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In the wake of Margaret Mary Vojtko's death--an adjunct professor of French at Duquesne University--a national debate is emerging about the treatment and exploitation of adjunct faculty who increasingly are becoming a larger and larger group within higher education.

The organizers of this petition--many of whom either were taught by Margaret Mary, are affiliated with Duquesne, and/or have lived the adjunct life--seek to promote change and better treatment for adjunct faculty at Duquesne and beyond.

There are a range of suggestions that adjuncts and advocates have made for a more just system, including (links, info, resources further below in 'News' section):

--Union Representation
--Job Security (beyond semester to semester uncertainty)
--A Living Wage (e.g. MLA's recommendation of $7,090 per course)
--Health and Retirement Benefits

The adjunct and part-time faculty members that make up 73% of instructors nationwide--who devote so much time and energy to their students and universities--deserve more respect and better working conditions and pay, rather than the poverty, debt, and the occasional charity that too many of them 'enjoy' now.

Please join our initial 75 co-signers and sign the petition below and help spread its important message to pressure Duquesne and all universities into making positive change for adjunct justice. (Please include academic affiliation in your comment, if applicable.)


Facebook: and #iammargaretmary

Twitter: @adjunctjustice and #iammargaretmary

Letter to
President Charles Dougherty
Vice President, University Advancement John Plante
University Chaplain and Director of Campus Ministry Rev. Daniel Walsh
and 1 other
Duquesne University
Justice Rather than Charity for Adjuncts

On September 19th, 2013, John Plante, Vice President for University Advancement at Duquesne University, sent an e-mail to the Duquesne community, denouncing those who have expressed outrage in light of Daniel Kovalik’s op-ed piece on the death of long-time Duquesne adjunct professor Margaret Mary Vojtko. According to Plante, those who have responded with such vehemence have “no direct knowledge of the actual circumstances.”

Regardless of if and how well we personally knew Margaret Mary Vojtko, University officials must contend with the facts that 1) over half of their own University faculty lack a living wage and health benefits (source: IPEDS 2011), perpetuating a struggle for often the most basic necessities, and that 2) the Church’s own social doctrine condemns the University's employment practices regarding these faculty members.

Many of us found Kovalik’s piece so arresting precisely because we recognize these realities in our own lives. Those of us who teach or have taught at the undergraduate level as adjuncts know the reality of the abominably low salary and of our ultimate expendability (compensation typically $1800-$3500 per class, depending on the university, vs. MLA's recommendation of $7,090). Such conditions can put us in an ongoing hardship with respect to even routine expenses and stresses. And we know that if or when we face something more serious—a broken furnace or a major medical emergency—we could end up in a difficult, tragic position similar to the one Margaret Mary confronted.

Fr. Daniel Walsh, Duquesne Chaplain and Director of Campus Ministry, affirms that Vojtko lived on campus at Laval House for “several weeks,” and that various campus priests, Walsh included, visited the French professor throughout her cancer struggle. Plante’s and Walsh’s comments are meant to illustrate just how abundant was the charity shown Vojtko by many in the University community. This is not disputed, but greatly applauded.

What we do dispute is that these acts of charity create a just situation. The Church herself has made clear that there is a vast difference between charity and justice. The Second Vatican Council’s document Apostolicam Actuositatem makes the principle clear, insisting that “the demands of justice be satisfied lest the giving of what is due in justice be represented as the offering of a charitable gift.” The fact that Margaret Mary required such charity as temporary campus housing and hospital visits from administrators, rather than the health insurance or sufficient income to pay for her hospitalization, underscores just how gravely unjust was her situation (and the situation of adjuncts in general).

In Pope John Paul II’s encyclical, Laborem Exercens, promulgated in 1981, the pontiff states, “there is no more important way for securing a just relationship between the worker and the employer than that constituted by remuneration for work.” These forms of remuneration are defined most notably by John Paul II as “the right to a just wage,” as well as “the right to a pension and to insurance for old age,” among other rights. And let us not forget the plethora of encyclical letters ensuring the right to organize labor unions (guaranteed by Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum, Pius XI’s Quadragesimo Anno, Pius XII’s Sertum Laetitiae, John XXIII’s Pacem in Terris, John Paul II’s Centesimus Annus and Laborem Exercens, as well as the Second Vatican Council’s Gaudium et Spes). Are we to believe that the administrators of a major Catholic university, including the Chaplain/Director of Campus Ministry, are unaware of these most basic obligations set forth by their own Church?

We ask, then, that Duquesne officials use the reality of Margaret Mary Vojtko’s death as a time of opportunity—an opportunity that we hope all universities will seize. Duquesne is in a unique position to make a choice to lead by example on adjunct treatment: continue in the status quo, or take the first step toward justice rather than charity.

Drafted by several current and former Philosophy Graduate Students at Duquesne University

Initial 75 Co-signers, Collected 9/20/13-9/22/13 (Listed Alphabetically)

