A revealing reply
It was only a matter of time before Duquesne University would submit a rebuttal to Daniel Kovalik's op-ed piece, "Death of an Adjunct" (Sept. 18 Perspectives), a genuine human interest story of Margaret Mary Vojtko and her experience as a part-time professor of French at the university for 25 years.
Not expected was the glib, anti-union response by Ken Gormley, the university's law school dean, who took Mr. Kovalik to task with questionable inferences and insinuations regarding his professional work and activities ("Duquesne Values All of Its Employees," Sept. 24 Perspectives). To say that Mr. Kovalik "unleashed an organized attack on Duquesne to inflame others and rally his troops" is not a fact; it is an inflammatory supposition.
Mr. Gormley's comments, "using the distorted story of an 83-year-old woman" and "exploiting one elderly woman's story to vilify a Pittsburgh institution" helped reveal his real priorities. The tone would have been more professional had he respectfully replaced the first with "a member of the faculty," and the second with "exploiting Prof. Vojtko's story." A more appropriate title for this article would have been: "Duquesne values 'some' of its employees."
"Death of an Adjunct" was about a dedicated, popular teacher, not a union or the author.
Duquesne University joins UPMC as another Pittsburgh institution only too anxious to convince the world that its motives are pure and selfless. Ken Gormley's op-ed piece comes on the heels of letters from a Duquesne chaplain and an administrator seeking to deflect attention from the university's labor policies. The moving story of the tragic demise of Margaret Mary Vojtko has touched thousands who recognize that someone who worked tirelessly for 25 years as an employee of the university deserved more dignity, more support than she got. Mr. Gormley doesn't even mention her name. She is a nameless "former adjunct faculty member."
Mr. Gormley tells us the public is unaware of all that the university did to help Margaret Mary. Yes, and we are still waiting to hear of the aid that the university supposedly extended.
The larger issue is the widespread practice of institutions of higher education paying huge sums for administrators and tenured professors while paying most classroom educators -- the adjuncts -- barely enough to survive. Like other low-wage employees, the adjuncts are the forgotten toilers who barely survive at the margins while others -- including law professors -- flourish.