Trustees to reinvest in South Africa

by David Herszenhorn | 11/15/93 6:00am

The Board of Trustees voted over the weekend to allow the College to invest in companies that do business in South Africa, rescinding a ban imposed in November 1989.

The Trustees also appointed David Shipler '64, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and former correspondent for The New York Times, as a charter member of the Board.

And in private conversations throughout the weekend, several Trustees said the Board has no intention of getting involved in the debate over the future of single-sex Greek organizations at Dartmouth.

The Board's vote to reinvest in South Africa approved a recommendation from the Council on Investor Responsibility, a group of administrators, students, alumni, professors and three Trustees that reviews the College's investment practices.

"There is evidence that reinvestment and the concomitant economic recovery may be crucial to accelerate and enhance the elimination of apartheid," the investor responsibility committee wrote in the recommendation to the Board. "For exactly the same reasons that Dartmouth divested, it is appropriate that Dartmouth now reinvest."

The committee based its recommendation in part on a Sept. 23 address to the United Nations general assembly by Nelson Mandela, the head of the African National Congress, according to a statement released by the College News Service. In his speech, Mandela urged the United States and other countries to end economic sanctions against South Africa.

Discussion on reinvestment in South Africa started last April, according to College Spokesman Alex Huppe. In early October, Trustee Chair E. John Rosenwald said he had asked the Committee on Investor Responsibility for a recommendation on reinvestment in South Africa.

Several schools have already resumed investments in South Africa, including Yale, Columbia, Duke and Northwestern Universities.

For many investors, the decision to reinvest in South Africa has become almost unavoidable because of the large number of American companies that are recommencing business in the country.

Continuing a policy that bans financial ties with companies doing business in South Africa would mean breaking current ties with American corporations now moving back into the South African market.

The Trustees voted to end all Dartmouth investments in South Africa in November 1989 after years of tumultuous protests on campus including the construction of shanties on the Green in November 1985, and the occupation by students of the Parkhurst administration building in January 1986.

Campus unrest sparked by the divestment issue helped cause the resignation of College President David McLaughlin in 1987.

Initially the Board of Trustees had refused to divest from South Africa and only withdrew support from companies that had not signed the Sullivan Principles, a set of guidelines on corporate behavior that insured a lack of support for apartheid.

With the College divesting from companies that violated the Sullivan Principles and with American companies largely withdrawing from South Africa, by the time the Trustees decided to divest completely only 1.8 percent of the College's endowment was invested in companies doing business in South Africa.

Jonathan King, who directs the College's investment team, said he expected only 10 percent of Dartmouth's $750 million endowment would eventually be invested in South Africa.

The Trustees, who gathered in Hanover this weekend, for their annual fall meeting, met with students for breakfast Saturday morning in the Hanover Inn and discussed the decision to reinvest and other campus issues.

Several Trustees at breakfast said the Board would not get involved in the raging debate over the future of single-sex Greek organizations.

The Board members said that any official involvement by Trustees would result in a no-win situation, which might jeopardize alumni support. They said the future of the system should be left in the hands of students and College administrators.

"I think that certainly is the prevailing opinion on the Board right now," College President James Freedman said. "I think the Board's view is that this is an issue that is best decided on by the students. The Board is not going to venture into the Greek system just now."

Trustee Joseph Mathewson who chairs the Board's Committee on Student Affairs said the Greek system is not on the committee's agenda for the coming year.

"We're not talking about it," he said. "It's not on the agenda and it's not going to be on the agenda. We are always interested in how the fraternities are doing but we're very busy with the capital campaign right now."

Last Thursday, the Student Assembly sponsored a campus-wide referendum on the Greek system. Eighty percent of the nearly 1,800 students who voted said they supported the continued existence of single-sex organizations on campus.

But Trustee William King said long-term decisions cannot be made based on one student opinion poll because the campus population changes by 25 percent each year.

Advertise your student group in The Dartmouth for free!