In today’s YDN, I consider students’ role in divestment struggles past and present:
Without fail, those dubious toward each of these criticisms have invoked a popular myth: that in the 1980s, Yale’s leaders moved quickly to avoid abetting apartheid and fully divested Yale’s endowment from companies dealing with the South African government. In light of this precedent, contemporary critics are chided, any company from which Yale hasn’t divested must just not be that bad (or if it is, Yale’s leaders will soon figure that out for themselves). The first problem with this story is that it ignores the pivotal role of sustained pressure from students, community members and employees in effecting what change did happen. That included mass civil disobedience, a symbolic shantytown on Beinecke Plaza and a building takeover, none of which are acknowledged by those who scold contemporary critics to wait patiently for change. The second problem with the dominant narrative is that Yale never did fully and publicly divest from South Africa.