Extend Your Vocabulary for IELTS Through Reading

Disparities at Harvard

Frank Morley seemed out of place in the crowd of young people moving excitedly to the loud music and the exhortations in Spanish at the rally in Harvard Yard. Mr. Motley is 60 years old and not particularly well educated, and he was dressed in the uniform of his trade, which is janitor.

“It amazes me, ” he said, raising his voice to he heard over the pounding of drums, “that there are people who would do this for other people. For guys like me.”

The rally was just outside Massachusetts Hall, where about the students have been conduct­ing a sit-in for nearly two weeks. Massachusetts Hall is where the school’s president and provost have their offices. The sit-in is part of a long campaign to get the university to stop what the students feel is the relentless exploitation of Harvard’s lowest-paid workers—the janitors, kitchen staff, guards and others who are there every day to keep the students, faculty and administrators clean, comfortable and safe.

The problem, in the view of the students and many others, is that these workers and many others, is that these workers on the campus of America’s greatest and richest university are paid unconscionably low wages. While they work hard to maintain the daily living conditions to which Harvard has become accustomed, they do not make enough money to keep their own families adequately housed and fed. They cater to the elite, but they are stuck in poverty themselves. And Harvard, which is sitting on an endowment of nearly $20 billion, has coldly turned its back on entreaties to pay the workers the few dollars more that would lift their pay to a so-called living wage.

Frank Morley lives in Mansfield (he can’t afford to live in Cambridge) and his daily commute is more than an hour each way. He takes home $309,46 for a 40-hour workweek, which is not enough to cover his expenses. For more than two years he worked a second job bagging groceries and stocking shelves at a supermarket. He got only four hours of sleep a night and was in a per­petual state of exhaustion. He recently gave up the second job.

“I’m in a hole, ” he said. “I had to take money out of a retirement fund to pay debts. Pretty soon the retirement money will be gone. When I finally do retire, all I’ll have is whatever. Social Security”, I guess.

Harvard students began the living-wage campaign in the fall of 1998. They wanted Harvard to adopt a policy, similar to one that was then being considered by the Cambridge City Council, establishing a “living wage” of $10,25 an hour as the minimum that could be paid to employees. The Cambridge Council passed its ordinance in 1999, but it does not apply to Harvard. More than 1,000 workers at Harvard some working directly for the university and some for contrac­tors hired by the university – earn less than $10,25 an hour.

Porfiro Figueroa is one of them. He’s 31 years old, has a wife and two young children and earns $9,40 an hour as a custodian. Speaking in Spanish, he explained through an interpreter that he has to work two jolts “just to survive a little bit.” But he doesn’t get to see much of his kids. He sees his year-old daughter for a brief period in the middle of the day, during the break between jobs. But his other child, a 5-year-old hoy, is in school. “I only see my son on weekends and at night when he is sleeping, ” he said.

Harvard’s honchos have not been moved by the pleas of the students or the plight of workers trying to raise families on less than $20,000 a year. A committee appointed by the administration in 1999 studied the matter, and then rejected the idea of a wage standard for the university. Just two weeks ago a spokesman for the school said, “We will not be adopting a living wage.”

Don’t bet on that. This is not a fight the school can easily win. Harvard University is not some soulless corporation that can get away with squeezing the last nickel out of its poorest workers. It’s not an apparel company. It’s a celebrated institution that craves the moral high ground.

Instead of fading, as Harvard administrators hail hoped, the living wage campaign has flour­ished. Harvard and its president, Rudenstine, need an exit strategy, fast.

