Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Duquesne Values Its Employees Our University Respects and Fairly Compensates Adjunct Faculty

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Duquesne Values Its Employees Our University Respects and Fairly Compensates Adjunct Faculty

Article excerpt

A recent op-ed piece by United Steelworkers lawyer Daniel Kovalik ("Death of an Adjunct," Sept. 18) generated much heat but cast little light on the issues involving adjunct professors at Duquesne University. Mr. Kovalik offered a very partial and sometimes inaccurate account of the life of a former adjunct faculty member, then criticized the actions of the university while ignoring the facts.

Like any ethical employer, Duquesne University regards its relationships with its employees as confidential. In this instance, it also respects the privacy of the family members grieving their recent loss. As a result, Mr. Kovalik's account of key aspects of the story must go unchallenged. The inferences he draws, however, must be confronted head-on.

American colleges and universities have long relied on part-time instructors to staff some courses. This is the norm. Sometimes, full- time faculty members take leave or pursue research projects yet certain courses must still be taught.

There also is value in having part-time teachers share their real- world experiences. This benefits the students as well as the instructors. (I taught as an adjunct professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law for seven years while I practiced law; it shaped my own career.)

Part-time teaching positions have been around as long as education itself. Indeed, there is brisk competition for them. Individuals have many different reasons for pursuing them.

Part-time teaching jobs provide supplemental income. Professionals in many fields -- law, accounting, nursing and others - - see value in passing their workplace experiences and insights to the next generation. Indeed, Mr. Kovalik teaches as an adjunct faculty member at another local university, in conjunction with his full-time job with the United Steelworkers.

I applaud him for this: He obviously finds his part-time position to be professionally rewarding. Indeed, individuals in many occupations -- from police officers to librarians to medical personnel -- pursue part-time jobs that can enrich their lives.

It is true that one category of part-time instructors in higher education has prompted great debate nationwide. These are individuals who seek to build full-time careers by combining multiple part-time contracts, often at several institutions. This has been a hot topic of discussion for more than 30 years.

Mr. Kovalik's position on this subject, for the record, is the outlier. The millions of Americans who work multiple part-time jobs in other sectors of the economy do not expect their employers to treat them as full-time employees just because, in aggregate, they work 40-plus hours each week.

At a university, a part-time teacher may work 10 hours per week preparing for and teaching a three-credit course. A full-time faculty member teaches multiple classes and assumes many other responsibilities: conducting research, authoring scholarly papers and books, writing grants, performing community and professional service and supervising graduate student work. …

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