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University of North Carolina students win divestment from apartheid South Africa, 1986-1987
In 1983, the UNC-Chapel Hill Endowment Board agreed to stop investing with firms that rejected the Sullivan Principles, a code of business practices of foreign companies that wished to treat South African workers fairly which was developed by the Rev. Leon Sullivan, a civil rights activist.
UNC-Chapel Hill students formed the Anti-Apartheid Support Group in 1985. In November of that year they asked the Endowment Committee, chaired by Clint Newton Jr., to completely divest, but their proposal was refused in a 4-2 vote. The students remained essentially inactive from this point until March 1986.
In Feb 1986 the Board of Trustees agreed to stop investing in businesses that did "substantial and direct" business with the South African government, but that was still not enough. The students decided to settle for nothing less than complete divestment for moral, not economic, reasons.
On Tuesday, March 18, 1986, at around 4:30 am, the Anti-Apartheid Support Group built three shanties in the main quadrangle, right in front of the South Building, UNC-Chapel Hill's administration headquarters. An hour later, the campus police told the students that their Shantytown was against university regulations and state laws, after which a crew from the buildings and grounds department came and began taking the shanties down.
At 6:30 am the Anti-Apartheid Support Group called Chancellor Christopher Fordham III, who said that they could leave them up for a week. On Wednesday, the chancellor stated that he would consider letting the shanties stay up for more than a week. The students vowed that they would not move back into their dorm rooms until the school had completely divested.
On Friday, April 4, 1986, the UNC Endowment Committee met with students to hear their arguments for and against divestment. The committee then decided to defer action until April 24. Newton felt that divestment would hurt the university's investment policy and bring in less money as well as create economic hardships for blacks in South Africa. On Monday, April 7, 1986, UNC employees tore down the Shantytown, which had grown to nine shanties, that students had refused to take down by the 7 am deadline set by the chancellor. Five students were arrested by the campus police when they refused to leave one of the shanties, but were released by 9 am. Charles Mauer, the university's chief security officer, had told the students that they would have to leave their shanties, but the students thanked him politely for his warning and told him that they would rather not move.
On Thursday, October 16, 1986, the UNC Board of Trustees refused to reconsider a divestment resolution. On Friday October 17, about 20 students protested the decision peacefully by picketing the inauguration ceremony of the new university president, President C.D. "Dick" Sprangler Jr.
On Monday, November 17, 1986, the UNC Anti-Apartheid Support Group built another shanty in front of the Chapel Hill campus administrative office building to protest the Board of Endowment's now $7.2 million investment in businesses operating in South Africa. The shanties were allowed to stay up until that Friday after the Board of Endowment's meeting on that Thursday.
At the meeting Chancellor Fordham motioned for complete divestiture but the motion died for lack of a second. Nine students protested by chaining themselves to radiators in the business and finance offices and were arrested, but the charges were dropped.
On Monday, December 1, 1986, the Committee on State Investments with South African Investors advised the state government of North Carolina to divest itself of holdings in companies that do business in South Africa without following the Sullivan Principles.
On Friday, December 12, 1986, the UNC Board of Trustees rejected the recommendation that the school divest all of its holdings in companies that do business in South Africa in a 6-5 vote after a heated debate. William Darity, a strong proponent of divestment, and Trustee Clint Newtown, who had moved that the board ask its endowment committee to divest the university completely, were very disappointed.
However, two trustees, Richard Jenrette and Travis Porter had been won over due to the worsening political climate in South Africa, which was an encouraging step for some, such as Dale McKinley, who planned to lead several demonstrations before the board's next meeting in February. During the meeting Darity asked trustees to consider a "conscience buying" policy and a committee was formed to study the matter.
On Friday, February 27, 1987, the UNC Board of Trustees voted 6-3 to reject Darity's "Conscious Buying" proposal, through which the university departments would be asked to refrain "wherever possible" from doing business with companies with ties to South Africa. The opposition argued that such a resolution would be meaningless because state law decides how universities spend their money.
In March 1987, UNC faculty President George Kennedy called the Board of Trustees ineffective, stating his opinion that the school had missed its opportunity to take a moral stand on apartheid by divesting. Darity threatened to resign, but announced during the Board of Trustees meeting on Friday, April 24 that he would stay. More than 30 protesters attended that meeting, shouting calls for divestiture as the trustees tried to discuss other business.
On Friday, May 8, 1987, five students began fasting as part of the ongoing divestment campaign. Their fast lasted eight days, until the UNC Endowment Board meeting the next Friday. Divestment was not on the agenda, but it was discussed because a member of the board, likely Chancellor Fordham, brought it up. During the meeting the Board chairman, S. Bobo Tanner, agreed to form a divestiture committee with students, which the students saw as a victory.
On Thursday, June 25, 1987 the new UNC divestiture committee, chaired by S. Bobo Tanner, met and decided that the school should free itself from doing business with companies tied to South Africa.
On Thursday, October 1, 1987, during a special meeting called early in the school year in order to boost morale, the UNC-Chapel Hill Endowment Board ruled to sell all stock in companies that did business in South Africa, due to the declining worth of the investments. The board members that were previously in opposition to such an action became convinced due to the fact that the board was spending a disproportionate amount of time and energy on 5% of the school's investments.