From the first scarehead, it was obvious that the "scrubwoman scandal", brought to light in the Boston press yesterday, was the result, somewhere, of inexcusable errors of judgment on the part of University officials. Despite the fact that the comptroller's office, with the intelligence of an ostrich hiding its head in the sand, refused to release to the public the truth of the case, the actual facts, uncovered in way most likely to antagonize a not-too-friendly press, reveal Harvard's heart to be not wholly as black as it was originally painted.
According to all latest reports, it had been planned for some time to lay off the women working in Widener Library and to replace them with men. Arrangements to have the change made gradually so that the women layed off from the Widener jobs could be absorbed in other positions in the University were apparently upset by the interference of the State Minimum Wage Board which sought to have these scrubwomen placed on the same wage basis as the hardly analogous night workers in large office buildings.
Threatened with action by the Board, the University authorities, evidently in a fit of obstinate pique, fired all the women, with a curt note that they would later be re-employed as conditions permitted. There seems to be no possible excuse for the authorities' not paying off the women with at least a week's advance. Granted that the persons handling Harvard's financial affairs have to do it carefully and wisely, it is absurd for the richest university in the country to act like a penny-pinching miser. The University does, to some extent, act charitably in employing women on part time who would have difficulty in finding comparable work elsewhere, but last month's case gives no sign whatsoever of any feeling of responsibility toward these underpaid workers, many of whom have served the University for long terms.
The attitude of the comptroller's office toward the whole affair is typical of a certain unenlightened group, unfortunately still large in the University, which believes that the best way to treat the newspapers is to snub them. Harvard does not need to go out deliberately seeking favorable publicity, but on the other hand, there can be little excuse for such obvious mishandling of press relations as that which occurred yesterday.