A Letter from an Embarrassed Grad Student
Dear Duquesne University,
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Op-ed peice, “Death of an Adjunct,” has gone viral. As a current Duquesne graduate student, I feel it is necessary to offer a somewhat formal response.
For me, the key to this story can be found in the rebuttal to Duquesne’s defense. There, Mr. Kovalik rightly notes that “Duquesne did not dispute what the woman was paid or that she lacked benefits.”
While recognizing that the first article likely omitted the unofficial offers for help and housing, it must be recognized that this is not simply a personal issue, it is not just a question of one person, it is a structural failure of the American educational system, and more specifically, a failure of Duquesne. While it may certainly be true that help or a place to stay was offered, it remains tragic nonetheless that this was even a necessity in the first place. It is a shame and an embarrassment to attend a school that treats its employees like this, reducing them to handouts rather than offering a living wage, disgracefully fighting their attempts to unionize for healthcare and a living wage on completely disingenuous grounds.
I hope that this media frenzy is as embarrassing for the administration, as it is for the students. More importantly, I hope that this story leads them to reflect on the treatment of their adjuncts.
As we are a Catholic school, perhaps I should quote from Pope Leo XIII’s “Rerum Novarum”:
“wealthy owners and all masters of labor should be mindful of this – that to exercise pressure upon the indigent and the destitute for the sake of gain, and to gather one’s profit out of the need of another, is condemned by all laws, human and divine. […] the rich must religiously refrain from cutting down the workmen’s earnings, whether by force, by fraud, or by usurious dealing; and with all the greater reason because the laboring man is, as a rule, weak and unprotected, and because his slender means should in proportion to their scantiness be accounted sacred. […]” (Rerum Novarum, 20)
And of course, it adds:
“But the Church, with Jesus Christ as her Master and Guide, aims higher still…” (Rerum Novarum, 21)
Here, I feel this is clearly not the case.
An embarrassed Grad Student