A survey to decide if a forum on adjunct professor conditions is necessary should be reviewed by the University Academic Senate by the end of this academic year.
“I have repeatedly called attention to this issue,” said Dan Maguire, a professor in the Department of Theology, about creating a union for Marquette adjunct professors. “And we are no closer to a union than when I started three years ago.”
Cheryl Maranto, the chair of Academic Senate and the Department of Management, said creating a union for adjunct professors is unrealistic.
Adjunct professors experience low wages and limited job security, and having a union could combat those issues. However, unions are not universally welcomed by higher education institutions, especially Catholic, Jesuit universities.
Some Catholic, Jesuit universities, including Georgetown, have successfully formed adjunct unions. Others, including Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, say they are religiously exempt from bargaining with professors.
Maguire said previous popes have been championing for worker unions since the 19th century, yet Marquette continues to be disinterested. Maguire also said tenure has dropped significantly due to the university’s unwillingness to pay more for adjunct professors.
According to the Marquette handbook, “tenure is a faculty status that fosters an environment of free inquiry without regard for the need to be considered for reappointment. Tenure is reserved for regular faculty who are recognized by the university as having the capacity to make unique, significant and long-term future contributions to the educational mission of the university.”
Tenure contracts allow professors to have opinions that challenge Catholic values with less fear of losing their jobs. Maguire, a tenured professor, was denounced by U.S. bishops in 2007 for his writings in favor of abortion rights and same-sex marriage, but he was not in danger of losing his job.
“Now the majority of professors don’t have academic freedom and are financially handicapped,” Maguire said. “They can’t pursue the truth.”
Maranto and the Academic Senate received a request from Maguire two years ago to pursue a forum for discussion about adjunct professor conditions, including ones related to salary.
According to Marquette’s website, the Academic Senate is responsible for advising the senior administration and the board of trustees on matters crucial to the success of Marquette’s academic mission. Members include elected faculty senators, appointed deans, vice provosts and undergraduate and graduate students.
After Maguire made his request in 2013, Maranto charged its subcommittee on part-time faculty to investigate the issue. It decided that a survey taken by part-time professors would be the best way to get results.
Maranto said it was certainly aware of the issues and concerns with part-time faculty. She said difficulty comes with finding a policy that works for everyone.
“Some of these part-timers have other jobs or multiple gigs,” Maranto said. “It would be hard to find a time for everybody to meet for a forum.”