SMU Protests

While Southern Methodist University did not divest its funds from companies working in apartheid South Africa, many on campus  gathered to protest what was happening in South Africa. University students helped the anti-apartheid movement, giving information to people so that they can make educated decisions on apartheid and shedding light on the issues that were occurring. There were some protests that were put together and organized on our very own campus.  Southern Methodist University even dedicated a week to give awareness to what was occurring in South Africa during apartheid.

As early as 1982, SMU’s Office of Intercultural Affairs (OIA) & OIA Director Professor Clarence Glover, Jr.  joined with Marvin Crenshaw’s Dallas Anti-Apartheid Coalition to host a panel featuring SMU professors and human rights activist and Southern African Representative for the American Friends Service Committee, Bill Sutherland.

A group dedicated to the end of apartheid also formed in the mid-1980s to organize–SMU Students Against Apartheid (SMUSAA)(Daily Campus, 1985A).  This organization, SMUSAA, was sponsored by many other organizations and individuals here on campus, such as Professor Glover & the SMU Office of Intercultural Affairs. SMUSAA set up the 1985 awareness week on campus that “led up to National College Anti-Apartheid Protest day on Friday, October 11” (Daily Campus, 1985A). The goal was not just to increase awareness but to also make a strong stand against apartheid with other students from Southern Methodist University. There were many events, organized throughout the week of October 8 to October 11, 1985.

On Monday, October 8, 1985, the week started with an organized student senate debate over Southern Methodist University divestment. There was also a guest speaker, Reverend Prince Nuvani Ntintli of Soweto, who discussed his paper on current issues in South Africa (Daily Campus, 1985A). Then on Wednesday, October 9, 1985, Professor Howard Taubenfield from Southern Methodist University Law spoke about South Africas and solutions. Reverends Randy Day and Linda Thomas along with some SMU professors participated in a forum on divestment (Daily Campus, 1985A).

On Thursday, October 10, 1985, SMUSAA showed the South African films, “6 Days at Soweto” and “The Last Grave at Dimbaza.” These films documented the oppression Africans experienced in South Africa.  A newspaper article that week outlined this inequality. The white minority controlled the black majority. There were over 17 million people under the control of 4 million whites. It was under the doctrine of apartheid that the whites controlled the blacks through military strength. Whites controlled more than three-fourths of the land. These films depicted the condition in which the blacks had to live under. The films showed malnourished black South Africans (Daily Campus, 1985C).  This gave students images to the issues at hand that were discussed through the week.

Friday, October 11, 1985 was National College Anti-Apartheid Protest Day. Students  set up a table of pamphlets, distributed buttons, and played an anti-apartheid video.  At noon, there was a rally in front of Dallas Hall. This rally was held to symbolize all those students that wished to express their dislike over the system of apartheid (Daily Campus, 1985A). Colleges students across the nation and at Southern Methodist University were voicing their opinions, bringing awareness to what was happening in South Africa, and demanding that universities divest.

During the rally held on the Protest Day, several students gathered to hear statements from fellow Southern Methodist University students and community leaders like David Branch, a senator for black students.  They also included guest Ben Motshabi, a black South Africa law student who “appealed to Southern Methodist University students to take part in the struggle against apartheid. Symbolic protest let us (black South Africans) know that you support us” (Daily Campus, 1985B). The University Chaplin Will Finnin was also present and gave a beautifukl speech, “If we suffer with our brothers and sisters, then we know what it is to be part of a human family.”  This was a strong and unifying statement by the Chaplin Finnin.  This was later followed by students holding hands and singing “We Shall Overcome” and closed with a prayer.  The SMUSAA was a success in informing students what was happening in South Africa during the apartheid. Some students were quoted saying they were not aware of what was happening until this organization, SMUSAA put together events all week long to educate and inform others on the issues occurring in South Africa (Daily Campus, 1985C).

After the failure of the student senate resolution for the university to consider divestment failed to produce change, anti-apartheid issues rarely made the pages of The Daily Campus until 1990.

Another organization that helped raised awareness in 1990 was the Advocates for Peace in Global Affairs (APGA). This group put together a protest where they built a shanty town in front of Dallas Hall to show students the “living conditions of blacks in South Africa and Southern Methodist Universities policies towards the country” (Daily Campus, 1990B). More than a dozen students came out to build these shanties. This took place during parent’s week on campus. Many parents came a toured the campus and were taken through Dallas Hall, the iconic building on campus. Members of this organization passed out copies of Southern Methodist University decision not to divest and highlighted SMU’s “investments in companies that do business with or in South Africa” (Daily Campus, 1990A).  There was a “banner on the shanty that read: SMU & S. Africa: What Can We Do?” (Daily Campus, 1990B).  They wanted to also bring awareness to the parents who provide the finances for students to attend the university, letting them know what their money was helping support.  This was why they chose this week to build the shanty town during parents’ week. Visiting parents had a positive outlook on these protests. Some were quoted saying, “thank you for caring” (TDC, 1990B).

Southern Methodist University’s organizations like SMUSAA and APGA helped voice student concerns and educate the community and other fellow students of the issues blacks were facing under apartheid. They did so by organizing awareness weeks, having guest speakers talking about the conditions in South Africa, and by giving people visuals through documentary films that portrayed what was happening. It was through these peaceful protest and demonstrations that students helped spread the word and bring more attention to South African apartheid here at Southern Methodist University. Other university students did similar things across the nation.







Works Cited

Access. “Protest Speech in Main Quad.” The Daily Campus, April 2, 1991.

Bailey, Karla. “Apartheid Week Comes to Close.” The Daily Campus, October 11, 1985. B

Cargill, Stefanie. “Awareness Week Rallies to End.” The Daily Campus, October 15, 1985. C

Editorial Board. “Rebellion? Protest Just Arent The Same Here.” The Daily Campus, October 23, 1990. B

Neal, Monica C. “Investments Protest with APGA Shanty.” The Daily Campus, October 18, 1990. A

Pace, Melany. “Most Parents Ok South African Protest.” The Daily Campus, October 23, 1990.C

Pierce, Lesley. “Awareness Week Allows Variety of Info, Opinion to be Present.” The Daily Campus, October 8, 1985. A