Theology department challenges Marquette to live up to its Catholic identity [but for the wrong reason]
There is a professor who put herself through four years of undergrad, four years of graduate school and earned her PhD, completed post-doctorate work, and finally is now teaching here at Marquette.
Unfortunately for this professor, who will remain anonymous because she fears she will lose her job for telling me her story, universities across the country, including Marquette, have substantially decreased the proportion of professors they hire as faculty or tenure-track. Her only option was to take a position as an "adjunct" professor.
Adjunct professors, who are also called "lecturers," are paid only $3,200 per class they teach. They are offered absolutely no benefits, including health insurance.
If Jane Doe were to buy health insurance from Marquette it would cost more than her entire salary for a semester.
Just to keep her head above water she is currently teaching six classes at universities all over Milwaukee. She has a PhD, works more than 60 hours a week and is still on the borderline of the poverty level.
Now here's the kicker, Jane Doe is just one of more than 50 Marquette adjunct professors who are barely scrapping by.
The theology department has apparently had enough of Marquette underpaying and under appreciating non-faculty professors, and in its last meeting unanimously passed a motion demanding health care benefits for all professors teaching at least two classes.
Included in the motion is the following, "...we (Marquette), as an institution, have an urgent moral obligation to give health and dental care benefits to our PhD adjunct faculty who are teaching at least two courses per semester."
"Marquette teaches Catholic social doctrine which includes the principle that basic health care is not a luxury but a basic human right which must be honored," said Daniel Maguire, theology professor and creator of the motion.
"We looked at Catholic teaching, looked at what we're doing, and all agree that we must fight to change it," Maguire said.
Most universities pay similar wages as Marquette to non-faculty professors, and only a handful offer benefits.
Among those universities that offer all professors benefits are University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and DePaul University in Chicago.
Today at Marquette, there are 23 adjunct English professors, seven in the theology department, five in theater, two in philosophy and several more in other departments.
Theology is the only department to date that has moved for change, but the motion does cut across department lines.
Professor and Chair of the Philosophy Department James South said he would support the motion.
"Any professor at Marquette deserves benefits," South said.
But the reality is that the motion will most likely fall on the deaf ears of the administration.
Let's not forget that the administration has a track record of continually ignoring the opinions of its professors and students- you can find dozens of examples of this if you skim through Tribune headlines over the last few years.
And judging from Marquette future Provost John Pauly's, responses to my questions, the status quo probably won't be changing anytime soon.
After saying he doesn't want to "take a position on the resolution," Pauly went on to say "the administration is always working to find more ways to better and fully support part-time faculty but there is always difficulty … and we must consider the necessary trade-offs in order to afford it."
Essentially the administration thinks it's more important to pay a coach $1.6 million a year to teach boys how to bounce basketballs than to provide fair benefits to its professors.
My thoughts are these: The money is there and if we're going to call ourselves Catholic and we're going to teach Catholic doctrine, which emphasizes the value of human life, then we better be ready to back up that teaching.