ANTI-APARTHEID ORGANIZING at MOUNT HOLYOKE COLLEGE
by Barbara B. Brown
South Hadley, Massachusetts, United States
July 21, 1980
The report says anti-apartheid organizing at Mount Holyoke was focused on divestment in the past year; the campaign had a strong year, educated a wide range of students and involved a large number of student groups directly on the issue; the fall semester program got underway with a public report by the college's Commission on Social Responsibility (CSR); the CSR had been established the previous year as an organization of faculty and students to create an "educated campus" and transmit "informed opinion" to the Trustee-and Proxy Committee; in the spring of 1979 the CSR dutifully made its recommendation to the trustees who in turn 'dutifully' ignored them. The report says the CSR had recommended that the college vote its stock in favor of a variety of resolutions to limit corporate evil. The report says the stage was set for a student-trustee conflict. The report says in response to trustee intransigence, students wanted to speak directly to the trustees rather than through and ineffective committee; in December the students asked that the spring trustee meeting include a community forum on South Africa and the college's investment policy; a wide range of student organizations were mobilized to take the demand to the forum, on the grounds of open and fair communication between trustees and students; organizations as diverse as the Young Republican Club and the Organization of Pan African Unity called for the forum; in due time (Feb,) the trustees rejected the forum, but the students went ahead with their plans, timing the forum to take place during the trustees’ sherry hour; meanwhile the "Action: South Africa" group was running slide shows in the dorms and collecting signatures in petitions favoring divestment; speakers and films were brought to campus. The report says the form was held in March; it was the best political education the campus had had in years; 450 students came out of a campus population of 1900; 16 campus organizations briefly addressed the forum (and the 15-20 trustees were shamed into attending); 13 of these, again a wide variety of groups (though not the Republicans this time), called for partial or total divestment. The report says what has happened since the forum should surprise no one familiar with the divestment campaign; the trustees informally chided the students for not going through "the proper channels" and formally ignored the forum totally; the CSR somehow managed to convince itself to represent students as in favor of stockholder resolutions again, through the CSR did raise some divestment questions in their meeting with the trustees. The report says much of the student energy was spent on the forum; with the approach of exams, students let the issue drop for the time; however, the Action: Southern Africa committee remains in place, has a budget for the coming year, and is already planning for this fall. This report was digitized by Barbara Brown who provided it to the African Activist Archive Project. [Note: the author was an instructor of Political Science at the college 1979-81.]
Used by permission of Barbara Brown.
Collection: Barbara Brown papers