Thursday, December 04, 2008

80% of Columbia students did not vote against NROTC

Mark Twain: "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics."

Okay, I get that, but the Columbia student poll on NROTC is a new body of evidence worth analyzing.

Earlier, from my natural pro-ROTC perspective, I wondered why 57% of CC, GS, and SEAS students declined to vote. I speculated that they weren't convinced to vote against NROTC, but also didn't know enough about NROTC to vote for it, hence my blame of the student councils for failing to produce their promised NROTC information packet. While many of the non-voting students may have abstained for other reasons, and it's worth finding out those reasons, the difference was only 39 votes in an aggregated total. It's not unreasonable to believe 40/3942 additional students would have voted if they had been given better information on the subject.

05DEC08 Update: The student councils also promised to organize 2 forums about NROTC and only held 1 forum. The 1 student council-run forum was dominated by DADT. The 2nd student council-run forum, conceivably, would have been focused on NROTC rather than DADT, and illuminated such topics as Columbia's NROTC history, financial aid, classes and requirements, Naval and Marines officership as career service options, and recruiting. Failing to provide both a 2nd forum on NROTC and the information packet stand out to me as a gross failure by the student councils. While one can argue the Columbia Students for NROTC could have made up the shortfall, the survey was organized by the student councils and they determined the format, which included 2 instructional forums and a comprehensive information packet to be distributed to all students. It is reasonable for CSfNROTC, who were already hard-pressed for resources, to have relied upon the student councils to do what they said they would do and incorporated the 2 forums and information packet into their own planning. Again, with a vote differential of only 39 votes, any oversight by the student councils stands out, and their failure to educate the students about NROTC, as they promised they would, is a major flaw in the conduct of this survey.

Now, I'm wondering why nearly 80% (non vote plus yes vote = 78.27%) of CC, GS, and SEAS students did not vote against NROTC. I assumed in the previous paragraph that more students didn't vote for NROTC because they simply didn't know enough about the program and the case for NROTC. However, that is not an assumption I can ascribe to DADT and the case against NROTC on campus. From President Bollinger's early e-mail, to popular opposition to DADT, to the intense single-note drumbeat about DADT by the impassioned anti-ROTC coalition, to the current student generation's from-birth indoctrination in identity-based rights, we can trust every student understood the opposition to NROTC on the basis of DADT. Yet, 80% of students did not vote against NROTC on that basis, or any basis. Thoughts on why?

The verdict, so far, on the NROTC survey is that it's inconclusive. The aggregate vote for CC, SEAS, and GS students is a virtual tie, the failure to provide a by-school breakdown - particularly for SEAS which originated the interest in NROTC - is a critical oversight [18JAN09 update: SEAS and GS voted for and CC voted against NROTC], there were other notable student council oversights, and nearly 2000 votes were thrown out and have yet to be fully accounted for (more a transparency than conspiracy concern, but 2000 is still a lot). In addition, the high number (57%) of students who chose not to vote and the very high number (nearly 80%) of students who did not vote against NROTC on campus, despite the heavy emphasis placed on DADT, raise new questions.

Eric

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