Institute does not plan to divest its securitiesBy Daniel Crean
Approximately 70 members of the MIT community recently formed the MIT Student Coalition Against Apartheid to persuade the Corporation to divest itself of investments in companies which do business in South Africa, according to Alex B. Rosen '88, a member of the coalition.
[Editor's note: See page 8 for the coalition's letter to President Paul E. Gray '54 concerning apartheid and divestment.]
"The basic goal is total divestiture," Rosen said. The coalition hopes to politicize the student body, he added. It will work to accomplish this by providing information about South Africa's apartheid system to the MIT community.
The coalition is "a diverse group of students and some faculty that are concerned about apartheid in South Africa and MIT's investments in companies which do business there," said coalition member Scott R. Saleska '86.
The group has no formal leadership or organization. Rosen said the group hoped to attract an active branch of MIT faculty and staff.
Pui T. Cheung G, another member, stressed that the group is a "coalition of individuals" rather than organizations. "Some people have taken to thinking that The Student is the coalition, but they are not ... the coalition is open to anybody and they are just part of it.... [They are] not the leaders."
"The group is not even an official [Association of Student Activities (ASA) recognized] group," Saleska said, although he added that they will probably seek ASA recognition. Rosen said the coalition intends to seek written endorsement from other student groups such as the MIT Black Students' Union.
The group has no definite plans about how to call for divestment. "There is nothing the coalition as a coalition" has decided to do, Saleska explained.
Gretchen Ritter G said the coalition needs a "diversity of approaches to achieve anything." Ritter convened the first meeting of the coalition on April 22 in response to a nationwide call for anti-apartheid demonstrations on college campuses. The committee then planned a rally for April 24.
Several actions are being considered for the near future, Rosen said. The coalition might appeal to the Advisory Committee on Shareholder Responsibility. "If we were unsuccessful there, we would go before the [MIT] Corporation," he said.
The coalition will also consider establishing an alternate fund for alumni donations. Contributions to this fund would be given to MIT only after the Institute has divested.
Rosen said the group would probably picket at the next corporation meeting, on June 3, which is Commencement Day.
Other universities and some cities, including Boston and Cambridge, have divested from South Africa, according to Cheung and Rosen. Some universities earn a higher rate of return on their endowments after divestment, Rosen said.
Members have high hopes for the group: "I believe this is something that will be cascading," Cheung said.
Rosen said, "We are working with Marxists and Republicans and everybody else, but it is really starting to solidify."
"Considering that everything has been happening so fast," Ritter added, "considering it's in the middle of the term, the participation we have been getting has just been incredible."