--Alison Rogers Napoleon, Lecturer, Hunter College, Adjunct
--Brock Bahler, PhD Candidate, Duquesne University, Adjunct Professor Seton Hill University
--Christina Rawls, PhD Candidate, Duquesne University, Adjunct
--Christine D'Auria, Adjunct instructor, Duquesne University
--Christopher Mountenay, PhD Candidate, Duquesne University, Adjunct
--Courtney Novosat, PhD Candidate, West Virginia University, Recent Adjunct
--Dana Trusso, PhD Candidate, Duquesne University, Recent Adjunct
--Danielle Gissinger, PhD Candidate, Former Adjunct
--Dave Mesing, PhD Student, Villanova University, Future (&always?) Adjunct
--Debadeepta Dey, PhD Candidate, Carnegie Mellon University
--Dr. Anthony Paul Smith, Assistant Professor in Religion, La Salle University; Recent Adjunct (2008-12)
--Dr. Betina Jones, Duquesne University, Adjunct
--Dr. Claire Barbetti, Duquesne University Alumna; Adjunct, Chatham University
--Dr. Faith Bjalobok, Duquesne University, Adjunct
--Dr. Jason Stuart, Assistant Professor, Slippery Rock University
--Dr. Jose Alvergue, Assistant Professor, University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire
--Dr. Kathleen Salerno, Postdoctoral Scholar, University of Pittsburgh
--Dr. Robert Vallier, DePaul University, Adjunct
--Dr. Robin J. Sowards, Adjunct Lecturer, Duquesne University; Adjunct Lecturer, University of Pittsburgh
--Dr. Stephanie Farrar, Lecturer, University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire, Adjunct
--Dr. Taine Duncan, Assistant Professor, University of Central Arkansas; PhD, Duquesne University
--Dr. Tom Sparrow, Slippery Rock University, Recent Adjunct/Temporary Faculty
--Dr. Zack Furness, Assistant Professor, Penn State Greater Allegheny
--Ellen Foster, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Clarion University; Former adjunct now tenured
--Eric Mohr, PhD Candidate, Duquesne University, Adjunct instructor
--Eric Schliesser, Professor, Ghent University, Faculty
--Eric Vazquez, PhD Candidate, Carnegie Mellon University
--Guy Witzel, PhD Candidate, Adjunct
--Heather Steffen, PhD Candidate, Carnegie Mellon University, Adjunct Instructor
--Holly Mohr, MA, Duquesne University, Previous Adjunct
--Ian Patrick McHugh, PhD Candidate, University of Guelph
--Jacob Goessling, PhD Candidate, Carnegie Mellon University
--James Bahoh, PhD Candidate, Duquesne University, Adjunct
--Jarret Pervola, Duquesne Alumni, Adjunct
--Jessica Wilton, PhD Candidate, Carnegie Mellon University
--Joe Cimakasky, PhD Candidate, Duquesne University, Adjunct
--Joel Boyer, MA Candidate, Duquesne University
--John Bova, PhD Candidate, Villanova University; Affiliated Researcher, University of New Mexico, Recent Adjunct
--John Protevi, Professor, Louisiana State U.; PhD, 1990, Loyola Chicago, Former adjunct (ten years)
--Joshua Zelesnick, Visiting Lecturer, Univ. of Pittsburgh, non-tenure track FT
--Joy Simmons Bradley, PhD Candidate, Duquesne University; Part-time Faculty, Heartland Community College; Adjunct Instructor, Lincoln Land Community College
--Justin Pearl, Graduate Student (PhD)
--Kyle Fetter, SUNY— University at Buffalo, Adjunct
--Larissa Cunningham, Former Graduate Student, Duquesne University, Former Adjunct
--Leah Benedict, PhD Candidate, SUNY Buffalo, Adjunct
--Luke Trusso, PhD Candidate, Duquesne University, Adjunct
--Marilynn Lawrence, Adjunct, Immaculata Universiity, Adjunct
--Matt Garite, PhD, SUNY Buffalo, Recent Adjunct
--Matt Nelson, PhD Candidate, Carnegie Mellon University
--Matthew Valentine, PhD Candidate, Duquesne University, Adjunct
--Clint Benjamin, MFA, Duquesne University, Adjunct
--Michael Paradiso-Michau, North Central College, Adjunct Assistant Professor
--Mr. Christopher Schmidt, Pittsburgh resident, Former Pgh Public School Teacher
--Mr. Daniel Kovalik, Univ. of Pittsburgh School of Law, Adjunct
--Mr. Abraham Jacob Greenstine, PhD Candidate, Duquesne University, TA
--Mr. Adam Davis, Adjunct Instructor, Duquesne University, Adjunct
--Mr. Evan Strevell, A.B.D., Duquesne University; Visiting Professor, Xavier University
--Mr. Jeffery Stoyanoff, PhD Candidate, Duquesne University
--Mr. Keith Crescenzi, M.A. Student, Duquesne University
--Mr. Robert Guerin, Alumnus, Duquesne University
--Ms. Emily Rodgers, Adjunct Instructor, Duquesne Univ.; Art Institute, CCAC, Current Adjunct
--Ms. Kendra McLaughlin, M. A.
--Ms. Leslie Nickerson, PhD student, SUNY at Buffalo
--Ms. Rebecca Bratten Weiss, Instructor, Franciscan University of Steubenville, Adjunct
--Patrick Craig, PhD Candidate, Duquesne University, Adjunct
--Professor Hans Ostrom, Professor, University of Puget Sound
--Professor Henry Steck, Distinguished Service Professor & Professor of Political Science, SUNY Cortland
--Professor Jim Holstun, Professor of English, University at Buffalo, Former Adjunct
--Rebecca Cepek, PhD Candidate
--Ryan JOhnson, Ph.D Candidate, Duquesne University, Adjunct
--Ryan Krahn, PhD Candidate, University of Guelph, Recent Adjunct
--Ryan Pfahl, PhD Candidate, Duquesne University, Recent Adjunct
--Steve Petersen, Associate Professor, Niagara University, Former Graduate Student Instructor
--Terry Coyne Hartnett, Alumnus, AS 1971
--Travis Holloway, Ph.D. Candidate, SUNY-Stony Brook, Adjunct

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