Words and Expressions for IELTS Speaking & Writing 

  1. disparity (n): a difference, especially one connected with unfair treatment ⇒ “Disparities at Harvard”
  2. out of place: a particular position, point or area ⇒ “Frank Morley seemed out of place in the crowd of young people moving excitedly to the loud music and the exhortations in Spanish at the rally in Harvard Yard.”
  3. exhortation (n): an act of trying very hard to persuade somebody to do something ⇒ “Frank Morley seemed out of place in the crowd of young people moving excitedly to the loud music and the exhortations in Spanish at the rally in Harvard Yard.”
  4. rally (n/v): a large public meeting, especially one held to support a particular idea or political party ⇒ “Frank Morley seemed out of place in the crowd of young people moving excitedly to the loud music and the exhortations in Spanish at the rally in Harvard Yard.”
  5. janitor (n): a person who takes responsibility for taking care of or protecting something ⇒ “Mr. Motley is 60 years old and not particularly well educated, and he was dressed in the uniform of his trade, which is janitor.”
  6. amaze (v): to surprise somebody very much ⇒ “It amazes me, ” he said
  7. conduct (v): to organize and/or do a particular activity ⇒ “The rally was just outside Massachusetts Hall, where about the students have been conduct­ing a sit-in for nearly two weeks.”
  8. sit-in (n): to attend a meeting, class,… in order to listen to or learn from it rather than to take an active part ⇒ “The rally was just outside Massachusetts Hall, where about the students have been conduct­ing a sit-in for nearly two weeks.”
  9. provost (n): the person in charge of a college at some universities ⇒ “Massachusetts Hall is where the school’s president and provost have their offices.”
  10. relentless (adj): not stopping or getting less strong ⇒ “The sit-in is part of a long campaign to get the university to stop what the students feel is the relentless exploitation of Harvard’s lowest-paid workers—the janitors, kitchen staff, guards and others who are there every day to keep the students, faculty and administrators clean, comfortable and safe.”
  11. exploitation (n): a situation in which somebody treats somebody else in an unfair way, especially in order to make money from their work ⇒ “The sit-in is part of a long campaign to get the university to stop what the students feel is the relentless exploitation of Harvard’s lowest-paid workers—the janitors, kitchen staff, guards and others who are there every day to keep the students, faculty and administrators clean, comfortable and safe.”
  12. administrator (n): a person whose job is to manage and organize the public or business affairs of a company or an institution, or a person who works in an office dealing with records, accounts,… ⇒ “The sit-in is part of a long campaign to get the university to stop what the students feel is the relentless exploitation of Harvard’s lowest-paid workers—the janitors, kitchen staff, guards and others who are there every day to keep the students, faculty and administrators clean, comfortable and safe.”
  13. campus (n): the buildings of a university or college and the land around them ⇒ “The problem, in the view of the students and many others, is that these workers and many others, is that these workers on the campus of America’s greatest and richest university are paid unconscionably low wages.”
  14. unconsciously (adv): without being aware ⇒ “The problem, in the view of the students and many others, is that these workers and many others, is that these workers on the campus of America’s greatest and richest university are paid unconscionably low wages.”
  15. be accustomed to: to make yourself or somebody familiar with something or become used to it ⇒ “While they work hard to maintain the daily living conditions to which Harvard has become accustomed, they do not make enough money to keep their own families adequately housed and fed.”
  16. adequate (adj): enough in quantity, or good enough in quality, for a particular purpose or need ⇒ “While they work hard to maintain the daily living conditions to which Harvard has become accustomed, they do not make enough money to keep their own families adequately housed and fed.”
  17. house (v): to live in a place ⇒ “While they work hard to maintain the daily living conditions to which Harvard has become accustomed, they do not make enough money to keep their own families adequately housed and fed.”
  18. cater to (v): to provide food and drinks for a social event ⇒ “They cater to the elite, but they are stuck in poverty themselves.”
  19. elite (n): small in number but powerful and with a lot of influence, because they are rich, intelligent,… ⇒ “They cater to the elite, but they are stuck in poverty themselves.”
