Empower adjuncts

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Daniel Kovalik's piece about the death of Duquesne University adjunct professor Margaret Mary Vojtko reveals sorrowful poverty and addresses the issue of adjunct faculty unions ("Death of an Adjunct," Sept. 18 Perspectives). In reply, the director of campus ministry, the Rev. Daniel Walsh, stated that Duquesne priests extended abundant charity toward Ms. Vojtko ("Duquesne Offered Aid to an Adjunct in Need," Sept. 19 letters). These commentaries reveal that both Mr. Kovalik and the Rev. Walsh acted charitably toward her. But Ms. Vojtko's case illuminates another point emphasized in Mr. Kovalik's op-ed: the ethical need for universities to accept adjunct unions and thereby empower them to negotiate for livable salaries and benefits.

This need is recognized by the Catholic Church's anti-poverty and pro-union proclamations and exemplified by Catholic Georgetown University's statement that it respects the rights of its adjunct professors "to freely associate and organize, which includes voting for or against union representation without intimidation, unjust pressure, undue delay or hindrance in accordance with applicable law" (Beth Griffin, Catholic News Service, Aug. 12).

Mr. Kovalik might have inquired further about Duquesne's support for Ms. Vojtko. But it was also wrong for the Rev. Walsh to claim that Mr. Kovalik is "exploiting" her death. In advocating empowerment along with charity, Mr. Kovalik is following his ethical convictions and those of many Catholic institutions. Moreover, Ms. Vojtko was a union advocate and her nephew indicated to Mr. Kovalik that supporting unionization was a way she would have wanted her death memorialized.

I and many of my colleagues at Duquesne support adjunct unionization and hope that our institution will follow the path set by Georgetown University.

Point Breeze

The writer is professor of philosophy at Duquesne University.



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