Statement by Alan K. Cubbage, Vice President for University Relations, regarding petition by Northwestern football players before National Labor Relations Board
February 7, 2014
Following is a statement from Northwestern University in regard to the request by Northwestern football players to form a union and the upcoming hearing on the request before the National Labor Relations Board.
• Northwestern University believes that our student-athletes are not employees, but students. At Northwestern, students who participate in NCAA Division I sports, including those who receive athletic scholarships, are students, first and foremost. We believe that participation in athletic events is part of the overall educational experience for those students, not a separate activity. Northwestern provides extensive academic support for all of its student-athletes, as is evidenced by the fact that Northwestern student-athletes consistently are among the leaders in graduation rates and Academic Progress Rates. Northwestern’s football team maintains an overall GPA of over 3.0 and has a graduation rate of 97 percent, the highest in the country, which is a testament to their academic abilities and confirms their status as students. We do not regard, and have never regarded, our football program as a commercial enterprise.
• Unionization and collective bargaining are not the appropriate methods to address the concerns raised by the student-athletes. The issues regarding the long-term health impacts of playing intercollegiate sports, providing additional grant-in-aid support and providing academic support and opportunities for student-athletes are being discussed currently at the national level, and we agree that students should have a voice in those discussions. However, we believe that a collective bargaining process at Northwestern would not advance the discussion of these topics, in large part because most of the issues being raised by the union are outside the purview of Northwestern. We are pleased to note that the Northwestern students involved in this effort emphasized that they are not unhappy with the University, the football program or their treatment here, but are raising the concerns because of the importance of these issues nationally.
• Northwestern is committed to ensuring the health, safety and well-being of all of its students, including its student-athletes. The University provides primary or secondary medical coverage for all of its student-athletes, including up to a year after they no longer are eligible to participate in intercollegiate sports -- and beyond if applicable. In addition, Athletic Department staff members offer extensive support and personalized attention for all student-athletes in nutrition, health and exercise training.
• Northwestern is proud of our students for raising these issues. Northwestern teaches its students to be leaders and independent thinkers who will make a positive impact on their communities, the nation and the world. We look forward to working with our students through the appropriate mechanisms to continue to address the issues that have been raised.