-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger
Margaret Mary Vojtko, an adjunct professor who had taught French at Duquesne University for 25 years, died of a massive heart attack at the age of 83. Adjunct professors at Duquesne make between $3000 and $3500 per semester per course. In the best of times, Margaret Mary, teaching three course, wasn’t even clearing $25,000 a year with no benefits and no job security. After Duquesne reduced her to one course, Margaret Mary couldn’t afford to pay the electricity bill and her home became uninhabitable in the winter.
Ironically, Duquesne’s president, Charles J. Dougherty, is a nationally recognized scholar and expert in health care ethics. Since Margaret Mary didn’t have health care, I guess there was no health care ethics involved. Duquesne’s president makes over $700,000 a year with full benefits.
In 2005, adjunct professors make up about 48% of the faculty at colleges and universities. Today, that number is 75% as universities cut costs by reducing the number of more expensive tenured professors. The cost savings are not passed along to students. Duquesne, a private university, has increased tuition an average of 5.4% per year between 2006 and 2010. Higher tuition and lower costs via less qualified professors, the best of both worlds, for the universities.
A majority of the 130 adjunct faculty at Duquesne decided to organize as a chapter of the United Steelworkers and submitted a petition for an election to the National Labor Relations Board. Duquesne hired a Memphis lawyer known for his counseling organizations on how to remain union free. Duquesne filed a motion that since it was a “church-operated school,” it was exempt from NLRB jurisdiction. The motion was denied.
Although Duquesne was founded by, and is sponsored by, members of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit, it does not depend financially on the Catholic Church, does not require its faculty members to be Catholic, and does not require its student to study Catholicism.
As universities focus on increasing their endowments through cost cutting measures like hiring more adjunct professors, they lose sight of their raison d’être, to provide a quality education for their students.
Only a small part of the U.S. News & World Report rankings are based on the percentage of faculty who are full time. Even this small part is being gamed by the universities. The University of Nebraska interpreted the U.S. News question on the percentage of full time faculty to cover only those faculty who are tenured or on a tenure track and not to cover adjunct faculty. While U.S. News has since detailed that adjuncts should be counted, the low contribution to a school’s ranking, just 5%, is obscene.
The Catholic Scholars for Worker Justice has declared that “Union busting is a mortal sin.” Georgetown University, one of two Catholic universities to make the U.S. News top 25, just recognized its adjunct professors’ union, citing the Catholic Church’s social justice teachings.