In spite of the ongoing controversy about the elections, in the long term the most important lesson from them is that NYU AWDU’s level of support from the GSOC membership is shrinking dramatically, as demonstrated by the absolute numbers in the invalid elections for steward and Joint Council.
Of course the NYU AWDU candidates won the votes by overwhelming margins-they were the only ones who campaigned! Virtually all the other candidates indicated that they would not campaign because they did not consider the elections legitimate.
But NYU AWDU’s claim that the candidate elections represented a “high voter turnout showing a clear democratic mandate” is as true as…anything else it puts out. First of all, “38% of our current membership” is a totally meaningless number. Remember that any graduate student at NYU except MBA students at Stern can sign a card and vote under the current GSOC Bylaws. That’s about 20,000 people.
How many of those actually voted in these elections? 645 people voted on the first BDS question. On the reasonable assumptions that almost no one who voted for candidates did not also vote in the BDS referendum, and that almost no one who voted on the second BDS question did not also vote on the first BDS question, that means about 650-700 people total voted in these elections, less than five percent of those who could have done so. Working backwards, that means our “current membership” is about 1,700-less than 10% of those who could sign a membership card under our Bylaws.
But the absolute numbers in the steward and Joint Council elections are much lower than the number who participated in the BDS vote. Of course, that’s partly because there was no on-line voting. Nevertheless, the most recent previous GSOC election was the September 2014 Bargaining Committee election, and it involved no referendum. It was in-person for only one day, yet there were still over 600 total votes.
This time, in the steward elections for both the humanities and social sciences and the professional schools districts, less than a hundred people showed up to vote in each district. For the humanities and social sciences district, this represents probably less than five percent, and for the professional schools district definitely less than one percent of those who could have signed cards and voted. The humanities and social sciences district contains several departments that constitute NYU AWDU’s historic base of support, while the turnout in the professional schools district is consistent with the idea that almost everyone in the department of Media, Culture, and Communication (and almost no one else) voted from that huge district.
Turnout only reached the triple-digits for the Joint Council elections. I’m actually moved that a couple dozen people bothered to vote for me in an election in which I myself said I wasn’t campaigning because I thought it was illegitimate. This is as strong evidence as there could be that I do have a constituency in GSOC, even if it is presently a minority constituency, further supporting my claim that for me to be one Joint Council delegate is not only a procedurally but also a substantively democratic outcome.
For the Joint Council, Claudia Carrera got the most votes with 205, about one percent of those who could have signed cards and voted.
NYU AWDU thinks these numbers represent “high voter turnout.” What would low voter turnout be?
The fact that the absolute number of Joint Council votes was so much higher than the absolute number of votes in either contested steward district is interesting. It suggests that around half the voters for Joint Council came from the natural sciences or the NYU Tandon School of Engineering despite the fact that none of the candidates did. But the fact that none of the NYU AWDU candidates for Joint Council were from the sciences or Tandon casts doubt on the view that there is strong ideological support for the caucus’s positions against Local 2110 in those departments, further discrediting the interpretation that the turnout represents a strong mandate against the Local’s positions on membership eligibility. Rather, NYU AWDU got some votes out of those departments because it was the only caucus that campaigned there. Alternately, the Votes Committee may simply have misreported some of the numbers.
In the Fall 2015 Bylaws referendum, which was a week-long, online vote, NYU AWDU was similarly able to turn out about 200 people total in support of its positions against Local 2110. One percent of those who could sign a card and vote is very far from a democratic mandate to overturn core principles of a Local with decades of militant and successful history, but this seems to be where NYU AWDU has maxed out this academic year, in contrast to the over 400 people it was able to turn out to vote for its candidates in last year’s contested Bargaining Committee elections. This suggests that the half-life of NYU AWDU is about a year. A slate of candidates who actually did campaign could very plausibly defeat NYU AWDU in a contested election sometime relatively soon.