“Fundamentally Contrary”

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crosscutA professor at the University of Washington, which SEIU is trying to unionize, explains why elite universities are not unionized.

Both [Professor Paul] Hopkins and [Professor Douglas] Wadden stress that UW is a nationally and internationally ranked university, an accolade they largely attribute to the independence and entrepreneurial spirit of the faculty. Wadden says that faculty control many central facets of the institution’s academic enterprise, such as who is appointed to teach, what advancement is based on and what students must study to graduate. This autonomy, Wadden says, is what allows UW to maintain competitiveness among peer institutions that are vying for the best students, faculty, and staff in any given discipline. The computer science department at the UW, for example, will benchmark itself against Carnegie Mellon. According to Wadden, many of the premier institutions that the UW compares itself to aren’t unionized.

“And I think there are reasons for that,” he says. “It’s fundamentally contrary to the tremendous independence and autonomy that faculty have achieved, particularly at these premier institutions.”