(Tribune illustration / April 17, 2012)

Statement by Alan K. Cubbage, Vice President for University Relations, in regard to decision by NLRB regional director:

"Northwestern is disappointed by today’s ruling by the regional director of the National Labor Relations Board finding that Northwestern University’s football players who receive grant-in-aid scholarships are employees and directing that a secret ballot election be held to determine whether the football players should be represented by the College Athletes Players Association for purposes of collective bargaining with Northwestern University.

"While we respect the NLRB process and the regional director’s opinion, we disagree with it. Northwestern believes strongly that our student-athletes are not employees, but students. Unionization and collective bargaining are not the appropriate methods to address the concerns raised by student-athletes.

"Northwestern plans to appeal today’s decision to the full National Labor Relations Board in Washington, D.C. The University will continue to explore all of its legal options in regard to this issue.

"Northwestern considers its students who participate in NCAA Division I sports, including those who receive athletic scholarships, to be 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.

"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.

"In addition, 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 for at least 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 other appropriate mechanisms to continue to address these issues."