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Residents of Dunster and Quincy House have come together to spread holiday cheer and show their appreciation to their Houses’ dining hall and custodial workers.
After learning several years ago that Harvard does not give holiday bonuses to any of its employees, the Quincy and Dunster House Committees (HoCos) decided to raise funds for these workers annually.
In recent days, Dunster HoCo members have solicited donations during meals and have gone room-to-room asking for contributions.
Quincy HoCo members have adopted a similar method of raising money and have also advertised the effort on their House e-mail list.
In an e-mail sent to the Quincy-open mailing list, HoCo members wrote, “The students in Quincy are responsible for all the bonuses the dining hall and custodial workers receive this year. The school gives them nothing...You know how hard the Q-House workers try, please...give them something. They definitely deserve it.”
Quincy House Master Robert P. Kirshner ’70 echoed that sentiment but said the collection does not occur simply because Harvard does not distribute holiday bonuses—the House does it just to show appreciation to the staff.
HoCo members from both Quincy and Dunster Houses, though, said they disagree with Kirshner’s assessment.
They said they were surprised to learn that Harvard does not give holiday bonuses to its employees, and they said they felt somewhat pressured to continue the tradition when House administrators contacted them.
“It’s strange and inappropriate that students are responsible for Christmas bonuses,” said Quincy HoCo Social Chair Daniel R. Fish ’03.
Kathryn A. Russo ’03, co-chair of the Dunster HoCo, said she was surprised that collecting funds for holiday bonuses is the responsibility of the students.
“It is a nice thing,” she said, “but yet it seems that this should not be the students’ responsibility.”
Regardless of the reasons for the collection, HoCo members from both Quincy and Dunster reported that their fundraising efforts have been successful.
Quincy HoCo Chair John H. Woody ’03 said he expects the House will raise about $1,500 for the dining hall and custodial workers.
Woody said bonuses have ranged from $20 to $50 per employee in past years, depending on a worker’s position and employment status.
The bonuses will be distributed later today at a holiday party for Quincy House staff members.
Fish said their fundraising efforts have been met with a positive response because of the goodwill Quincy House residents have toward the dining hall and custodial workers.
“As soon as people find out what we’re doing, they’re willing to help out,” Fish said. “People really like the staff a lot and they care about them.”
Russo and her fellow co-chair, Morgan A. Rowe ’03, said Dunster’s efforts have also been successful, raising about $840.
“Everyone was really generous,” Rowe said. “We asked for $5 from each student, and most people gave that much if not more.”
While representatives from Harvard University Dining Services (HUDS) said they are supportive of students’ efforts to acknowledge their employees, HUDS spokesperson Alexandra McNitt emphasized that HUDS employees do receive holiday recognition from Harvard—albeit not in a monetary form.
“We have a comprehensive recognition program, which includes celebrations around the holidays,” McNitt said. “Each person also receives a gift. This year they will be getting a pair of nice gloves.”
McNitt said that the more than 600 HUDS staff members are acknowledged year-round and displays of appreciation are not limited to the Christmas season.
“At Thanksgiving every employee gets a 20 lb. turkey,” she said.
Employees are also officially recognized with gifts during September’s National Food Services Employees Week and at the end of the academic year.
“We have lots of ways to acknowledge the staff,” McNitt said. ‘There is more than enough recognition going around.”
Deputy Director of Labor and Employment James A. LaBua said no Harvard employees receive holiday bonuses and that fact has never been an issue in contract negotiations.
“I have sat in on a number of negotiations, and holiday bonuses have never been an issue of contention,” LaBua said.
“A Christmas bonus is something that is separate and distinct from Harvard University Dining Services,” LaBua said. “I think [students] are free to do whatever they would like to do, and if they want to do something to show their gratitude to the workers, they are free to do so.”
—Staff writer Jaquelyn M. Scharnick can be reached at email@example.com
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