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January 20, 1984 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 1984-01-20

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4

Page 4

OPINION

Friday, January 20, 1984

The Michigan Daily

a'U,

should invest in social respon4

.. ! ! ! 1_

4

By Wilbert McKeachie
'Should the University vote its stock
on stockholder social responsibility
reolutions?
The issue of University policy with
respect to voting its shares on'
stockholder propositions came to the
fore when I was chairman of the Senate
Akdvisory Committee on University Af-
fairs. We developed the policy that
When a question was raised about a
corporation's social responsibility, the
University would invite representatives
of the corporation and of the petitioners
to come to the University to present
their positions at a public forum.
AT THAT TIME one of the iajor
issues was similar to the current con-
cern about corporations doing business
in South Africa. The issue was whether
or not American corporations were a
force preventing the people of Angola
from having a government of their own
choosing. The National Council of
Churches supported a shareholder
resolution asking one of toe major oil
companies to provide information on its
activities in Angola. The officers of the
corporation opposed the resolution.
Since the University held stock in the
company, we invited the corporation
and the National Council of Churches to
send representatives to the University
to discuss the issue, and they did so.
TJe ensuing forum produced more heat
than reasoned debate. Nevertheless, an
experience following the forum convin-
ced me that it had been worthwhile.

I was to speak at Slippery Rock State
College on the evening following the
forum. Since it was impossible for me
to be at the forum and make a commer-
cial flight in time for my speech, the
executive vice-president of the oil com-
pany offered to give me a ride in the
company plane to Pittsburgh. This
gave me a chance to find out that he had
been influenced by the debate.
My impressions of his reactions were
reinforced by a comment by the com-
pany's vice-president of public
relations who accompanied me to the
car from Slippery Rock. He said, "The
forums at Michigan, Harvard, and
other universities have been a great
educational experience for our
president and vice-president. They had
never before had to think about the
social impact of our operations. The
resolution will be voted down, but
they'll be much more sensitive to
ethical issues in the future."
THIS, I believe, is the major
argument for taking shareholder
resolutions seriously. They sensitize
corporation executives to social con-
cerns which would otherwise be sub-
merged in the real and important
'problems of maintaining a profitable
business.
As a shareholder, the University can
simply fail to vote on such resolutions.
But such a position represents a moral
decision that shareholders should not
attempt to persuade corporation
executives to be concerned about
ethical implications of corporation ac-
tivities. To me it seems probable that

fulfilling our share of responsibility
would be an abrogation of our ethical
duty.
Can the University exercise its
responsibility without excessive costs
in time and acrimony? I believe so.
Certainly there would be such costs.
But the number of issues is limited.
For the past few years .I have been
responsible for voting shareholder
resolutions for the American
Psychological Foundation, a very small
portfolio in comparison with that of the
University, but large enough to give me
a sense of the task. In the United States
last year, shareholders of only 73 cor-
porations proposed resolutions opposed
by management. It is unlikely that the
University holds stock in all 73 so the
task is, thereby reduced. It will be
reduced even more as the University
completes divestment of stocks of com-
panies doing business in South Africa
since thirty-two of the resolutions in-
volved South Africa. Further reducing
the magnitude of the task is the new set
of rules limiting stockholder proposals
placed in effect by the Securities and
Exchange Commission Jan. 1. Thus a
small committee should, without great
effort, be able to monitor the proposals
and recommend appropriate positions
for the University.
McKeachie is a professor of
psychology and a former chairman
of the Senate Advisory Committee
on University Affairs, the faculty's
top governing committee.

4

It took a lot of prodding and protesting to get the University to divest from its holdings in companies which operate in
apartheid South Africa. The University could similarly prod other companies on other social issues by investigating
stockholder resolutions.

many of the serious ethical issues in
society involve evil consequences of in-
stitutional or corporate
policies-policies which result from the
dispersal of decision making authority
among many individuals who faithfully
carry out their roles in the corporation

with good personal ethics but little sen-
se of responsibility for (or control over)
the policies of the institution in which
they work.
Harvard University has the following
policy: "It is Harvard's position that
along with 'the rights of ownership

comes the responsibility to examine
social/ethical issues raised in
shareholder resolutions and to vote
shares conscientiously."
For the University simply to reap the
profits of the corporations in which we
have a share of ownership without

I. _ _

-.4

Edited and managed by students at The University of Michigan

Laban

Vol. XCIV-No. 91

420 Maynard St.
4 Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Editorials represent a majority opinion of the Doily's Editorial Board

