Book by: Arnold, Gordon B.
Review by: Matthew Church
Academic Advisor
College of Arts & Sciences
University of Louisville

What happened when faculty unionized? What were the changes in the relationship between the administration and unionized faculty? How do faculty go about forming a union? What drove faculty to unionize? These topics and others are addressed in Gordon B. Arnold’s The Politics of Faculty Unionization: The Experience of Three New England Universities. The work focuses on the circumstances and practices that led to faculty unionization efforts at the universities of Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts. What emerges is a chronology of the faculty unionization effort in American Higher Education through the prism of three southern New England flagship universities. The work focuses on the unionization process, but also on the changing face of higher education in the latter half of the twentieth century, the effects of classification systems on colleges and universities, and the organizational and administrative changes caused by faculty unionization.

The work exhibits several strengths and provides a solid overview of the faculty unionization effort in New England. The work is divided into two parts: a chronology of the faculty unionization movement and the case studies of unionization efforts at Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.  Arnold uses these cases studies to offer “a glimpse into the circumstances and processes that can lead to faculty unionization” (p. 11). Despite differing success rates and processes, the commonality in these three case studies is the cause. Each unionization effort was fueled by state economic difficulties, national economic difficulties, and faculty fears over planned cutbacks. According to Arnold, faculty unionization was “a significant challenge to more than three centuries of tradition” and was an unwelcome development in the eyes of many administrators and politicians (p. 2). Another strength of the work is the discussion of rankings systems in American Higher Education, which arose during the twentieth century. These systems arrayed colleges and universities in hierarchies of prestige and resources where non-elite institutions sought to emulate the elite colleges and universities. Arnold tied part of the reason for opposition to faculty unionization to the rankings system. Faculty unionization had little success at elite institutions and the lack of unionization efforts at elite institutions tended to sway administrators against unions (p. 9). By allowing faculty unionization, the non-elite institutions viewed themselves as further separating from the elite model to which they aspired. While this is not the main topic of the book, the linkage of the unionization effort and the rankings system is the biggest strength of the work. Not only is it very interesting, it calls into question the institutional focus on ranking and classification systems which still influence policy today. The book does have some weaknesses. The separation of the unionization efforts at the University Rhode Island, the University of Connecticut, and the University of Massachusetts lends to the work becoming disjointed at times. The work would benefit from a synthesis of the case studies into the chronology of faculty unionization.

The work has little direct contribution to the theory and practice of academic advising. However, Arnold provides a well-written history of the faculty unionization process and a glimpse into the formative years of American Higher Education. Any reader can benefit from this work not only from its historic value, but to gain a greater appreciation of how the infrastructure of the American Higher Education system has evolved.

The Politics of Faculty Unionization: The Experience of Three New England Universities. (2000). Book by Arnold, Gordon B. Review by Matthew Church. Westport, CT: Bergin & Garvey. 160 pp. $ 75.00. ISBN 0-89789-716-1.

Actions: E-mail | Permalink |