Students on Georgetown University’s campus. (Linda Davidson/The Washington Post)

As a 1990 graduate of Georgetown University's law school and the father of an undergraduate, I was disappointed to read that the university is attempting to thwart the unionization efforts of working graduate students ["Georgetown declines to support union effort," Metro, Dec. 7]. Georgetown insists that helping professors research or teach is a student "experience" — as opposed to mere work — that forms "part of the comprehensive education" the university provides to advanced degree candidates. This position is illogical and, perhaps worse, negates Georgetown's Catholic and Jesuit identity.

Graduate students are not required to assist a professor or department. If providing such assistance were indeed a crucial aspect of a Georgetown graduate education, then it would be mandatory. Moreover, the labor that the graduate students perform — research and teaching — furthers the school’s mission. It does not, except incidentally, coincide with the goals of the students themselves.

Georgetown's position violates its express "commitment" as a Catholic and Jesuit university "to social justice." Echoing the words of Pope Leo XIII in 1891's Rerum Novarum, Pope John Paul II explicitly linked unions to the struggle for social justice. "Catholic social teaching," he wrote in 1981's Laborem Exercens, holds unions to be "a mouthpiece for the struggle for social justice, for the just rights of working people in accordance with their individual professions."

The university should follow both secular and canon law by withdrawing its opposition to the efforts of working graduate students to unionize.

Hal Ginsberg, Kensington