Great Minds Think Alike

In a pathbreaking ruling, the National Labor Relations Board announced yesterday that graduate student workers at private universities are employees with the right to organize unions.

For three decades, private universities have bitterly resisted this claim. Unions, these universities have argued, would impose a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all approach on the ineffably individual and heterogenous nature of graduate education. Unions might be appropriate for a factory, where all the work’s the same, but they would destroy the diversity of the academy, ironing out those delicate and delightful idiosyncrasies that make each university what it is. As virtually every elite university now facing an organizing drive of its graduate students is making clear (h/t David Marcus for discovering and pointing me to these specific links).

Here, for example, is Columbia:


Here’s Yale:


Here’s the University of Chicago:

University of Chicago

And here’s Princeton:


Casual readers might conclude that the only thing standardized and cookie-cutter about unions in elite universities is the argument against them.

Or perhaps it’s just that great minds sometimes really do think alike.


  1. J. Edgar Mihelic August 24, 2016 at 10:09 pm | #

    Weird, it’s almost as if they’re singing along to the same song.

  2. RB August 24, 2016 at 10:09 pm | #

    This language is probably coming from union-busting consultants or law firms hired by all these universities, right? I doubt it’s a case of merely “thinking alike” or cultural overlap so much as it’s administrations hiring literally the same small group of people to do the same things for them.

    • RB August 24, 2016 at 10:52 pm | #

      I did a little more poking around and I’d now be willing to hazard a shot in the dark that it’s specifically Jackson Lewis providing this language out of a stock document that they package for their client administrations. Notorious union-busting law firm, does a lot of business with universities, publicly documented being hired in recent years to oppose numerous grad-student unionization efforts.

  3. Will G-R August 25, 2016 at 12:01 am | #

    The only thing that could make this funnier is imagining the Ayn-Rand-worshipping, brown-nosing sophomore intern at the University of Chicago’s PR office who glanced over the stock management-consultant language and decided to change “collective” to “collectivist”.

    • Roqeuntin August 25, 2016 at 7:39 am | #

      I snickered when I saw that too. His only tweak to the boilerplate was to squeeze in a Randian term.

    • Donald Pruden, Jr., a/k/a The Enemy Combatant August 29, 2016 at 11:21 am | #

      Maybe that Randian got “triggered” and needed to construct a “safe space” to protect his snowflake-fragile bosses!

  4. Alan Lubin August 25, 2016 at 7:08 am | #

    “Great minds think alike” oops there goes another myth. The response is embarrassing to all facets of Higher Education.

  5. Roqeuntin August 25, 2016 at 8:27 am | #

    Also, I know I’m stating the obvious to readers of this blog, but the notion that “free market” capitalism is somehow more conducive to individuality is a complete crock. A company or institution is always a collective and it always makes decisions for the group on the whole. Only, it’s usually a small group of executives or board members, who hold no elections of any kind, whose role is generally make these collective choices on behalf of capital. They decry “collectivism,” but what they’re really pissed about is not moving from individualism to collectivism, it’s that the workers are actually going to get a say in how the collective is run.

  6. b. August 25, 2016 at 12:15 pm | #

    The referenced “Walmart circular” post is outright beautiful.

  7. HotFlash August 25, 2016 at 3:25 pm | #

    This looks like a clear-cut case of plagiarism. Failing grades for all of them on this assignment and a trip to the dean’s office. If it happens again, expulsion.

  8. Brett August 26, 2016 at 3:18 am | #

    My favorite part of it was where they cited the NYU contract that specifically did not interfere with teaching ideas, curriculum, etc while addressing work-related issues. It completely undermines the supposedly damaging effect of grad student unionization on faculty-student relations, and yet they put it in there – the key word being “put”, because the NYU contract was relatively recent and they had to update their boilerplate to specifically include it.

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