Dear Provost Austin:
I am a graduate of a Jesuit prep school and a Jesuit university. Although I have certainly had many reasons to appreciate the excellent education that I received at both institutions, the Jesuit emphasis on social justice has had, perhaps, the most profound impact on the course of my professional life. Specifically, I have committed myself increasingly to trying to insure that those who do the core work of instruction at our colleges and universities remain meaningful participants in institutional decision-making. I have worked to stem the continuing marginalization of faculty, demonstrated most pointedly in the increase in contingent appointments, both full- and part-time. I don't believe that anyone committed to higher education really thinks that the current trends represent a positive direction for our institutions, that they provide a basis for a promising future.
Your university is not responsible for those broader trends, and it cannot by itself reverse them. But as a singular institution, as the only Spiritan university in the U.S., you do have a somewhat unique opportunity to make a salient, moral statement that might begin to reverse them. The adjunct faculty at Duquesne have voted to unionize through a legal process, and the university should respect the effort and commitment required for them to do so by entering into serious negotiations with their new collective bargaining unit. Even incremental changes in their compensation and working conditions can have profound ramifications both within and beyond your institution, especially if those changes result from mutually respectful negotiations. Your institution should view this circumstance as an opportunity, rather than as a conundrum, for it is indeed an opportunity to demonstrate that the value that your university places on instruction is a reflection of the core values on which it was founded and not just a facile talking point.
President AAUP-Wright State University
Vice-President, Ohio Conference of AAUP
Executive Committee, Collective Bargaining Congress of AAUP