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Faculty urges divestment

and Robert E. Malchman

The MIT faculty voted to urge the Corporation "to take every step possible to [end apartheid], including the divestment of holdings in those firms doing business in or lending to South Africa."

The faculty passed the motion 131-40 at its Dec. 18 meeting.

A second resolution calling for the Teachers' Insurance and Annuity Association -- College Retirement Equities Funds (TIAA-CREF) to "divest from South Africa related holdings" passed by voice vote with no debate.

The Executive Committee of the MIT Corporation has authority over the proposed divestment, which would affect 18 percent of the Institute's endowment.

The motion passed calling for MIT's divestment differs in several ways from the one proposed last month by Professor of Political Science Willard R. Johnson and Assistant Professor of Materials Science and Engineering Gretchen Kalonji '80:

O+ The motion does not specify any dates for action. The original motion requested that divestment take place by May 1.

O+ The original motion called on the Corporation "to divest all of its holdings in firms doing business in or lending to South Africa." The amended motion calls instead for "every step possible ... including divestment of holdings."

O+ The original motion stated in the preamble that the faculty is "distressed that our Institute's endowment is invested in American firms providing financial and technical support and legitimacy for [the South African] government." This clause does not appear in the final version.

Most of the debate supported a recommendation for at least some level of divestment. Some questions were raised about the effects of divestment on the endowment.

Assistant Professor of Management John Parsons said there would not be a "particularly important" cost attached to the loss of investment diversity.

Treasurer Glenn P. Strehle '58 estimated, however, that MIT would have lost $10 million by now had it divested in 1980.

President Paul E. Gray '54 said gifts to universities from divested corporations "have dried up."

Chairman of the Faculty Mary C. Potter proposed an amendment to the original motion calling for the selective divestment of holdings in companies which the Corporation judged to be uncooporative in ending apartheid.

Professor of Biology David Botstein subsequently amended Potter's motion into the form eventually passed.

One faculty member warned against passing an amended motion because of ambiguous wording which results from motions written from the floor. Johnson also spoke against amending the original resolution.

The faculty voted 89-78 to accept Botstein's changes to Potter's amendment. The members then voted 114-65 in favor of replacing Johnson and Kalonji's resolution with Potter and Botstein's.

Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Alvin W. Drake '57 then proposed a postponement on the vote until the faculty's February meeting to allow further study. "I am immensely unhappy voting on this today," he said.

Johnson replied that divestment had first been discussed by the MIT faculty in 1971, and noted that the resolution had been available for consideration for over a month. The faculty voted overwhelmingly against postponement.

Professor Jack Ruina, secretary of the faculty, said yesterday that once the minutes of the meeting were finalized, they would be sent to the Corporation.