Blog Archives

Please Sign and Boost: Justice not Charity for Adjuncts

Update regarding the Adjunct crisis at Duquesne:

A campaign has emerged out of the philosophy department to push the school toward rectifying their unjust employment practices. Please consider signing this petition and forwarding to anyone who might offer support. As a Duquesne student, I greatly appreciate any support that you might offer.

Previous posts regarding adjunct crisis:

Adjunct Win at Religious College

Union Busting at Duquesne University?

A Letter from an Embarrassed Grad Student


A Letter from an Embarrassed Grad Student

Original “Death of an Adjunct” Story

Duquesne’s Response

Further Story, including Rebuttal of Response

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

Further Reading:

My earlier post on the Adjunct union question

Adjunct Win at Religious College

Good news from the Adjunct unionization front. Hopefully this will help lend support to the Adjuncts at Duquesne in their ongoing struggle.

Adjunct Win at Religious College

Adjuncts at Pacific Lutheran University in Washington have the right to vote on whether to unionize, a regional National Labor Relations Board officer has ruled.

Union Busting at Duquesne University?

Unacceptable.  Duquesne University appears to be using its religious affiliation with the Spiritans in order to bypass its legal obligations, see here.  This is union busting plain and simple, whether or not it is clothed in religious garb.  Think that the adjuncts don’t have legitimate complaints?

““If you teach the maximum permitted number of courses, you make $10,000 a year, which is below the poverty line,” said Dr. Sowards, who became one of the union drive’s organizers. The salary represents four courses a year at a rate of $2,500 per course.

Another issue was health care. “We don’t have any,” Dr. Sowards said. And then there was job security. “Our contracts are written in such a way that the university can cancel our courses at any time for any reason, and you have no assurance that you can teach from one semester to the next. We have people who have been teaching here 25 years and never know if they have a job next semester.””

Don’t make me regret coming here.