The Divided Academy: Professors and Politics

By Everett Carll Ladd Jr.; Seymour Martin Lipset | Go to book overview
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10. Issues of the 1970s: Unionism
and the Professoriate

note:If student activism and reactions to efforts to politicize academic life explicitly proved to be the major developments affecting American campuses in the latter half of the 1960s, faculty trade union organization and formal collective bargaining appear to constitute the most important new intramural issues of the 1970s. Unionism has emerged as a potent force in higher education. At the end of 1974, faculty at approximately 350 campuses were represented by bargaining agents, and at over 150 of these campuses faculty were working under a bargaining contract ( "Where College Faculties. . . ," 1974, p. 24; Collective Bargaining ..., 1974, pp. 2- 3). Even more impressive than the sheer numbers of colleges now unionized is the placing of collective bargaining prominently on the political agenda of academe. A decade ago, professorial unionism was hardly even considered. Faculty behavior seemingly still confirmed Thorstein Veblen's ( 1918, p. 162) observation, made at the end of World War I, that professors would not join unions because of "a feeling among them that their salaries are not of the nature of wages, and that there would be a species of moral obliquity implied in overtly dealing with the matter." But today, in all but a small sector of higher education, the possibilities of unionization are actively considered.

The growth of interest in unionism among academics, its precipitants and its likely consequences, deserve attention. For one thing, this development testifies to important changes occurring in the larger context of academic life. Union norms and practices have been extended to an occupational stratum where they have had no place whatever historically because that stratum has seen its position transformed. Yet another reason for our special interest in the issue lies in the capacity of academic collective bargaining to reflect and reveal a number of salient

We have discussed the subject at greater length in a monograph: Ladd and Lipset ( 1973b). This chapter summarizes much of the material presented in the monograph.


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