Tag: Northwestern

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The signs of the institutional terminal illness of the American university are increasingly plentiful. The stories out of Missouri and Yale and a half-dozen other places in recent months might be easily dismissed as the grumblings of an entitled generation—and they are that—but something far more insidious is entangled with this “movement.” Preview Open

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The NLRB, Northwestern Football, and the Theater of the Absurd

 

footballsThis is a case where the caption says it all. The National Labor Relations Board’s decision as to whether football players at Northwestern University can unionize is introduced in the opinion as “Northwestern University — Employer, and College Athletes Player Association — petitioner.” That simple but bold verbal stroke renders the rest of NLRB Regional Director Peter Sung Ohr’s decision largely redundant. If Northwestern is classified as an employer, how then can the football players be anything other than employees? And, if they are employees, then surely they have the power to form a union or players’ association under the aegis of the Act.

Taken in this robotic fashion, a major question of labor policy is reduced to a mindless syllogism that manages to ignore all the difficult institutional issues on this case, some of which I addressed in my earlier Ricochet post on this question, soberly entitled “No Good Answers on Reforming College Sports.” What is striking about the long but aimless opinion of Regional Director Ohr is that it is virtually devoid of any serious examination of the difficult issues that are involved here.

The opinion is roughly divided into two parts. The first half is a detailed (indeed, tedious) examination of all the strict controls that Northwestern University imposes on its football players before, during, and after the football season. The purpose of this demonstration is to tell us what we already know: that the students who receive football scholarships are subject to strict oversight with respect to every aspect of their behavior. We should hardly expect less.