  20. be stuck in: to be unable to change something that you have been doing the same way for a long time and that has become boring ⇒ “They cater to the elite, but they are stuck in poverty themselves.”
  21. sit on (v): to have received a letter, report,… from somebody and then not replied or taken any action concerning it ⇒ “And Harvard, which is sitting on an endowment of nearly $20 billion, has coldly turned its back on entreaties to pay the workers the few dollars more that would lift their pay to a so-called living wage.”
  22. endowment (n): money that is given to a school, a college or another institution to provide it with an income; the act of giving this money ⇒ “And Harvard, which is sitting on an endowment of nearly $20 billion, has coldly turned its back on entreaties to pay the workers the few dollars more that would lift their pay to a so-called living wage.”
  23. turn one’s back on: to return the way you have come; to make somebody or something do this ⇒ “And Harvard, which is sitting on an endowment of nearly $20 billion, has coldly turned its back on entreaties to pay the workers the few dollars more that would lift their pay to a so-called living wage.”
  24. entreaty (n): a serious and often emotional request ⇒ “And Harvard, which is sitting on an endowment of nearly $20 billion, has coldly turned its back on entreaties to pay the workers the few dollars more that would lift their pay to a so-called living wage.”
  25. living wage (n): a wage that is high enough for somebody to buy the things they need in order to live ⇒ “And Harvard, which is sitting on an endowment of nearly $20 billion, has coldly turned its back on entreaties to pay the workers the few dollars more that would lift their pay to a so-called living wage.”
  26. commute (n): to travel regularly by bus, train, car,… between your place of work and your home ⇒ “Frank Morley lives in Mansfield (he can’t afford to live in Cambridge) and his daily commute is more than an hour each way.”
  27. cover (v): to place something over or in front of something in order to hide or protect it ⇒ “He takes home $309,46 for a 40-hour workweek, which is not enough to cover his expenses.”
  28. bag (v): to put something in ⇒ “For more than two years he worked a second job bagging groceries and stocking shelves at a supermarket.”
  29. stock (v): to store something ⇒ “For more than two years he worked a second job bagging groceries and stocking shelves at a supermarket.”
  30. perpetual (adj): continuing for a long period of time without interruption ⇒ “He got only four hours of sleep a night and was in a per­petual state of exhaustion.”
  31. exhaustion (n): the state of being very tired ⇒ “He got only four hours of sleep a night and was in a per­petual state of exhaustion.”
  32. in a hole (= in the hole): being in something ⇒ “I’m in a hole, ” he said
  33. social security (n): money that the government pays regularly to people who are poor, unemployed, sick,… ⇒ “I had to take money out of a retirement fund to pay debts. Pretty soon the retirement money will be gone. When I finally do retire, all I’ll have is whatever. Social Security”, I guess.
  34. adopt (v): to give out or implement policies ⇒ “They wanted Harvard to adopt a policy, similar to one that was then being considered by the Cambridge City Council, establishing a “living wage” of $10,25 an hour as the minimum that could be paid to employees.”
  35. City Council (n): a group of elected officials who make the laws of a city and help to govern it ⇒ “They wanted Harvard to adopt a policy, similar to one that was then being considered by the Cambridge City Council, establishing a “living wage” of $10,25 an hour as the minimum that could be paid to employees.”
  36. establish (v): to start or create an organization, a system,… that is meant to last for a long time ⇒ “They wanted Harvard to adopt a policy, similar to one that was then being considered by the Cambridge City Council, establishing a “living wage” of $10,25 an hour as the minimum that could be paid to employees.”
  37. ordinance (n): an order or a rule made by a government or somebody in a position of authority ⇒ “The Cambridge Council passed its ordinance in 1999, but it does not apply to Harvard.”
  38. contractor (n): a person or company that has a contract to do work or provide goods or services for another company ⇒ “More than 1,000 workers at Harvard some working directly for the university and some for contrac­tors hired by the university – earn less than $10,25 an hour.”
  39. custodian (n): a person who takes responsibility for taking care of or protecting something ⇒ “He’s 31 years old, has a wife and two young children and earns $9,40 an hour as a custodian.”