Fighting athletic supporters

PELCDGM IZIl6 KoG
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Y OU'D THINK our state legislators
would be busy with important
business like digesting Governor Blan-
c.hard's state of the state address or
working to put a few of their con-
sitituents back to work. But there's one
state senator who is fighting the "evil"
Don Canham and his cohorts in the pay
television business.
Senator John Kelly (D-Detroit) says
that the people in his district, Grosse
Pointe and Harper Woods, have called
him up complaining about having to
pay to see Michigan basketball on
television. The University's athletic
department sold the University's foot-
ball and basketball rights this month to
Sports View Co., a pay-per-view cable
television company.
So Kelly, to save Michigan fans from
their misery, has nobly decided to push
a bill which would prevent state
universities from selling television
rights for sporting events to cable
television companies.
No doubt Kelly is fighting for a very
6herished right, especially for Univer-
ity students and alumni who live in his

district. And all taxpayers may marvel
at, the speed at which he whipped up
the measure to save true blue fans.
But his proposal may have slipped
off his lips just a bit too quickly. For his
method of dealing with state colleges
and universities which manage to
make money off cable deals is similar
to launching a blind punch in the wrong
direction.
The legislation would reduce aid to
state universities by the amount they
gained in any cable deal.
Apparently no one told Kelly that the
academic and sports budgets are
separate, at least at this university.
Also, he must not be aware that taking
money away from the University's
already meager state appropriations
won't be a blow to Athletic Director
Don Canham, but rather to the quality
of the academic programs at the
University.
There must be some other legislative
game Kelly could play - one that
means more to the people in his district
than watching Bill Freider chew
towels on the tube for free.

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The 1984 presidential contest is
rapidly narrowing down to a two-
man battle,,even before the first
primary. It is clear that, barring
vicissitudes, Walter Mondale will
lead the Democrats against
Ronald Reagan, who presumably,
will announce his candidacy Jan.
29.
Given these two contenders,
what can we expect the election
to revolve around? The issues
certainly are plentiful and
divisive: the economy, military
spending, social programs,
women's rights, race, foreign
policy, war and peace, to name a
few. But no one should be sur-
prised if this election turns out to
revolve around one single issue
that overshadows all the others:
the character of the man who oc-
cupies the Oval Office. Ronald
Reagan himself may well be the
most important issue of the cam-
paign.
THERE ARE two reasons why
this may be so. First, the major
candidates so far appear un-
willing to lock horns over any of
the principal domestic or foreign
issues. And secondly, Ronald
Reagan has come to represent for
many people a political gestalt
that is more than the sum of its
parts. The character of the man
incorporates and transcends his
politics.
Three overlapping groups of
voters are looking forward to the
elections: blacks, women,and the
left. All three bear strong

Reagan himself
is N ovember'~s
crucial issue.
By Franz Schurmann

foreign policies greatly raising
the risk of wars, and of a final
nuclear holocaust.
And for those on the left,
Reagan represents an out-and-
out right-wing philosophy that
makes no bones about wanting to
turn the country away from all
the policies and values the left
identified with since the era of
Franklin Roosevelt.
Mondale -knows full well that
these are the spearheads of his
voter troops. But he also knows
that the general mood of the
country is moderate, once again
mildly patriotic, and aware that
economic recovery has occurred
without liberal midwifery.
SO WHILE he is prudent on
BLOOM COUNTY

foreign policy and economic
issues, he has made the thrust of
his effort so far the building of the
broadest and strongest anti-
Reagan coalition possible.
While blacks, women and the
left dislike Reagan with an
almost personal ire, there are
plenty of people in the main-
stream who worry about Ronald
Reagan the man, especially with
regards to his handling of war
and peace issues. Thus, a
presidential campaign on the
simple issue of Reagan, pro or
con, rather than the complexities
of foreign policy or the
divisiveness of socio-economic
issues, may well be shaping up.
Staggering sums of money and
people hours are going to be ex-

pended on the 1984 election. Is it
credible that the entire thing will
simply be about what kind of man
people want in the White House?
It is, credible if one considers
that the quality of man in the
Oval Office seems to matter pn
only one single issue: war. To go
to war or not is a decision that, in
the end, rests with the president
alone. For just about every othei
issue, there is time to consult,
argue, seek consensus. On war
alone, split-second decisions have
to be made. It would seem to
matter that a president is or-is
not an ideologue, a hothead, cool
in a crisis, compassionate,
vengeful.
If presidential elections now
are increasingly about war and
peace issues, then one might
think other social issues do not
matter any more. That can har-
dly be the case. Much more
likely is the fact that people have
simply come to think that,
whoever is in power, there is not
much that can be done on
domestic and social matters from
the command posts in the Oval.
Office.
Schurmann is a professor of
history and, sociology at
the University of California,
Berkeley. He wrote this article
for the Pacific News Service.
by Berke Breathed

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