRAAA's decision not to field petition candidates this year was widely interpreted as the group's death notice.

"I think that the organization may be about to wrap it up," said former HRAAA Executive Director Robert P. Wolff '54 earlier this spring.

And Overseer Gay W. Seidman '78, who was elected as a petition candidate in 1985, said, "I actually didn't know HRAAA still existed until last week."

In fact, HRAAA is still very much alive, and is planning to expand its scope of action in the coming year, according to Jan L. Handke, the group's current executive director.

At least one activity under consideration--a conference on campus racism--might show the public for the first time that HRAAA is indeed more than a "one-issue" organization.

"It could spark a lot of useful efforts at campuses all over," Handke says.

In addition, next fall HRAAA plans to start a newsletter that would inform people of developments concerning aparthied.

And according to one source close to the group, it is likely that HRAAA will again field its own candidates for the Board of Overseers in future years.

Handke says HRAAA did not nominate candidates this year because it chose to focus its energies where it could "maximize" their contributions.

Though many anti-apartheid activists still argue that complete divestment must be pursued until more significant changes take place in South Africa, the Harvard administration is already beginning to think in terms of reinvesting. It is clear to HRAAA that the group will not succeed in effecting a shift towards total divestment from South Africa.