Corporation to discuss divestment
By Dave Watt
At the request of the Coalition Against Apartheid, the Executive Committee of the MIT Corporation has agreed to discuss the issue of divestment at its meeting today, according to sources in the CAA.
If the Executive Committee decides not to act, then "activism will be here through the end of the semester," warned Sue E. Nissman G, a member of the CAA.
Members of the coalition are pleased that the Executive Committee has agreed to discuss divestment at one of its meetings. "Divestment is on the agenda, I think for the first time ever," said Samuel Assefa G, another CAA member.
Members of the CAA and the Executive Committee met for the third time this academic year yesterday afternoon. The CAA presented the committee with a three-point proposal for divestment. The Executive Committee members did not respond directly to their proposal, but did say that divestment will be on the agenda today, according to Nissman.
Some coalition members expressed doubt that the corporation's discussion of divestment would be sincere. "We should hope they are dialoguing in good faith with us," said Ronald W. Francis PhD '91 of the CAA, who attended the meeting with the Executive Committee yesterday.
"I don't have a sense that they're really concerned about the community's opinion on this issue," noted Nissman later on.
Members of the coalition believe they have the support of the MIT community in their call for divestment. In a referendum con-
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ducted by the Undergraduate Association last May, 47.1 percent of undergraduates voting favored divestment, while 42 percent opposed it. An unusually high turnout of 55 percent of undergraduates participated in the referendum.
But further liberalizing legislation in South Africa, including the abolition of the Population Registration Act, which classifies South Africans by race, has led some governments to consider ending their sanctions against South Africa. "Sanctions are in danger of collapse," said Nissman at a candlelight vigil for divestment Wednesday evening.
These reforms also led members of the Executive Committee to question whether or not the CAA's divestment proposal still has community support, said Assefa.
Executive Committee members also asked if the CAA would be willing to conduct another referendum on the divestment question, Assefa said. "Our response was, there is no point unless there is a binding referendum; if it is, then we'd be willing to do this," Assefa said.
The CAA's proposal calls for MIT to divest from companies directly invested in South Africa, and further, to divest from companies identified as "the most blatant examples" of indirect investment in the South African economy.
Finally, they asked that the Executive Committee make a public statement reaffirming MIT's support for economic sanctions until a non-racial democracy is established in South Africa.
75 attend candlelight
vigil at Vest's home
About 75 people attended a candlelight vigil for divestment outside President Charles M. Vest's home Wednesday evening.
Coalition supporters listened to speeches and sang songs outside 111 Memorial Dr. between 7 and 8:30 pm Wednesday, while Vest held a dinner inside honoring 1990-91 Killian Award Lecturer George H. B"uchi. Vest came outside during the vigil to thank the protesters for their calmness. "I hope we can continue a dialogue," Vest added.
(Editor's note: Andrea Lamberti contributed to the reporting of this story.)