NIU Foundation votes to divest

By Suzanne Tomse

The NIU Foundation’s board of directors Thursday voted in favor of moving all the organization’s common stock assests to a mutual fund free of any investments in South Africa.

The foundation will transfer about $150,000 from the Equity Fund to the South Africa Free Equity Fund. Both funds are among eight mutual funds operated by the Common Fund, a non-profit agency used by about 750 colleges and universities for investment management purposes.

Foundation President Stephen Horvath Jr. said the $150,000 represents only about 5 percent of the foundation’s total assests of nearly $3 million. The remaining assests are invested in U.S. government securities.

“While the foundation’s stock holdings are modest, this action has symbolic importance to all who value individual dignity and human rights,” Horvath said. He said the transfer of funds would begin “immediately” and the process would be carried out “overnight.”

NIU President John LaTourette requested that the foundation change its investment policy several months ago. After much discussion, a recommendation to change the policy was adopted by the foundation’s investment committee on Feb. 19.

“We are, in a sense, together at the university in fighting discrimination,” said NIU President John LaTourette when he announced the decision to divest to the Board of Regents Thursday.

Under the policies of the Common Fund’s Equity Funds, foundation common stock assests already had been limited to investment only in firms under the Sullivan Principles if the companies had any interests in South Africa, Horvath said.

The Sullivan Principles are ethical practices which are used by some U.S. companies with interests in South Africa. The principles include desegregation of facilites, equal pay and job access. In addition, the principles include efforts to improve the lives of non-white workers outside the workplace.

The acknowledgment of African rights to form and belong to trade unions, the assistance in the development of black businesses and the promotion of an end to South Africa’s apartheid laws also are included in the Sullivan Principles, which is viewed by some people as a weak anti-apartheid policy.

orvath had no comment on the Sullivan Principles, saying they “speak for themselves.”

Last semester, the John Lennon Society discovered that the foundation had money invested in South Africa, said Tom Rainey, JLS member.

After the information was discovered, a coalition of organizations was formed which urged the foundation to divest. Coalition members include the JLS, the Black Student Union, the Illinois Public Action Committee, the National Chicano Student Movement and the Organization of Latin American Students.

With approval of the divestment proposal, the next step in fighting apartheid will be to write a policy stating that investment in South Africa would not occur in the future, said JLS President Jim Fabris.