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September 22, 1979 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 1979-09-22

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Page 4-Saturday, September 22, 1979-The Michigan Daily
Ninety Years of Editorial Freedom
Vol. LXXXX, No. 15 News Phone: 764-0552
Edited and managed by students at the University of Michigan

Sudan and the lure of Africa

Another regental tragedy

UJNWILLING TO assume a "politi-
cal" stance on the issue of Univer-
sity investments in South Africa, the
Regents have tried to. play a clever
game. The trick is to appear con-
ciliatory, while in effect sacrificing
very little.
That strategy has fooled nobody; if
anything, it has convinced those in
favor of total divestment that the
Board can only be pushed from its
present position under a great amount
of pressure. Yet, despite the
pressure exerted on the Regents
during their March and April
ieetings, the game plan has remained
intact-give an inch, but not a mile.
tBut even those rules were tossed out
yesterday as the Regents rejected the
rpcommendations of the Senate
ttssembly Advisory Committee on
Rinancial Affairs (SAACFA), the
eight-member faculty-student group
selected by the Board in March.
:Appearing tense but still firm, the
Roard gave no explanation for its
decision, other than to reaffirm its
distaste for South Africa's apartheid
system and repeat its desire for finding
a solution acceptable to that nation's
blacks. Most of the Regents went to ex-
treme lengths to convince the
WAshtenaw County Coalition Against
Apartheid (WCCAA) of their
unquestioned support for change in
South Africa, of their unyielding com-
mitment to corporate pressure on the
Bothea regime, and of their an-
tagonism toward that country's
repressive policies.
When it came down to action-a
word rarely applied to the Board's
behavior-the, Regents turned down
SAACFA's recommendations one by
ona, voting only to admit a minor
ameldment to their weak and ineffec-
tive anti-divestment policy adopted
March 16, 1978.
The SAACFA suggestions would
have forced the University to divest
from any bank or corporation doing
business in South Africa that does not
annually submit a complete Sullivan
Principles Summary Report or
equivalent as determined by the South
African Investments Committee. The
group also advised the Board to divest
from banks or corporations that ap-
prove after Dec. 31, 1979, significant
new capital appropriations for South
Africa where such new investment is
not necessary for corporate implemen-
tation of the six Sullivan principles.
While it is not surprising that the
Regents ignored the group's recom-
mendations, what is deplorable is that
the Board had ordered this group to
conduct a full-scale investigation of the
matter five months ago, and thus
having heard its' report, held only a
brief discussion. This complete lack of
respect for that group's presentation,
coupled with the fact that the Regents
had put so much emphasis on this
group's findings in March, simply

reveals their unwillingness to conduct
a serious study of the divestment issue.
The SAACFA changes do not go far
enough; in fact, they offer a very slim
possibility for improvement in the
apartheid society. Even if they had
been adopted, the recommendations
would have, at best, made the banks
and corporations comply with the
Regents guidelines more regularly.
But if they stretch the truth in their
reports on implementation of those
principles, as anti-apartheid backers
insist, it would make little difference
how often those reports were sent to
the Regents.
And, as it has often been stated in the
past, the Sullivan guidelines make lit-
tle difference to the oppressed blacks
in South Africa.
The biggest tragedy of yesterday's
decision is that the Regents have
wasted another five months, while
blacks in South Africa continue to suf-
fer harassment every day in their jobs,
and in the streets. Nothing has
changed in the last five months in
South Africa, and nothing has changed
among the governing body of this
Univesity.
While it's true the Regents were not
bound by any collective decision by
SAACFA, it can't help but make one
wonder if the Regents will ever be able
to listen to anyone but themselves. It
also will produce many skeptics the
next time the Board appoints a com-
mittee to investigate such an impor-
tant issue, and then strikes down that
group's recommendations following a
20-minute discussion.
It was almost as if the Regents had
determined before evaluating the
report that they weren't going to
change their minds. Throughout-
yesterday's meeting, they looked im-
patient, anxious to get the monthly
rhetoric over with. They've heard the
coalition's song 'before, and knew all
along what was coming.
It may be too early to speculate
whether yesterday's sharp rejection of
SAACFA's recommendations signifies
a change in Regental policy. They may
have decided that even small con-
cessions-such as divesting from
Black & Decker and J.D. Searle-are
no longer needed.
They did agree to one "concession"
yesterday by declaring that University
Vice-President and Chief Financial Of-
ficer James Brinkerhoff send letters to
companies holding University bonds
and operating in South Africa, asking if
they affirm the Sullivan guidelines. In
effect, that does very little as this con-
dition would only apply to companies
holding only University bonds in that
country; thereby, if those companies
already owned University stock, they
would be excluded.
The University must divest from
South Africa, but yesterday's Regents
decision makes that goal still only a
dream.

