After five months as a member of the Harvard Committee on Employment and Contracting Policies, or the HCECP, Harvard economics professor Caroline Hoxby resigned from her post Monday. In a letter published by The Harvard Crimson, Hoxby said the committee was heavily biased toward a “living wage” and failed to consider contrary opinions.
“Its membership is far from balanced,” she wrote. “It contains several people who have an explicit pro-living wage agenda and it contains no one with an opposing agenda.”
Hoxby wrote in an e-mail that two main issues influenced her decision: whether the process was fair enough that she would be willing to defend it to a skeptic, and whether the opinions of the whole university were being considered.
Hoxby said she ultimately could not respond “yes” to either question, which prompted her resignation from the committee.
Former Harvard President Neil L. Rudenstine formed the 20-person committee in May after a three-week sit-in by the Progressive Student Labor Movement advocating a minimum “living wage” of $10.25 for all Harvard-employed workers. The committee included 11 faculty members, three unionized Harvard workers, two administrators and four students.
Harvard student and member of the Living Wage Campaign Roona Ray said Hoxby’s accusations were aimed at the wrong people.
“Her criticism is really one of the Harvard administration because they were the ones who hand-picked the members in a completely undemocratic process,” Ray said.
Lawrence Katz, economics professor and chairman of the committee, wrote in an e-mail that Hoxby’s presence will be missed, but that the committee will continue on with its work.
“Caroline Hoxby has been a valued member of the Harvard Committee on Employment and Contracting Policies,” he said. “We are sorry she felt it necessary to resign. Even though she is no longer a member of the committee, we hope to continue to have the benefit of her expertise and views.”
After learning of her resignation, the HCECP proceeded with its agenda by presenting preliminary data on wage and employment policies at a public forum.
According to The Crimson, the committee revealed that the mean wage of dining hall workers, guards, parking lot attendants and custodians had declined since 1994. The committee also emphasized that wages have decreased while the cost of living in Boston has increased.
But in her resignation letter, Hoxby was skeptical about the committee’s data and conclusions because it had proceeded in a biased manner.
“The committee has not heard one presenter who has made a positive case against the living wage,” she wrote.
Ray said Hoxby’s decision to step down the day of the data release was selfish and petty.
“The data tells the story of a decade of deteriorating wage conditions at the university,” Ray said. “This was a deliberate attempt to downplay the damning narrative that this data tells.”
Hoxby also accused the committee of failing to implement a system in which all members of the Harvard community could be heard. Currently, the only suggestions come via e-mail, which, she claims, are not seriously considered.
But despite such accusations, Katz has maintained that the committee is not discriminating against certain views.
“The committee has been and remains open to all viewpoints in the Harvard community,” Katz wrote. “We continue to actively seek the input of all members of the Harvard community.”
Hoxby’s husband, Blair Hoxby, a Yale English professor currently on leave, declined to comment.