June 05, 2002
Calls for Shareowner Action Continue to Rise on U.S. Campuses
by William Baue
Swarthmore this year became the first college to singly file a shareowner resolution since the end
of the anti-apartheid movement, and campuses across the U.S. are calling for divestment from
U.S. colleges and universities contributed to the collapse of the apartheid regime in the early
1990s by filing shareowner resolutions with and divesting from companies doing business with South
Africa. After apartheid's end, many institutions of higher learning backed off from the role as
active shareowner. Over the last few years, however, there has been a resurgence of action on
college and university campuses calling for divestment or shareowner resolutions to advance social
This year, Swarthmore College in Philadelphia became the first U.S.
educational institution since the end of the anti-apartheid movement to file a solo shareowner
resolution, according to Carolyn Mathiasen of the Investor Responsibility Research Center (IRRC). The University of
Washington in Seattle has been filing resolutions on Burma for the past several years, but it has
done so as a cofiler, not as a solo effort.
Swarthmore's resolution, which called for Lockheed Martin (ticker: LMT) to
explicitly bar sexual orientation discrimination in its employment policies, received support from
five percent of voting shareowners.
"Supporting this proposal is both socially and
economically sound," said Morgan Simon, an Honors economics major and a member of the college's
Committee for Socially Responsible Investing, which initiated the resolution. "It's surprising
that more colleges don't use their positions as stockholders in this way."
is behind its competitors on this issue. According to Diane Bratcher, president of the Equality Project, Boeing (BA), Honeywell International (HON), and Raytheon (RTN) all have a
nondiscrimination clause regarding sexual orientation in their employment policies. Nevertheless,
the Lockheed Martin board voted unanimously to oppose the resolution. However, at the company's
April 25 annual meeting, Lockheed Martin President and CEO Vance Coffman agreed to a future meeting
between college and company representatives to discuss a mutually acceptable solution.
Swarthmore divested from companies operating in the South African apartheid regime in March
1986, following in the footsteps of Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts. Hampshire was the
first college to use its influence as an institutional investor to oppose apartheid. Many other
U.S. educational institutions similarly divested, and their collective action as investors helped
topple the apartheid regime. Despite this success, colleges and universities since have been using
this strategy sparingly, mostly against tobacco companies. But student and faculty pressure is
again pushing educational institutions to support values, such as tolerance for diversity, which
are taught in classrooms and often included in institutions' mission statements.
Yesterday, 126 faculty members from the University of California (UC) system joined members of
the UC Berkeley-based Students for
Justice in Palestine (SJP) to announce a petition of the UC regents to divest from Israel and U.S. companies
that sell arms to Israel. Campaigns at 40 campuses across the country, including Harvard, MIT, Princeton, Ohio State, and the University of Michigan,
similarly support institutional divestment from Israel as a means of supporting Palestinians' basic
"The struggle against the [University of California's] complicity in
Israel's present-day apartheid, its illegal occupation, and its ongoing violations of the human
rights of the Palestinian people, is nothing without the faculty's support," said SJP organizer
Hoang Gia Phan. "Such support demonstrates that people of conscience throughout the academic
community, and throughout the U.S., are saying together: 'Not in my name!'"
divestment movement gained widespread support because of the unquestionable immorality of the South
African apartheid regime. The current divestment movement, however, faces the challenge of
establishing that Israel's actions qualify as unquestionably immoral.