Do Private Colleges Have Unions?

Student unions have increased significantly over the last few years. The need for unions in the current academic setting is due to social justice movements and an increase in the awareness of student rights. Do Private Colleges Have Unions?

Do Private Colleges Have Unions?

In private colleges, student unions are predominantly formed by minority groups and students who are at risk of losing their funding. Both categories are relevant and are necessary for successful student engagement between academic management and the student body. 

The Role of Student Unions in Private Colleges

The need for academic unions is prevalent when more and more students are trying to secure funding for their respective programs. Many private colleges tend to focus more on track and other sport-related funding. But, when the pandemic hit – the number of academic unions in private colleges increased. Many programs got placed on hold, and students missed out on face-to-face time. Students also missed out on valuable lab and practical experience time, which restricted their access to resources.

Aside from the obvious academic ties, unions also provide a family-oriented experience for their members. The goal of respective unions is to be the common space for all of its members. These unions are a family unit for many students who leave their hometowns to study. Students are provided with a sense of belonging where they’re able to find their authentic selves without any judgment. 

Student unions are not there to function as an authoritative entity, but more as a liaison. Student unions will however step in and contribute if a legal matter requires them to do so. They are not, however, legally responsible for any students. 

Which Types of Unions Are Most Prevalent?

Student unions in private colleges are centralized around two categories: academic and social justice. Both categories are necessary for students, and many will belong to societies or unions from both categories. Let’s explore each of these categories:

  • Academic: Academic unions are solely focused on keeping the respective academic programs operational and for student funding. Student and program funding became one of the biggest challenges for private colleges because investors were not in a position to provide funding.

Students who required special equipment and materials to carry on with their coursework suffered the most. Financial exclusion is a major reason for academic unions to exist. However, institutions were being forced to allocate funding elsewhere. 

  • Social Justice: These unions are strictly student-based and typically serve as a platform for students from different racial backgrounds and members of the LGBTQ+ community to voice their concerns. Student unions generally intervene when acts of racial or cultural injustices occur either amongst students or between the students and the institution. 

Social justice unions are most likely to stage student protests and fight for other social injustices affecting the direct environment of the students or target group.  

It’s not unlikely that a student would be part of both an academic and a social justice union. It would quite likely be the case in many instances. There is a slight difference between a society and a union. Societies are more social, whereas unions tend to focus on serious matters that affect students on an academic or legal level. Unions are also more openly supported by academic institutions, whereas societies are viewed as an extension of the students themselves. 

Why are Student Unions Important?

Student unions give students a space to blend their academic and social lives. If it’s an academic union, then hopefully they help you secure an internship in your respective field. It’s not about the benefits though, many students are drawn to unions because they become a home away from home. 

The point of many student unions is not to fight battles and cause disruptions. It’s supposed to create a space for students to acclimate to a different kind of lifestyle. It also provides a support system should members of the union or society require support. Hollywood and other production companies like Netflix have glamorized the way unions are perceived. Student unions don’t possess as much power as perceived in the movies and series. While they can stand up against the institution, unions can’t break any campus rules or state laws and regulations. This could result in students being academically disciplined, or they may have legal action taken against them.

Student unions promote an inclusive culture to welcome students and are supposed to remain impartial and void of prejudice. And, promoting an environment that is both diverse and respectful of others. These spaces often create a platform for many issues to be debated and solved. This usually includes both academic and private or social matters. Unions help students to report an incident of hate speech or a student experiencing discrimination for instance. They then provide students with support throughout the process once the matter is reported. 

Are You Required to Join a Union?

No, it’s not a requirement to join any student union. It’s completely your choice.

Does Joining a Union Benefit Your Academic Career? 

Yes. There are various academic unions focused on maintaining funding for programs offered at the respective institutions. Some unions even help students secure perspective internships. 


Student unions are necessary and visible in private colleges. They provide students with a safe space to voice their opinions and concerns. And act as an intermediary between students and the institution if matters escalate. While it is beneficial to belong to a student union it is not a requirement. Student unions are often where strong social bonds are formed, and a chosen family is fostered.

Frequently Asked Questions

1) Do you have to be a Politics or Law Major to join a student union? 

No, you just have to be an enrolled student at the institution. Unless it’s an academically focused union.

2) Are student unions only for students of color? 

No, any students from all walks of life are welcome to join the respective student unions. 

3) Are there student unions to voice academic concerns?

Yes, there are student unions for a range of academic programs. 

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