"Sordid Meanness"


President Lowell's version of the facts appears in his answer to the clergyman, who had become interested in the special case of Mrs. Emma Trafton:--

"Dear Sir:---I have inquired into the discharge of Mrs. Emma Trafton from the Widener library and I find that the minimum wage board has been complaining of our employing women for these purposes at less than 37 cents an hour and hence the university has felt constrained to replace them with men. Some of them, I hope many of them, will be able to be employed at some other work in the university."

The Massachusetts minimum wage law applies only to women, and not even to women in all occupations. The board can only recommend that its findings concerning wages be accepted by employers. The law is what it is. The shock to the community is due to the sordid meanness of the richest university in the world in throwing 20 poor scrubwomen out of work for the sake of two cents an hour.

Harvard's administration is wonderfully thrifty when scrubwomen are involved. Chambermaids in the dormitories are not covered by the minimum wage law, for some occult reason; so several of the discharged scrubwomen have been given jobs as chambermaids, who get only 32 cents an hour. Some inconsistency has been pointed out in the paying of cleaning women at the Fogg art museum 37 cents an hour--what the minimum wage commission asked for the scrubwomen in the library. But the extra two cents for the art museum, cleaners are contributed by a generous alumnus whose name should not be withheld from the public.

Being fair to the university, its critics must grant that it is not run for profit and that it uses for educational purposes all of its income. The late President Eliot once said that a college was not properly administered if it did not report an annual treasury deficit. Perhaps times have changed in this respect since Harvard university established its great school of business administration, which teaches sound business principles and practice, especially how to avoid using red ink in making an annual balancesheet.

Yet the Harvard effort to balance the budget by discharging a few scrubwomen rather than pay them two extra cents an hour, as urged by the Massachusetts minimum wage commission, brings the tough-minded realism of the school of business administration into conflict with the more tender-minded humanities, which still flourish, one may hope, in the older departments of the university. It is a tragic collision, in which the humanities have been knocked out. --Springfield Republican.