Students vs. Big Business: A Swarthmore College Sophomore Talks about How Her Group Got the School to Use Its Economic Clout to Push for Gay Rights at Lockheed. (Behind the Headlines)

By Bull, Chris | The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine), May 14, 2002 | Go to article overview

Students vs. Big Business: A Swarthmore College Sophomore Talks about How Her Group Got the School to Use Its Economic Clout to Push for Gay Rights at Lockheed. (Behind the Headlines)


Bull, Chris, The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)


Two decades ago colleges and universities played a major role in encouraging U.S. corporations to cease doing business in apartheid South Africa, and the campaign helped bring down the country's segregationist government. Today, students at Swarthmore College in Philadelphia are employing a similar strategy in an effort to pressure Lockheed Martin Corp., a global defense contractor, to include sexual orientation in company antidiscrimination policies. At press time, a resolution filed by the college was scheduled to be voted on at the company's annual shareholder meeting April 25 in San Diego. The Advocate talked to the leader of the effort, Swarthmore sophomore Morgan Simon.

How did this strategy come about?

The [Swarthmore Committee for Socially Responsible Investing] has been looking at the issue for four years now, before I was even a student here. We looked at the criteria for filing [a shareholder action]. We had to own 2,000 shares of the stock. In fact, Swarthmore owns 7,500 shares, worth about half a million dollars. We picked a Fortune 500 corporation because of the potential for impact. The last thing we decided was the issue we wanted to address. Equal employment opportunities for the GLBT community was entirely in line with the college's values and something we could support both morally and economically.

For a company as large as Lockheed Martin, that's not a lot of stock.

If we owned more, we would have more clout. But we have reached out to over 200 other shareholders, and by combining our efforts, we'll have more leverage.

What has been the response of the college's administration, which is of course concerned about its investments?

The college is against divestiture. The rationale the administrators give, which I actually agree with, is that we don't own that many shares and that the problem won't go away if we sell our shares. …

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