Militant efforts worked
Guest Column/Jonathan Feldman
On Friday, April 26, students at Tufts University ended a three day occupation of Ballou Hall, the central administration building on campus.
The students had presented the following demands to college president Jean Mayer:
1) Totally divest from all 33 corporations operating in South Africa that Tufts has investments in.
2) Direct an additional $5 million in university resources toward scholarships and grants for minority and low-income students.
3) Hire an additional full-time recruiter specifically for minority recruitment.
4) Incorporate a freshman workshop on race awareness into the freshmen orientation program or make one a requirement for all freshmen.
The number of black students at Tufts has fallen from a high of 96 in the entering freshman class of l974 to only 38 last year. The university has about $9.5 million invested in 33 companies with South African links. Students at Tufts have pointed out that money divested from corporations tied to apartheid could be used to provide aid to minority students.
The result of the occupation? The students gained: a meeting with the trustees' investment committee; promises of increased financial aid for minority and low-income students; and a commitment to a racial awareness course.
The Tufts action represents a new stage in the student movement. It shows the serious tasks before MIT students seeking to pressure our university to divest its $60 to $100 million in companies known to do business in South Africa.
Tufts' recent concessions came after several years of student organizing. In 1979, after two years of student protest, the administration agreed to divest Tufts' South African-linked investments. But it was only after the recent occupation that divestment activists saw any concrete action by the administration.
The Tufts action raises the question of why student activists are increasingly moving toward tactics of confrontation. During protests this year, students tried to make citizens' arrests of CIA recruiters at Tufts, the University of Iowa, Brown and other colleges. Recently, students at Cornell University blocked police vans seeking to arrest student protesters. Student protests have followed increasing militancy by youth unaffiliated with academia. More people were arrested in conflicts with police at the 1984 Democratic convention at San Francisco than were arrested at the Chicago convention in 1968.
One reason for this increased militancy is the inspiration students have taken from liberation movements in Central America and South Africa. Another reason is students' growing frustration with the country's political direction under Reagan. The wave of campus occupations at Cornell, Berkeley, Rutgers and University of California at Santa Cruz have followed increased cutbacks in student financial aid, the mining of Nicaraguan harbors by the CIA, increased talk of a draft and continued US government support for apartheid.
The wave of building occupations and other direct actions by students has come as students have increasingly realized the effectiveness of this tactic. The history of administration failures in responding to student demands at Tufts shows that direct action is the best vehicle for gaining concessions.
As in the l960s, students are pushed to more militant tactics as they are met with repression from college administrators and police. At the University of Wisconsin, students have been maced. At other demonstrations, students have been clubbed and beaten by police. This April 3rd, police motorcycles charged at student demonstrators on the Harvard Bridge.
The cycle of protest and violence will continue. As students fight effectively against their universities' ties to apartheid, they often face the same kind of violence that faces South Africa's blacks. This should come as no surprise given the harmony of interests between the university establishment and apartheid's multinational allies.
The Tufts students have recognized the shadow of apartheid in the university's board rooms and hallwa