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Brandeis to divest South Africa stocks

WALTHAM, Mass. -- Ending a school year of persistent anti-apartheid campus protests, the Brandeis University trustees voted Saturday to divest its portfolio of virtually all stocks of companies operating in South Africa.

As of March 31, the 3,500-student private liberal arts school's holdings in companies doing business in the racially segregated country had a market value of $1.6 million out of an endowment valued at about $130 million.

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Stocks of firms 'whose business in South Africa is for the sole purpose of reporting the news and companies that provide health, medical and other goods or services of a humanitarian nature' will be retained, the trustees said.

Details were not disclosed about how much the exceptions amount to or the timetable for divesting the remaining South African-related stocks which have been the object of a variety of campus demonstrations this past year.

The vote culminated 14 years of deliberations on the subject.

In April 1973, the trustees declared Brandeis had an 'ethical responsibility to exercise such power it has as an investor in ways designed to prevent or correct social injury caused by corporations in which it invests.'

In 1977 a panel of faculty, students, alumni and staff was formed to advise the trustees on portfolio policy and Brandeis adopted the Sullivan principles forbidding investment in firms doing business with the Pretoria government.

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In May 1986, they adopted a new policy of immediate preparation for full divestment, prohibition of new South African investments and a full review of current holdings.

As a result of the review, last fall the trustees sold off more than $700,000 worth of investments in firms operating in South Africa not adhering to the Sullivan guidelines of stringent minority treatment.

All year, a core group of activist Brandeis students gave up their daily meal tickets and went without lunch as a gesture of opposition to apartheid. Three Brandeis chaplains held a two-week hunger strike in February.

Earlier this winter, some 50 students staged a protest occupation of the Brandeis administration building. Twenty were arrested. Five students were arrested for trespassing after occupying the affirmative action office.

'The board of trustees is not unsympathetic to (the protesters') position,' Brandeis Vice President Sally Riggs told United Press International after a student occupation in December.

'But what the board has to do is balance the questions of its fiduciary responsibilities ... against questions having to do with the impact divesting would have,' she said. 'It's very complex.'

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