By: Commentator Staff  | 

From the Commie Archives (March 12, 1980; Volume 91, Issue 3) — US High Court Designates YU Faculty as Managers

Editor’s Note: Yeshiva University recently appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, asking the Court to grant a stay on an earlier court’s order that the university immediately recognize an official Pride Alliance. The Court’s decision is not yet known. Below is an article following the Supreme Court’s ruling in NLRB v. Yeshiva University, which was decided in favor of YU in 1980.

On February 20, 1980, the United States Supreme Court announced its decision in the Yeshiva University Faculty Association (YUFA) case. The Court found that the members of YUFA are considered managerial professionals and therefore cannot be protected by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). This 5-4 decision was an affirmation of the decision given in the Court of Appeals of the Second Circuit on July, 31, 1978. 

The issue in the case of YUFA v. YU was whether the faculty is instrumental in making managerial decisions at Yeshiva. According to NLRA, professional employees can form a union protected by law since the decisions they make in the execution of their jobs are in their own interest. They must be expected to exercise “independent professional judgement” if they want their union to be protected. In Yeshiva’s case, the Supreme Court found that the faculty interests as they reflected in their decisions cannot be separated from the University’s. 

The faculty at Yeshiva, according to the Court, largely holds the power to determine admissions standards, graduation requirements, grading systems, and budget allotments. 

Problems Still Exist

Although the decision has defined the legal status of the faculty of Yeshiva, other problems still remain. According to Ronald  H. Schechtman, of Schechtman and Gordon, P.C., counsel for YUFA, the basic problem was that faculty at YU have been “alienated from decision-making.” He contends that the Court has “taken away needed protection from the faculty” and left them “naked.” Members of the Yeshiva University administration concede that there are still problems to be worked out, but Dr. Norman Lamm, President of Yeshiva, said that he hoped that the final decision of the court would remove the “nexus of emotion” from the dealings between the faculty and administration. He expressed the hope that the faculty would understand the “given constrictions” in which the University must deal. The administation is trying their “darndest,” says Dr. Lamm, “the will is there; the problem is the ability.”

Members of the faculty realize too that the court has only solved the legal aspect of the problem. Dr. Manfred Weidhorn, professor of English at Yeshiva College and a member of the Executive Council of YUFA, states that the court “left untouched” what he calls the “systematic ailment that gave rise to the legal problem.”         

Others Affected  

The court’s decision is likely to affect the status of faculties in schools aside from YU. In Boston University, the BU chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) has gone to the First Circuit Court of Appeals to gain protection for its union. That court granted the union protection under the NLRA in 1978. The Supreme Court has, since the YUFA decision, remanded the Boston case back to the Court of Appeals for further consideration. 

Robert Bergenheim, the vice-president for Labor and Public Relations at BU, has said that the Boston case is about identical to Yeshiva’s, and that he is very optimistic about the outcome. 

James Garland, the President of the BU chapter of the AAUP and a professor of sociology at BU, has said that he feels that there are distinct differences between the status of the faculty at Yeshiva and that of the faculty at BU. But, if the Court decides against the AAUP, and if the “administration presses, it will be left with a hot potato,” the faculty will be forced to “radicalize.” They are “absolutely determined to preserve academic integrity” according to Dr. Garland. The president of the AAUP, Ms. Martha Friedman, has stated that her organization is “dismayed” over the decision. She announced that if the decision is interpreted to apply to other colleges and universities, then her organization will seek an amendment of the NLRA to provide protection for all faculty members on all college campuses. Mr. Woodley Osborn, counsel for the AAUP called the decision “miserable.” Mr. David Rabban, another attorney for the AAUP, declined to comment on the decision. Mr. Warren Pyle, who argued for the Boston University Chapter of the AAUP in the First Circuit Court, said “we wish we never heard of Yeshiva.”

The legal controversy at Yeshiva began when, on December 15, 1976, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a decision stating that the faculty at YU conformed to the legal requirements for a collective bargaining unit. They then elected a union to represent them in the fall of 1976, but Yeshiva refused to recognize it as the official bargaining unit of the faculty.  In February 1977, YUFA charged that YU was engaged in unfair labor practices and the NLRB later directed the University to recognize and bargain with the Union. YU continued to refuse, and the NLRB applied to the US Court of Appeals for enforcement of its order. Instead, the Court received the Board's evaluation of the faculty’s status and ruled for Yeshiva University against the NLRB. YUFA and the NLRB petitioned for a writ of certiorari on December 19, 1978 and that writ was granted on February 21 1979.

Photo Caption: The Commentator Archives 

Photo Credit: The Commentator