Santa Monica's College's Board of Trustees on Monday unanimously ordered its staff to investigate the possibility of divesting the college's funds from banks that have a direct link with South Africa.
The board is scheduled to debate specific divestiture measures at its June 17 meeting.
Blyden Boyle, a sponsor of the motion and the board's lone black member, said he was pleased by the vote but concerned that the board was taking so long to take a position against the apartheid policies of South Africa.
"This is a very conservative board," Boyle said. "I feel we should join the 20th Century."
Boyle and two other board members failed last month to get the board to require the Santa Monica Community College District to withdraw its funds from institutions doing business with South Africa. The motion was defeated 4 to 3.
The board made it a policy to place the college's financial assets with institutions "which make an effort to invest in countries which do not violate human rights." No specific country was mentioned in the policy.
'Not Enough Support'
Boyle said that he favored mentioning South Africa. "But it was obvious there was not enough support on the board," he said. "We got the best we could get."
Monday's vote on the policy was 6 to 0, with chairman Fred Beteta abstaining. Beteta wanted to name about 30 countries, leading off with the Soviet Union, which he said also violated human rights.
"I believe it is hypocritical to name South Africa and omit, among others, the Soviet Union," Beteta said. "South Africa is not the only evil in the world. The Soviet Union is no less criminal for shipping off citizens to Siberia without due process."
Carole Currey, who opposed naming South Africa, said that many board members are leery of getting into "foreign policy issues" because of the fear of setting a precedent for other groups to come before the board with additional resolutions.
She said that board members living in Santa Monica were all aware of criticisms directed several years ago against the pro-renter City Council for taking positions on foreign policy issues.
"Mr. Boyle, being a Malibu resident, probably is not as aware of those criticisms as we are," Currey said. "We have tried to avoid causes."
Currey said that board members also were not sure that divesting funds from banks would be in the best interests of blacks in South Africa.
"We have been told that our multinational companies have helped to cause integration in South Africa," she said. "It is hard for us, as a local agency, to know what to do."
She said that the board, when it declined in May to vote for divesting funds from groups doing business with South Africa, did vote to transfer two district checking accounts from large banks into "clean" banks.
Under investigation by the district's staff is $2 million to $3 million invested in a Los Angeles County treasury pool with other districts. The Santa Monica district earned $200,000 from the pool last year.