Anti-apartheid groups challenge Corporation
By Chitra K. Raman
and Brian Rosenberg
The Coalition Against Apartheid plans to demonstrate against MIT's continued investment in companies doing business in South Africa during today's meeting of the MIT Corporation.
MIT pro-divestment groups had hoped to present their views to the trustees directly, but their request to speak at the meeting was refused.
"A lot of people would like to present their views directly. The logistics simply do not permit this," said Walter L. Milne, special assistant to the chairman of the Corporation.
CAA member Ron W. Francis G reacted angrily to the Corporation's stance. "To try to speak when your voice is already not really known and then to be told that you cannot come to the meeting is really appalling," he said.
Two weeks ago, the CAA, the Black Students Union and the African Students Union asked that the issue of South African divestment be put on the Corporation agenda. Both President Paul E. Gray '54 and Corporation Chairman David S. Saxon '41 refused to do so, according to a coalition press release.
Saxon said that the issue of divestment, will be addressed by the Corporation's executive committee this spring. An advisory committee, the Shareholder's Committee, is to completely review MIT's divestment policy. "The issue is one of pace," Saxon said. "We regard the pace as appropriate. They [the coalition] do not. It is on the agenda, but it's on our time scale."
Three CAA members presented skits on Wednesday and yesterday dramatizing their view of the current situation. The skits portrayed Gray as easily influenced by corporate dollars. "[The skits] tried to bring the situation to people's attention," Francis said.
According to Francis, the coalition collected 1300 signatures calling for MIT's complete divestment from South Africa-related firms during the CAA's recent petition drive. "With popular support like that, we shouldn't be shut out [of the meeting]," he said.
The coalition, the BSU, and the ASU plan to continue to press the Corporation to meet with them on matters of divestiture. "The administration just needs the same pressure [to divest] as Coca-Cola, Shell, and others," said BSU representative Jason P. Vickers '90.
"The pillars of apartheid are still in place, and by the very fact that the administration does not support divestiture," Francis said, "it is unable to support the cause of the black South African people."
Saxon believes divestment as such will not have any real consequences on events in South Africa. "Nobody has persuaded me that it has a contributing effect to ending apartheid in South Africa," he said.
Government sanctions, on the other hand, have had a significant role, according to Saxon, and he is in favor of the US government imposing them.
Francis asserted that many Corporation members oppose divestment because of their personal stakes in South African investments. "MIT's holdings in companies that do business in South Africa indicates approval of their policies. The Corporation's decision shows that they value economic relations more than the political value of pulling out," he said.