On July 11, 1979, I had my first authentic
taste of cultural shock. Along with ten other
university students from various regions of
the United States, I arrived in Khartoum air-
port. We were one of the Sudan contingents of
Operation Crossroads, a private organization
that each summer provides American student
groups with the opportunity to work and
travel in Africa. All the orientation sessions
and travel delays had been forgotten. We
were in Africa; more specifically, the Sudan,
the largest country on the continent. It would
be a unique experience for all of us, but we
were prepared for any emergency. We
arrivedat the hot, dusty airport just in time to
watch a beautiful sunrise. This beautiful
sight, however, was interrupted by the
realization that some of our baggage was
missing and few people around us spoke
English. None of us knew Arabic and worse
yet our government hosts were nowhere in
sight. Welcome to the Sudan! We would soon
learn the common Sundanese all-purpose
phrase was "In Sha Allah," by will of god.
Rarely does anything happen as planned in
the Sudan. Slowly we learned that to expect to
see the implementation of the Western value
of precision scheduling was self-defeating.
The widely-held Sudanese characteristics of
fatalism and patience are necessary for both
mental and physical survival.
Like any less developed country, Sudan can
offer the newly initiated Western visitor a
variety of unsettling experiences, which can
be both frightening and challenging. There is,
of course, the inevitable sickness resulting
from new food and drink, and insect and
microscopic life with strong instincts for in-
fecting the nearest body. Two of our group
contracted malaria and we all suffered at
various times from dysentary. The initial
travel delays, along with those we experien-
ced later on, proved to be an appropriate in-
troduction to the poor infrastructure in the
Sudan (the country, one-third the size of the
United States, has only 500 miles of paved
roads). Our group had to ride in the bed of a
lorry over sand roads that washed out during
heavy rains. An acute gasoline shortage
similar to that of the United States compoun-
ded the usual multitude of travel problems.
Several times to facilitate our travel plans it
was necessary to purchase black market
gasoline for $10 per gallon.
THE WORK WE so looked forward to per-
forming was less than satisfactory. We were
assigned to help workers construct a Youth
Training Centerkat Urn Ruaba in western
Sudan. I was lucky enough to be apprenticed
to the Mustapha (head man), while my
American counterparts spent three and a half

By Thomas E. Shaw
weeks hauling bricks and mud. The work it-
selfwas sporadic, supplies and tools limited,
and the five women in our group had to con-
tinuously convince our Sudanese hosts that
they were capable of carrying bricks and
mixing cement. Also we were in a
predominantly Islamic country which obser-
ves the religious holiday of Ramadan; a thir-
ty-day period of fasting, which means no
Moslem eats, drinks or smokes during
daylight hours. This lack of nourishment,
coupled with the intensely hot sun, results in
people literally dropping. over at noon and
taking the opportunity to sleep in convenient
corners. So much for the rigorous work
schedule. We realized we weren't going to
make a*significant impact on Sudan's GNP.
The traditions of Islam are more important
than the Protestant work ethic.
Throughout our stay in the Sudan, we found
ourselves victims of creeping cultural shock.
Many small unpleasant factors in our
lifestyle, seemingly insignificant when
viewed separately, when totalled together
had an overwhelming effect on our tem-
peraments. Language barriers, squat toilets,
heat, dirt, and the omnipresent swarms of
flies exaggerated personality differences in
the group. At times some members of the
group argued over who was taking an unequal
share of the cling peaches. Our intra-
American struggles would far exceed any of
any African physical hardship we encoun-
tered.
When I describe the difficulties of my Sudan
adventure, I'am rarely able to convince the
listener that I thoroughly enjoyed every
minute of my almost two months in Africa.
The problems although promoting apprehen-
sions were part of a growing experience lear-
ning not only about the Sudan, but about my
own limitations and capabilities.
There were many purely relaxed
pleasureable experiences, too. The Sudanese
always tried to make us feel welcome. Being
invited into a fellow worker's home to share
meals eaten with fingers from common
bowls, always meant laughing, good conver-
sation in broken English and Arabic and
closeness I rarely experienced in America.
Riding on a slow-moving open train, watching
a beautiful Saharan sunrises beats any mass
transit system in the West. And what could be
more relaxing than spending an afternoon in
a nomad's tent cautiously drinking camel's
milk.
I FOUND THE traditions of the Sudan to be
both disturbing and refreshing. The restricted

