Engaging with University and Student Union Internal Democratic Processes
The main decision-making bodies that we work with in universities are the Student Union and the Catering department. Through research, our activists can identify key individuals and potential allies to start negotiations with. This may include student sustainability officers, campaigns officers, heads of catering, and representation, procurement, and sustainability staff members. It can be valuable to include such individuals in our plans and in writing our policy motion so that they feel empowered to support us rather than threatened. And it is when negotiations become stagnant, and people become unresponsive/apathetic that direct action comes in.
Internal university decision-making processes can be very slow and cumbersome, and if there is no genuine support from management, students can be stuck going from committee to committee for years and getting nowhere (as happened with the divestment movement for example). So it is important to communicate very clearly once the negotiations begin that we are in a climate emergency and you are expecting to get a clear meaningful commitment from university management within 6 months or 1 year, whilst also being very kind and friendly (polite, but firm).
During this process, ensure to engage with interest and enthusiasm, and build positive relationships with decision-makers, as the greatest success in a negotiation is dependent on whether the other party likes you. You can also identify allies within the institutions who support your position, such as staff and societies. It is essential to develop and utilise networks of support across the university, within the academic population, the student population, workers, and different departments (finance, sustainability, etc.).