As the recent National Labor Relations Board ruling that Northwestern University football players can unionize moves us toward the end of college athletics as we know it, it should be fun to watch those involved in academia twist themselves into philosophical knots trying to figure out who to support in the upcoming battle.
Many of those who patrol our halls of learning tend to lean left--VERY left. They support efforts to unionize all forms of "labor"--right down to the high school dropout who is putting my Filet-O-Fish on a bun along the McDonald's production line. They believe--and teach--that collective bargaining is the only form of "power" that employees have over their employers--and that all concessions by workers to maintain profitability should be met with a quid-pro-quo from the company as well. So they should be jumping behind the idea of classifying college athletes as "employees" of the school--with "rights" to bargain for such things as salaries, health insurance and a share of all marketing based upon their likeness or name.
But many of those same Doctors and Professors also HATE athletics--especially the influence sports has on the campus culture. They resent the big bucks pulled in by Athletic Directors and Head Coaches. They detest the special treatment afforded athletes in the classroom. They fume over reports showing some sports programs producing a graduation rate out of Animal House: ZERO-POINT-ZERO-ZERO. And they envy the adulation placed upon those who do the menial tasks of putting a basketball in a hoop or catching a football--while they toil in anonymity in the lab doing work that "betters the human race". How do you think Professor Peabody is going to feel parking his Prius with all of the Obama '08 and '12 bumper stickers on it in the lot outside the College of Letters and Sciences next to the Mustang Convertible with the 14-inch chrome rims that Johnny Football purchased with the money the school gave him for the uniforms with his number that sold in the University Bookstore last month? And how will Doctor Knowitall treat the one-and-done, 19-year old freshman basketball star taking her first semester remedial English class just to stay eligible long enough to play into the NCAA Tournament--who is also getting paid as much as her?
Plus, the debates over how paying athletes advances the "Academic Mission" of the schools should be great theater as well. A whole new class of "employee" will be added to college payrolls that will do no teaching or research--nor will it support the efforts to do either of those tasks. All at a time when most schools are trimming the number of instructors on campus and asking those in the classroom to teach more kids.
For some reason, I think the Ivory Tower is going to win out over the Blue Fist in this ideological battle.