(Note: this was originally written as a letter to the editor for the BG News, the newspaper of Bowing Green State University)
Faculty unionization is one of the most significant issues that Bowling Green State University has faced in the last several years. If the faculty vote in favor of a union, the relationship with faculty and the university will forever be changed.
This is not meant as a philosophical diatribe lambasting the relevance of any union anywhere, and any time, however I do believe that it would be detrimental for BGSU.
This is also not meant as an immature, illogical rant, intending to stereotype the professors for being necessarily greedy in supporting unionization. Indeed, I am sure that there are numerous wonderful professors – many of whom were instructors of mine as a student at BGSU -who support collective bargaining and who have/will vote favorably to unionize. With these faculty, I must respectfully disagree.
According to the Chronicle on Higher Education, the union would include full time professors, instructors, and lecturers.
I feel that this leads to one of the problems typically associated with unions, which is the extreme difficulty in relieving a union member of his or her duties for inefficient performance. Tenured professors are already nigh on impossible to fire, but for part time instructors and lecturers, the union would force the university to continue paying more inexperienced lecturers whose performance may not warrant them continuing to work in a teaching capacity. I can see no way in which this benefits the undergraduates. It will necessarily mean that there are unqualified instructors instructing.
The teachers argue that many of our peer institutions in the state of Ohio do pay faculty at a higher salary than BGSU. I don’t think that this is something that should be ignored.
I think an ideal situation would be one in which the university is able to work with faculty, and where faculty can be paid at a level competitive with other universities in Ohio, but where it is not a requisite that the faculty must unionize in order to achieve these ends. If other institutions pay more without unions, then why is a union necessary in order to get a raise? If other universities give raises without unions, then why can’t the faculty and university work together?
Perhaps the university has not been as amiable to work with faculty as they ought to, but if the university and the faculty can work together in order to reach a positive outcome without a union being formed, I believe that this would ultimately be the best thing for the purposes of the university as a whole.
I think a union that has the ability to go on strike does not benefit BGSU, and in such a case, a strike would effectively have the university by the throat. This would not be good for the university and it would certainly not be good for the undergraduates. If there is a union, a faculty strike is a very real threat. Not necessarily in any type of immediate future, but having this as a possibility at any time is not beneficial to the well being of the institution. The results would potentially include higher tuition, diminution in services, and lost class time.
Ultimately, while an honest look does show that faculty raise legitimate concerns in their aspirations of forming a union, once their collective ends are met, the union will remain. Long term, I think history has shown that the consequences have the potential to be very negative for the institution.
I would encourage the Undergraduate Student Government to take a more active role in educating undergraduates on the issues and on voicing opposition to the Union. USG has been very clear as to faculty having a right to work for the benefits of their constituants. I believe it is also the job for USG to advocate for your constituants who are the undergraduate student body and only the undergraduate student body, and a faculty union does not benefit you, the students.
I say these things as a proud and concerned alumnus of Bowling Green State University. I feel that most of the indicators I’ve seen point to unionization likely happening. It concerns me about the future of BGSU. Hopefully, I’m wrong, and this unionization movement will ultimately Roll Along!