Last year’s Occupy protests, served as the catalyst for these dialogues. In response to pressure from climate activists, the Executive Board declared a climate emergency. Also, twelve dialogues were organised – one for each faculty and three general ones. The central question: how can the university have a positive impact on climate and environment. Students and staff, expert or not, could discuss the future of sustainability. “We didn’t want sustainability policy imposed from the top”, explains Bauer.

Christmas hamper

Since the first edition on 2 October at the Erasmus School of Law, the organisers have gathered various ideas, ranging from long-term visions for education and research to concrete proposals such as abolishing print paper or Christmas hampers.

All concrete proposals will be send to the Executive Board or, on the faculty level, to the deans, who according to Bauer have committed to implementing the ideas or explaining why they (still) do not want to or cannot do so. The ideas will also be incorporated into the new sustainability strategy, expected to be presented later this year. All proposals will also be compiled into a comprehensive public document (a part of which is already published on MyEUR).

Already succesful

However, the most significant progress has been made in an area initially overlooked by Hunter and Bauer: communication. Bauer: “People from different faculties have gotten to know each other. That has already had a positive effect.” At her faculty, there is now a much better overview of which sustainability topics have already been integrated into education and in which way researchers can cooperate with other faculties when it comes to sustainability.

Fossil industry

A contentious issue in the sustainability dialogues is collaboration with fossil industries. OccupyEUR demanded last year that ties between university and fossil industries be completely severed, which was something the Executive Board did not agree with at the time. During a dialogue on this matter, opinions were divided: a small majority was in favour of collaboration, as long as it happens under strict conditions, while a minority was entirely against it.

Now it is up to the university to formulate a policy on this. According to Bauer and Hunter, the initial policy proposal leans towards collaboration with the fossil fuel industry under strict conditions. Completely severing ties does not seem to be on the table. “We are using the Paris Agreement (which stipulates that the EU must be climate-neutral by 2050) as a starting point. There will be no room for greenwashing; all loopholes will be closed”, assures Bauer. Time will tell whether the Occupy protesters will be satisfied with this.

'All perspectives'

Incidentally, Bauer mentions that the organisers were always in touch with the Occupy people. “There isn’t really a representative to talk to, but we have always tried to involve them in the dialogues. From the beginning, we wanted to hear all perspectives, and that certainly includes them. And also the thoughts of people who don’t think about the topic very often.” The duo feels they have been reasonably successful in that regard, although according to Hunter, the turnout of students at the dialogues could’ve been higher. “Fortunately, hundreds students were involved behind the scenes, for example, through the Hub or online surveys.”

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