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Occidental Faculty Leads S. Africa Protest : Moment of Silence, Noon Fast Planned to Stress Call for Divestment

May 09, 1985|MARC IGLER | Times Staff Writer

Occidental College's faculty has asked that a minute of silence be observed on campus at 10:30 a.m. today to symbolize the faculty's opposition to the college's investments in companies that do business in South Africa.

The event, called for by the faculty as a whole two weeks ago in a strongly worded resolution, is one of many being staged at colleges and universities across the country to protest South Africa's system of apartheid, or forced racial separation.

The faculty also has proposed that students and faculty fast at lunchtime today and donate the money they would have spent on food to a fund to support South African Bishop Desmond Tutu, who won the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize for his anti-apartheid work.

Events Considered Unusual

Occidental's events are considered unusual since most colleges are staging rallies and sit-ins as methods of protest. Also, although most of the protests have been organized by students, the impetus for events at Occidental came from the faculty.

"The South African issue hasn't really been prominent among students lately, but the faculty took the initiative, and I think that has gotten people to thinking," said senior Chris Reimann, policy coordinator for the Student Coordinating Committee. Reimann is one of the organizers of a rally also planned for this afternoon on the campus.

Reimann said petitions demanding that the school divest the stock it owns in companies that do business in South Africa have been circulated. He said many students have given their meal card number to student leaders so that the money used for their lunch can be subtracted from their account and added to the fund.

College Chaplain Doug Gregg said he expects to collect about $200 today that will then be sent to Bishop Tutu through private channels.

Todd Gitlin, a professor of sociology at UC Berkeley and spokesman for the UC Faculty for Full Divestment, a statewide group, said he knows of no other college in California where the faculty as a whole has gone on record as opposing investments in companies that do business in South Africa.

Passed Overwhelmingly

The Occidental faculty overwhelmingly passed the resolution on a voice vote calling for today's minute of silence and fast, adding that teachers "regret that Occidental College has still taken no steps to divest itself of stock in corporations and banks doing business in South Africa."

The vote is the second time in the last four years that faculty members have urged the school's board of trustees to take such action. Trustees have established a subcommittee on corporate responsibility that is studying the issue, but so far the school is continuing to follow a 1978 report stating that the board is "not convinced that divestiture . . . would bring about the results that . . . proponents predict."

Critics have argued that divestment could worsen the plight of blacks in South Africa by leading to massive layoffs, retaliation by the government and a general weakening of the economy. Further, critics contend, governing boards such as Occidental's board of trustees have a fiduciary responsibility and must not put politics before sound investment practices.

A 1978 report said the college had about $4.6 million invested in companies that work in South Africa.

Will Follow Policy

Meanwhile, Occidental President Richard C. Gilman said this week that trustees would continue to follow the policy adopted by most colleges and universities of investing in only those companies that follow the Sullivan Principles, a set of guidelines that asks companies doing business in South Africa to apply the same hiring and working standards that they use in the United States.

But faculty members said the Sullivan Principles do not go far enough and that information regarding compliance can often be misleading. Divestment, or even the threat of it, would eventually force South African officials to dismantle the apartheid system, they said.

"The faculty feels it has a moral responsibility to get involved and fight for divestment," said Roger Boesche, an associate professor of political science. "We're not advocating immediate divestment, but a gradual one, possibly starting with the banks that make loans to the South African government."

Janet Jakobsen, a network organizer for the Washington Office on Africa, an anti-South African church and trade union lobby, said that 40 colleges and universities across the country have fully divested their stock in companies that do business in South Africa. Many more, she said, are embarking on a system of selected divestiture.

Jakobsen, who said much of her work consists of monitoring campus protests against South Africa, added that, except for state-supported colleges in Michigan and Wisconsin, she had not heard of any other faculties as a whole that have voiced support for divestment.

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