Fredonia UUP Chapter Devotes Campus Equity Week to Honoring the Memory of Margaret Mary Vojtko
When Campus Equity Week is celebrated on college campuses across the country from October 28th through November 1st, SUNY Fredonia's United University Professions Chapter will be doing its part to advance the fight for quality and equality in higher education by holding a rally to honor the memory of Margaret Mary Vojtko on Thursday, October 31, from 12-1 pm, in the Amphitheatre (located between Maytum Hall and Reed Library). Vojtko passed away on September 1st at the age of 83 after a 25-year career teaching French at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. But as Daniel Kovalik, perhaps the last person to talk to her, described the circumstances of her passing,
She begged me to call Adult Protective Services and tell them to leave her alone, that she could take care of herself and did not need their help. I agreed to. Sadly, a couple of hours later, she was found on her front lawn, unconscious from a heart attack. She never regained consciousness.
Meanwhile, I called Adult Protective Services right after talking to Margaret Mary, and I explained the situation. I said that she had just been let go from her job as a professor at Duquesne, that she was given no severance or retirement benefits, and that the reason she was having trouble taking care of herself was because she was living in extreme poverty. The caseworker paused and asked with incredulity, "She was a professor?" I said yes. The caseworker was shocked; this was not the usual type of person for whom she was called in to help.
Of course, what the caseworker didn't understand was that Margaret Mary was an adjunct professor, meaning that, unlike a well-paid tenured professor, Margaret Mary worked on a contract basis from semester to semester, with no job security, no benefits and with a salary of between $3,000 and just over $3,500 per three-credit course.
Too many professors are working under the same conditions as Margaret Mary across the country. Campus Equity Week (CEW) was founded in California in 2000 and became a nation-wide event in 2001 in order to change those conditions and, in so doing, to restore institutional integrity and enhance educational quality. By seeking public recognition that faculty employment conditions are student learning conditions and that equitable educational experiences for students require equitable institutional support of all faculty, CEW events have drawn new activists into the labor movement, helped provide training through information-sharing and community-building, increased press and public interest, and created strong incentives for local administrators and state and local politicians to become visibly involved with the issues--not to mention led to significant gains for contingent faculty, particularly those represented by unions.
In the State University of New York (SUNY), contingent faculty are represented by United University Professions (UUP), which has been able to secure health benefits, sick leave, and office space for most SUNY adjuncts. However, the typical three-credit course salary for SUNY adjuncts is between $2,500 and $3,000 and Governor Cuomo and SUNY have refused to establish a state-wide minimum salary for SUNY adjuncts (unlike every other state employee). Here at Fredonia, President Virginia Horvath, Provost Terry Brown, and Human Resources Director Michael Daley have been discussing a range of issues regarding contingency and sustainability with Chapter leaders, from compensation to length of contracts, from systematizing titles and ranks to compensating contingent employees for certain categories of professional service. We are working together to ensure that what happened at Duquesne will never happen at SUNY Fredonia. And we intend to succeed.
Please join us at the Amphitheatre at noon on Halloween to honor Margaret Mary!
Fredonia Chapter Executive Board
Fredonia Chapter Contingent Employees Advisory Group
p.s.--For CEW stickers and buttons, please contact Fredonia Chapter President Ziya Arnavut or Officer for Contingents Bruce Simon!
For more on Campus Equity Week, see
- follow New Faculty Majority on twitter @NewFacMajority (https://twitter.com/NewFacMajority
- for updates to our activities, see our announcement and come back to CitizenSE!
For more on Margaret Mary Vojtko, see
- Daniel Kovalik, "Death of An Adjunct," Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (18 September 2013) http://www.post-gazette.com/Op-Ed/2013/09/18/Death-of-an-adjunct/stories/201309180224
- Gary Rhoades, "Adjunct Professors Are the New Working Poor," CNN (25 September 2013) http://www.cnn.com/2013/09/24/opinion/rhoades-adjunct-faculty/?hpt=hp_bn7
For more on the conditions of contingent faculty, see
[Update 2 (10/31/13, 4:01 pm): Here's the open letter to Andrew Cuomo!]
[Update 3 (11/1/13, 1:25 pm): Here's Dunkirk-Fredonia Observer's coverage of the rally.]