Has Bok Passed the QRR?

PRESIDENT Derek Bok's "Statement on Neutrality and the Union Election" may not address the real issues involved in Harvard's anti-union campaign, but the way he presented it to The Crimson says it all. While the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers (HUCTW) has paid for every single inch of advertising space on the pages of The Crimson, Bok asked to print his letter free of charge, as an open letter to students.

Perhaps Bok was confused by his own assertion that "Harvard is an institution dedicated to the free exchange of ideas" and thought that all advertising space at The Crimson is free. But it should come as no surprise that Bok doesn't understand the neutrality petition which 3000 students signed and 20 student organizations endorsed. Bok believes he is entitled to use every resource at his University to combat the union.

This explains Harvard's use of worktime meetings in its anti-union campaigns, but it doesn't explain the administration's spreading of disinformation about the union in its brochures. Why should a University whose president defends its right to disseminate "facts and arguments on both sides of the issue" spread untruths and confusion about HUCTW?

ONE need not be a supporter of the union to see that Harvard's anti-union literature distorts the facts. In a brochure called "Consider the Facts: Money Matters," Harvard compares its employees' salary increases to other Boston universities and firms and to other universities nationwide. A quick glance at the graph shows Harvard ranking better than other employers.

But a close scrutiny of the fine print shows that Harvard's salary increases are not being compared to other universities' salary increases, but to their merit budget increases. Merit budgets are not total salary increases, only one minor component. Harvard is comparing apples with oranges.


A more flagrant example of Harvard's disinformation appears in a graph entitled, "Harvard Non-Union vs. Union Staff Salary Increases 1980-1987." At first glance, salary increases seem to be steadily growing over the years. But a look down at the x-axis reveals that the years are numbered backwards from 1987 to 1980. Although salary increases appear to have grown, they really have declined.

When the graph was brought to Bok's attention by an Undergraduate Council member, Bok said he hadn't seen a copy of it. He was probably too busy writing his "reasoned" free open letter to students.

THIS is exactly the kind of statistical manipulation that the QRR guide warned us about. The fact that the administration resorts to these tactics indicates that either Bok has not taken the QRR, or that he follows a double standard on statistical accuracy, inside and outside of the classroom--a seeming contradiction of his statement on ethics.

Yet these two examples are only par for the course in the anti-union campaign. One untitled chart compares percentage pay increases at Harvard with AFSCME contracts at a group of primarily large state universities. Virtually every state university pay increase listed is smaller than Harvard's.

But almost half of the state university numbers are footnoted--stating that the chart underestimates all of the non-Harvard increases by $500, $425-650, 1.25 percent, or other amounts. The booklet admits that "summary comparisons are difficult because of the variety in pay structures." The fact is, though, that Harvard underestimated every single confusing pay structure--to its own advantage.

Given the Harvard administration's anti-union disinformation, Bok's statement on neutrality is confusing. Why does he tell students that the anti-union campaign is getting out the facts, when it really obscures them? Why does he bless students with a "thoughtful response" to their concerns, while employees are fed bare-faced propaganda? Does Bok think that employees, not having passed the QRR, would be fooled by his "facts?" Or is he hoping that students will never see the actual union literature?

Bok attacks the neutrality campaign, saying that "the notion that Harvard's opposition will intimidate staff members and coerce them into voting against the union reflects surprisingly little respect for their independence of mind." One can only hope that staff members and students have enough independence of mind to recognize that the "facts" disseminated by the President of Harvard University are not facts at all.