status of Islamic women (expected to
passively serve as wives and mothers) is
matched by a concern for the extended family
that is unknown to Americans. The seeming
slowness and inefficiency of Sudanese
business and government employees is com-
plimented by a gentle acceptance of life and a
high concern for interpersonal relationships.
Although public affection between men and
women is frowned upon by Islamic tradition,
men freely touch and hug each other in a non-
sexual context and it was a liberating ex-
perience for me to walk hand-in-hand with a
new Sudanese male friend.
The Sudan is a special African country,
because it bridges both Arab and African
culture, and I was able to sample both. So
while in July Iwas riding a nomad's camel in
the semi-arid North, in August, I was sitting
in thatched huts belonging to spear-carrying
Nubians.
OTHER MEMORIES KEEP returning to
me-shopping in markets while developing a
special skill of negotiating a selling price;
riding on the bed of a lorry in the hardest
rainstorm I have ever seen; drinking araqui,
a moonshine liquor, with our Sudanese hosts,
discussing the problems of the world; and
standing on a bridge over the Nile River, con-
templating the ancient civilizations that once
inhabited this fertile valley.
In many ways, it was strange to return to
life in the West. Rediscovering fresh milk and
Cap'n Crunch, public restrooms and padded'
bus seats was a pleasant process. But cultural
shock works both ways. People around me no
longer had to deal with basic survival needs,
but were concerned with a more abstract
specialized nature of life in a developed coun-
try. I had to reaquaint myself with the
procedures of answering ringing telephones
as opposed to bartering for freshly killed
meat or spending a seemingly idle hour in a
friendly conversation with an African
stranger.
I used to wonder why ex-Peace Corps
people who had served in Africa had such a
great desire to return to the "dark continent."
What was the magical attraction that would'
make them want to abandon the materiaj
comfort of the good old USA? Well, I don't
know if this essay provides the reader with
any clues, but I know what the magic is: I
have tasted the waters of the Nile and I, too,

Public land for the Pope

N EXT WEEK'S scheduled visit to
the United States by Pope John-
Paul II has raised serious questions as
to the separation of church and state.
In Washington D.C., one committed
atheist is even seeking a court injun-
ction to prohibit the pontiff from con-
ducting next Sunday's planned outdoor
service on the mall. Named as defen-
dant in the legal action are the Pope
and Interior Secretary Cecil Andrus.
The church-state separation is one of
the oldest tenets upon which this coun-
try is founded, and one which should be
duly respected in deciding issues from
abortion to prayer in public schools.
But the visit of the Pope is an official
visit by an official head of state, and
the public body has both an obligation

be seen as an illegal use of public land
for a religious service. Or, in more
sensible terms, it can be seen as the
government's efforts to extend cour-
tesy to a head of state by providing the
only space available that can
reasonably accommodate a crowd of
the size expected.
The mall in Washington, and public
parks anywhere, including Chicago
and Philadelphia, are constantly given
over for use by various groups for
various purposes. From the .days of
Ressurection City, when Martin
Luther King gave his famous "I Have
A Dream Speech," through the Viet-
nam was rallies, to this year's protest
by angry American farmers, the mall
has seen the assemblage of groups of

will return to Africa.
Thomas E. Shaw, a
LSA's Honor's College,
traveling in Africa with
roads.

history major in
spen(the summer
Operation cross-

Letters to

The Daily

To the Daily:
September 20th's issue of the
Daily contained an editorial
which unjustly maligns the in-
tegrity and goodwill of the State

aims of every Arab nation which
wills the destruction -of Israel.
This peace was achieved and the
recent settlement on Judea and
Samaria (the "West Bank") does
not run contrary to its principles.

territorial debate very unlikely."
Once again, it must be remem-
bered that before this territory
was under Jordanian rule it was
under Israeli control until Jordan
plundered and took the territory

and Samaria. This is Israeli
territory until Israel should
decide to delegate it to anyone.
And before we call upon Israel to
make such a concession, let the
other parties in question, the
Arnh..' ,ntinc ani +h t f.,,

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