The ruling by a regional National Labor Relations Board director that scholarship athletes at Northwestern University are "employees" is ludicrous.
If left to stand, it will completely destroy traditional funding of higher education because colleges will have no other choice than to stop giving scholarships. That will deprive multitudes of a chance for a college education.
The ruling came about when some Northwestern football players decided they wanted to form a union. Peter Sung Ohr of the NLRB ruled the players fall within the definition of employees - and, thus, can form a union.
So, if Ohr's decision is correct, it raises a number of questions:
1. If athletes receiving scholarships are employees of a university, what about those who receive academic scholarships?
2. If a student loses his scholarship, can he collect unemployment?
3. If a student is injured while at school, does he qualify for workers' compensation?
4. When a strike or lockout occurs, who will compensate competing teams for the lost revenue of the missed games?
The university has announced it will appeal Ohr's ruling to the full board in Washington.
Scholarships were originally intended to help students afford a college education by providing tuition (and sometimes room and board) for those who otherwise couldn't afford it.
It was generally accepted that the gift of a college education was "priceless" and more than enough compensation for athletes lucky enough to get a scholarship. It should be noted that no one is forced to accept a scholarship.
Again, we repeat, if Ohr's decision is allowed to stand, colleges will have no choice but to end scholarships. If a scholarship equals employment, then the only way around it is no scholarships.
Wouldn't that be a wonderful result?
* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.