Gospel Ethic

Regarding the article by Wilson D. Miscamble, C.S.C., The Corporate University (7/31), I agree that much of third-level education today emulates the corporate business model. But I question whether this corporate university model is as intrinsically immoral as Father Miscamble seems to imply. If it is, then what other model would he propose?

University education today has become institutional on a grand scale, and we do not correctly read the signs of the times if we simply yearn for a return to the way higher education was administered in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Responding to the core of Father Miscamble’s concerns, I think that the management and marketing models that a university espouses do not necessarily imply an underlying ethic. Corporate is not necessarily bad and non-corporate is not necessarily good. I suggest that one can have a corporate university based on a Gospel ethic that is capable of being communicated to its students.

One final point: Father Miscamble says that as a matter of urgency Catholic universities should take the lead in American higher education in providing just compensation for adjunct faculty. I must say that I am adequately compensated for my duties as an adjunct professor. Adjunct faculty are, by definition, temporary faculty who supply some particular need not provided by the regular faculty. Historically it has been assumed that they have or had some other primary profession and so do not need to be compensated with a living family wage for their adjunct contributions.

Robert N. Barger
Notre Dame, Ind.

Volunteer Appreciation

Thanks for printing my article on prison reform in America, Reforming the System (7/31). My hope is that it will do some good. With the terrible news coming in from abroad these days, the prisoners may once again be lost in all the bad news.

On a lighter note: A few weeks before my final prison class, our local newspaper published a front-page story on my ministry. The prison, I discovered, is very sensitive to bad news and very pleased at good news. At our annual volunteer-appreciation dinner in April, they had several copies of the article, along with other articles presenting the prison in a favorable light. So besides the usual gifts of flowers from the prison greenhouse and a certificate, I received a set of decorative license platesLois, Retired Volunteermade by the prisoners at the license factory! It was fun! We’ll display the plates at the annual county fair, where the sisters have a booth.

Lois Spear, O.P.
Adrian, Mich.

The Final Moment

Thank you for Christ, Come Quickly by Thomas H. Stahel, S.J., (7/31). My husband, Henry, died on May 29, 2005, after receiving a diagnosis of esophageal cancer on April 7, 2005. During the intense period of his dying, I had trusted that our faith tradition would be a source of comfort to us. We had lived our life deeply connected to Roman Catholicism and to the balance of the rational and the spiritual that is at the heart of it.

As Henry moved into the final dying stages, gasping for breath, our daughter and I got on either side of him. He was begging for mercy. I asked him to follow our breathing. He could not. I then began Hail Mary.... He was able to follow us. Pray for us now and at the hour of our death. He stayed with us until the final moment. I was struck by the fact that in the end what is helpful is what you least expect. Father Stahel’s reflections resonate with my own. This is how it is to be with someone who is dying. Who would have thought?

Diane Greenaway
Buffalo, N.Y.

Comments

David Appling | 9/6/2006 - 4:46pm
In his letter "Gospel Ethic," Robert N. Barger describes adjunct professors as what they might once have been, not as what they are today.

The "particular need not provided by the regular faculty" is piecework for multiple employers, for low wages, with no benefits, and with no job security, let alone the possibility of tenure. Adjuncts typically teach at four or five different colleges -- in a single day which may last from 8 am to 10 pm. They're not called "freeway flyers" for nothing.

As to the notion that adjuncts "do not need to be compensated with a living family wage," it's ironic, and sad, that this comment appeared in your Labor Day issue. May I respectfully refer Dr. Barger to Luke 10:7.

[Editor: This is not personal sour grapes; I'm not in this position myself. But some of my finest teachers have been and are.]

John K. Hayden | 2/26/2007 - 9:54am
As a tenured professor and a teacher who has worked in the trenches of the adjunct world, I read Robert N. Barger’s correspondence (8/28) regarding “The Corporate University,” by Wilson Miscamble, C.S.C., (7/31) with interest. I must take issue with his concluding remarks. He writes that adjunct faculty “by definition” are “temporary faculty who supply some particular need not provided by regular faculty.” This definition has long ceased to reflect the reality of the situation. Studies in The Chronicle of Higher Education as well as others conducted by the American Association of University Professors have demonstrated what adjuncts have long known. Adjuncts are being hired to teach an increasing percentage of required courses at universities and colleges and they are carrying increasingly higher loads (two or three courses per semester) as post-secondary institutions reduce the number of tenure-track positions, along with the salaries and benefits that accompany them. In addition, while it is fortunate that Mr. Barger is well compensated, such is not the case for many adjuncts—and I am not even speaking about a living family wage. I am talking about the many adjuncts whose current salaries break down to barely the minimum wage. In sum, the majority of adjuncts deserve better.

David Appling | 9/6/2006 - 4:46pm
In his letter "Gospel Ethic," Robert N. Barger describes adjunct professors as what they might once have been, not as what they are today.

The "particular need not provided by the regular faculty" is piecework for multiple employers, for low wages, with no benefits, and with no job security, let alone the possibility of tenure. Adjuncts typically teach at four or five different colleges -- in a single day which may last from 8 am to 10 pm. They're not called "freeway flyers" for nothing.

As to the notion that adjuncts "do not need to be compensated with a living family wage," it's ironic, and sad, that this comment appeared in your Labor Day issue. May I respectfully refer Dr. Barger to Luke 10:7.

[Editor: This is not personal sour grapes; I'm not in this position myself. But some of my finest teachers have been and are.]

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