The Oberlin Review
<< Front page News March 10, 2006

This Week in Oberlin History

In recent years, divestment has been a hotly debated topic at Oberlin. Apparently, it has been for a while. In the spring of 1987, students and others advocated to divest funds from South Africa in protest of apartheid. Their agitation rose to a potentially nationally prominent height when the class officers of ’87 secured Nobel Peace Prize winner and anti-apartheid crusader, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, to deliver Oberlin’s commencement address.

Oberlin in History
March 1966

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, prominent anti-apartheid activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner, will address the graduating class of 1987 in May.

“I feel really pleased that it all worked out,” said Senior Class President Nazeem Muhajarine. “We put a lot of time and effort into our proposal. We didn’t want anything to go wrong.”

Muhajarine and other class officers, Vice President Shoshanna Kaminsky and Secretary George Smith polled the senior class to see if they would support the decision to invite Tutu and obtained ABUSUA’s endorsement.

Sixty-five faculty members endorsed the proposal to grant Tutu an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree, which the Trustees signed.

“The proposal was passed in a surprisingly low-key way,” said Muhajarine. “You’re prepared for a fight and then you realize you don’t have to.”

Tutu is a vocal supporter of divestment.

He “has shown that to campaign for the cause of peace is not a question of silent acceptance,” said Chairman of the Norwiegan Nobel Committee Egil Aarvik.

It is for exactly this reason that some students anticipate a charged atmosphere at Commencement this spring

“We all know that he’s really an outspoken critic of South Africa,” said Muhajarine. “He’s going to make us embarrassed, he’s going to point out the contradictions and paradoxes of Oberlin’s history, and the press is going to love it.”

“His visit it is going to galvanize the whole community,” said Muhajarine. “If things don’t change between now and May 25, it could be an ugly commencement. I don’t think the trustees or the administration would want that. The whole country would know.”


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