Last Winter Quarter, a few hundred faculty members received an email from labor organizers asking a seemingly simple question: would they, as non-tenure-eligible faculty at Northwestern, be interested in joining a labor union?
Since then, a battle over unionization has been playing out almost entirely out of sight from the student body. The debates have taken place behind closed doors, over email and even in a faculty-members-only Facebook group for discussing the vote.
One thing that every non-tenure-eligible faculty member seems to agree on, though, is that unionizing would somehow fundamentally affect their status at the university. To some, the debate has raised even larger questions. Why are some professors so invested in having this union at Northwestern? What role does tenure play at a university and an academic world that relies more than ever on adjunct faculty to teach its students? And what will the future of teaching at Northwestern look like if the power balance between faculty and administration changes?
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