University Statement Regarding Adjunct Issue

Yesterday an op-ed piece appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, purporting to describe certain circumstances preceding the death of adjunct instructor, Margaret Mary Vojtko.  This piece was authored by Daniel Kovalik, a United Steelworkers lawyer, and was met with shock and dismay by the many individuals in our community who, with great compassion, attempted to support Margaret Mary during a very difficult time in her life. Margaret Mary taught as an adjunct for over 20 years at Duquesne, and had numerous close relationships on our campus.  Despite the assertions made in the op-ed piece, individuals across the University community attempted to help Margaret Mary through her last trying days.  Spiritan priests, support staff, and University and McAnulty College administrators reached out to assist Margaret Mary with the challenges she faced.  Father Dan Walsh, University Chaplain and Director of Campus Ministry, was personally involved in helping Margaret Mary.  The following letter from Fr. Dan, published in today’s Post-Gazette, expresses his feelings about the inaccuracies in the op-ed piece:

I was incredulous after reading Daniel Kovalik's op-ed piece about Margaret Mary Vojtko.  I knew Margaret Mary well.  When we learned of problems with her home she was invited to live with us in the formation community at Laval House on campus, where she resided for several weeks over the past year.  Over the course of Mary's illness I, along with other Spiritan priests, visited her regularly.  In addition, the University and the Spiritan priests at Duquesne offered several types of assistance to her.  Mr. Kovalik's use of an unfortunate death to serve an alternative agenda is sadly exploitive, and is made worse by his description of the circumstances that bear no resemblance to reality.

Rev. Daniel Walsh, C.S.Sp., University Chaplain and Director of Campus Ministry

As the administrator responsible for communications, I can describe the feedback we have received in response to Mr. Kovalik's op-ed as falling into two categories.  The first category includes individuals who have been intimately involved and familiar with the situation, and who immediately recognized this op-ed as a reckless attempt to use Margaret Mary Vojtko's death as a means to further the self-interest of Mr. Kovalik's external organization.  These individuals have expressed both outrage and sadness that Margaret Mary has been used in this way.  Then there are those with no direct knowledge of the actual circumstances.  They have also expressed outrage, using social media to attack Duquesne based on their acceptance of Mr. Kovalik's published mischaracterizations.  Our defense is the truth.  Mr. Kovalik has tried to frame this as an issue of human resources policy, but he is wrong.  The support provided and offered to Margaret Mary Vojtko was broad, involving the Spiritan community, student housing, EAP, campus police, facilities management, and her faculty and staff colleagues.  It was wholly unrelated to her employment status or classification, or to any issues of adjunct unionization.  This was not a case of human resources policy, but one of concern for a human being - the type of concern and care that those in the Duquesne community have shown for each other for generations.

John Plante

Vice President for University Advancement

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and horizon-expanding education. A campus of nearly 9,500 graduate and undergraduate students, Duquesne prepares students by having them work alongside faculty to discover and reach their goals. The University's academic programs, community service, and commitment to equity and opportunity in the Pittsburgh region have earned national acclaim. 

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