If an election is held at Cornell, how will it be conducted?

Date: February 2017


Dear Deans:

I’m surprised that a graduate union election hasn’t happened at Cornell yet. I thought CGSU was gearing up for that last semester. I saw that at Harvard the election was in-person at ballot boxes on campus, and at Duke the election will be a mail ballot over a couple of weeks. If an election is held at Cornell, how will it be conducted?


Surprised Graduate Student


Dear Surprised,

Thank you very much for your question about the election process that would be held at Cornell if CGSU is able to produce enough valid, signed authorization cards to prompt an election. 

The Agreement that CGSU signed with Cornell calls for a secret ballot election conducted by the American Arbitration Association to be held on Cornell’s campus two-to-three weeks after CGSU produces sufficient signed authorization cards determined by the arbitrators to be valid, from at least 30% of the graduate assistants who would be eligible to vote in that semester. The on-campus, in-person election would likely occur over the course of two to three days, and would require each eligible graduate assistant to go to a designated voting location on campus.

Not known at the time the Agreement was developed, the American Arbitration Association also offers an option for a sophisticated, secure online voting process that is less costly than the in-person option, and encourages higher voter participation because of the convenience for voters to be able to vote from their own location of choice using the secure, encrypted system. 

The University suggested looking into this option at a recent Union-Management Committee meeting with CGSU, in the interest of making it as easy as possible for every eligible graduate assistant to exercise their right to vote, recognizing that the Agreement would need to be amended if the online voting process was deemed desirable. CGSU, however, expressed concern that amending the Agreement would require conducting a vote of the CGSU membership, a process that CGSU described as “arduous,” so this option will not be explored further. 

Thanks again for your question.


Barbara A. Knuth
Senior Vice Provost and Dean of the Graduate School