  40. survive (v): to continue to live or exist ⇒ “Speaking in Spanish, he explained through an interpreter that he has to work two jolts “just to survive a little bit.”
  41. brief (adj): lasting only a short time ⇒ “He sees his year-old daughter for a brief period in the middle of the day, during the break between jobs.”
  42. honcho (n): the person who is in charge ⇒ “Harvard’s honchos have not been moved by the pleas of the students or the plight of workers trying to raise families on less than $20,000 a year.”
  43. plea (n): an urgent emotional request ⇒ “Harvard’s honchos have not been moved by the pleas of the students or the plight of workers trying to raise families on less than $20,000 a year.”
  44. plight (n): a difficult and sad situation ⇒ “Harvard’s honchos have not been moved by the pleas of the students or the plight of workers trying to raise families on less than $20,000 a year.”
  45. appoint (v): to choose somebody for a job or position of responsibility ⇒ “A committee appointed by the administration in 1999 studied the matter, and then rejected the idea of a wage standard for the university.”
  46. administration (n): the activities that are done in order to plan, organize and run a business, school or other institution ⇒ “A committee appointed by the administration in 1999 studied the matter, and then rejected the idea of a wage standard for the university.”
  47. reject (v): to refuse to accept or consider something ⇒ “A committee appointed by the administration in 1999 studied the matter, and then rejected the idea of a wage standard for the university.”
  48. bet on (v): to risk everything you have on an investment, a bet,… ⇒ “Don’t bet on that.”
  49. soulless (adj): lacking any attractive or interesting qualities that make people feel happy ⇒ “Harvard University is not some soulless corporation that can get away with squeezing the last nickel out of its poorest workers.”
  50. get away with (v): to do something wrong and not be punished for it ⇒ “Harvard University is not some soulless corporation that can get away with squeezing the last nickel out of its poorest workers.”
  51. squeeze (v): to press something firmly, especially with your fingers ⇒ “Harvard University is not some soulless corporation that can get away with squeezing the last nickel out of its poorest workers.”
  52. nickel (n): a chemical element which is a hard silver-white metal used in making some types of steel and other alloys ⇒ “Harvard University is not some soulless corporation that can get away with squeezing the last nickel out of its poorest workers.”
  53. apparel (n): clothing, when it is being sold in shops or stores ⇒ “It’s not an apparel company.”
  54. celebrated (adj): famous for having good qualities ⇒ “It’s a celebrated institution that craves the moral high ground.”
  55. crave (v): to have a very strong desire for something ⇒ “It’s a celebrated institution that craves the moral high ground.”
  56. moral high ground (n): a solid surface on the Earth ⇒ “It’s a celebrated institution that craves the moral high ground.”
  57. fade (v): to become disappear ⇒ “Instead of fading, as Harvard administrators hail hoped, the living wage campaign has flour­ished. Harvard and its president, Rudenstine, need an exit strategy, fast.”
  58. flourish (v): to develop quickly and be successful or common ⇒ “Instead of fading, as Harvard administrators hail hoped, the living wage campaign has flour­ished. Harvard and its president, Rudenstine, need an exit strategy, fast.”
  59. exit (n): a way out of a public building or vehicle ⇒ “Instead of fading, as Harvard administrators hail hoped, the living wage campaign has flour­ished. Harvard and its president, Rudenstine, need an exit strategy, fast.”
  60. strategy (n): a plan that is intended to achieve a particular purpose ⇒ “Instead of fading, as Harvard administrators hail hoped, the living wage campaign has flour­ished. Harvard and its president, Rudenstine, need an exit strategy, fast.”

Exercises

Fill in each blank with the appropriate word, making changes where necessary

rally, disparity, adequate, cater to, relentlessly, entreaty, commute, cover, amaze, conduct

  1. There is a considerable …………… in the rates of pay for men and women.
  2. The general …………… his tired soldiers and they drove the enemy hack.
  3. It ……………. me how many candidates eliminate themselves!
  4. The company …………….. a survey to find out local reaction to the leisure centre.
  5. He beat the dog ………………
  6. The city’s water supply is no longer …………….
  7. She refused to …………. his ridiculous demands.
  8. All our ………….. were in vain, and he was shot at dawn.
  9. It’s a long ………….. from New York to Boston.
  10. Will $10 …………….. the cost of the damage?

Extend Your Vocabulary for IELTS Through Reading
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