Last week, Harvard students and Adams House Master Robert J. Kiely '60 rallied against the apparent firing--a.k.a. "voluntary retirement"--of Joe Hickey, Adams House maintenance crew chief. Hickey has faithfully worked at Harvard for six years and has been at Adams for four.
He is well-loved by students, is a central figure of the Adams House community. However, despite Hickey's excellent, longstanding service, Harvard has "offered" Hickey severance.
Hickey is thus the latest casualty of the Faculty of Arts and Science's (FAS) disregard for the community. Following the trend in taking actions which long-time maintenance workers see as efforts to push them out, FAS has recently decided Hickey is not worth keeping, and intends to replace him.
We abhor this decision and are writing in the hope that perhaps, this once, the demonstration of student support for Hickey will encourage the FAS to reconsider its decision. We agree with Hickey about Harvard's inhumanity. As he said, "You would think that this glorious [institution] would just care a little more." (See the front page of the Jan. 22 Crimson.)
The decision to seemingly fire Hickey might make sense if Harvard had slipped a point on NASDAQ. But Harvard is a "non-profit" corporation and, as such, cannot offer stock. Harvard has the means to continue paying for Hickey's employment without batting an eye. It should reward a worker like Hickey, not punish him for being loyal. And it certainly shouldn't bemoan its own poverty as justification for spurning Hickey and his peers.
Indeed, Harvard has a long-standing habit of down-playing its wealth. This is for good reason: Harvard is filthy rich.
For every student at Harvard (there are approximately 18,800 degree candidates this year according to the University's homepage), Harvard has close to $484,000 of endowment money. It would take Joe Hickey 38,170 hours of work at his current wages (about 20 years of nine-to-five labor) to earn as much money as Harvard holds per student.
Last year "non-profit" Harvard had what amounts to profits of nearly $2 billion, as its endowment skyrocketed from $7.4 billion to $9.1 billion (see last week's issue of the Harvard Gazette for these figures). According to the University's homepage, the total annual expenditures of Harvard are only $370 million. This is about 20 percent of what Harvard stuffed into its endowment last year. Even if the profits dumped into the endowment last year paid the entire tuition of all 18,800 students, Harvard would still have raked in around $1.3 billion for its precious endowment.
In fact, according to the New York Times, Harvard received the seventh-largest amount of charitable donations in the United States last year (needlessly filling Harvard's bulging coffers at the expense of charities that truly needed the money).
Even more ridiculous, rich Harvard, the largest landowner in Cambridge, is exempt from nearly all taxes because of its "non-profit" status.
As the Harvard Corporation appears to have forgotten, growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of a cancer cell. Harvard has evolved to the point where it does not have to pinch every penny; with earnings from its property, donations, tuition and the capital gains on its 9,100,000,000 endowment, Harvard could exist indefinitely into the future.
FAS has no need to take steps which amount to the firing of its workers. In fact, Harvard has no need for the $2.1 billion Rudenstine is slaving to raise for the Capital Campaign.
A fantastically wealthy "non-profit" corporation can easily keep workers like Hickey without sacrificing the future of the University. Harvard should face up to the truth--it is unnecessarily hoarding cash at the expense of people, like Hickey, who depend on the money for their livelihood. When the current students graduate and are hounded by Harvard for contributions, they should reflect upon its insatiable greed, and they should give their money to a worthier cause. The technically proficient, mindless automatons running this University, and not Joe Hickey, should be offered severance.
Of course, we have no illusions that such justice will be served. On a number of previous occasions, the FAS has refused to even acknowledge, much less honor, the demands of the real people who make Harvard's status possible: think back to the period of months during which Harvard refused to discuss the payment of part-time workers' benefits with the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers; its turning a deaf ear to the students who petitioned for the tenure of Associate Professor of History Ellen Fitzpatrick; its indignation at the mere suggestion of reforming the Administration's archaic and punitive disciplinary board; its utter disregard of numerous outspoken student, Faculty and community requests that it permit students to retain control of Phillips Brooks House.
With Harvard's pigheaded history in mind, we suspect that Hickey's impending "retirement" will not be reconsidered.
We doubt the FAS will, for once, respect the socalled "community standards" that it exalts with hollow boosterism.
But we still have some hope (albeit quite unsubstantiated) that Harvard will prove that it is not, in fact, concerned only with money and prestige. We still have hope that it cares about the people who make up the Harvard community.
Perhaps, just this once, Harvard will prove its history wrong. Perhaps--though we hedge no bets--Harvard will retract the "voluntary retirement" of Joe Hickey.
Megan L. Peimer '97 is co-president emeritus of the Radcliffe Union of Students. William L. Kirtley '97 is writer emeritus of "Prank Files" in Fifteen Minutes.