In my last post, I explained that the government’ s main contribution to universities is in the form of tuition subsidies for public universities. The government also provides assistance to individual students and regulates public universities, but the main way that the government uses universities is by giving them money. The modern university is also used by various non-commercial groups. These groups include political groups, unions and student groups.
Political groups come into the university for two reasons. The first reason is to bring students to an understanding of the political issues of the day from their political perspective. The second reason is to encourage students to act on these political issues. As such, they may have ties with political groups in government through speakers and literature. In North America, such groups rarely have control over the university itself. They simply take advantage of having many students all in one place. As such, this group has little control over the university.
Unions exist for the stated purpose of collective bargaining. In theory such unions are supposed to work for the good of their members. When members can leave or join such a union at will, they do function that way. When union membership is mandatory they do not. Mandatory unions often work toward political goals that will benefit those individuals who control the union. In the US and Canada, these political goals are almost always leftist. Since unions have the right to strike, such unions can control the university by regulating its members, funding political parties and negotiating contracts. In the University of Toronto, there are three unions of which CUPE is the most significant. CUPE (Canadian Union of Public Employees) is the largest union in Canada and the one that requires the most funding from the university to negotiate with them. In 2006, the Ontario division of CUPE voted to economically punish Israel for their actions in Gaza against terrorism. Although this was condemned by both the leader of the liberal party and the federal leader of CUPE, it shows that unions have quite a bit of power.
Student groups is a blanket term that describes any group that is formed out of and largely controlled by students. This includes any student council or student government. Such groups include religious groups, fraternities, sororities, student interest groups and groups engaged in activities. Groups such as this exist because of large student populations. They usually do not determine what students do. The only exception for this are student councils. If they determine funding or provide rules for professors, then they can control the university. There are a number of instances of pro-life groups and conservative groups being denied funding simply because of their beliefs. That liberal groups or pro-choice groups are virtually never denied funding is rather significant.
Overall, the presence of mandatory unions on campus and the denial of funding to particular groups are the two major issues in this area. Next, I will discuss commercial groups on campus.