Although a recently signed five year contract made calling for an immediate SU or university boycott of Coca-Cola impossible, the motion requires the SU to take an active campaigning role on the issue and to refuse any further sponsorship or commercial relations with the corporation. At NUS conferences, a York representative will be required to call for a complete boycott of Coca-Cola. The SU president must write to the CEO of Coke registering our objections and to the SINAL TRAINAL union expression our solidarity. No further publicity from Coke will be permitted at SU events or in SU publications, and ads carrying information about Coke's crimes must be carried periodically in the SU's newsletter. The SU must also approach corporations which have a relationship both with the SU and Coke expressing our concerns and asking that they end their relationship with Coke as soon as possible. (133 For, 69 Against, 13 Abstaining)
Despite claiming to have an ethical investment policy, the University of York is the 7th highest university investor in BAE, holding 115,000 direct shares and 1,354,663 indirect shares through their pension fund. Therefore, the union resolves to lobby the university to institute a more effective ethical investment policy, such as those at Leed, UEA and Edinburgh. The SU must also demand that the university disclose the contents of its investment portfolio, making the information available to staff and students. Union funds shall be devoted to campaigning on this issue. (202 For, 29 Against, 11 Abstaining)
A motion calling for an immediate boycott of Nestle, including removal of all Nestle products from the SU store, missed quoracy by 5 votes. It will, of course, be resubmitted in the new year. (134 For, 61 Against and 8 Abstaining)
The sucess of these motions comes after two years of research and (low level) campaigning by a broad spectrum of student societies, from the campus anarchists (FreeSoc) to Socialist Students, People and Planet and the Young Greens. It's difficult to say how much the votes represent the broader spectrum of university opinion, however--as someone pointed out, if everyone on the Amnesty International mailing list voted, they would pass, so this may simply be the result of good coordination within groups of students already committed to fighting unethical corporations (or all corporations!). A couple of public meetings and a reasonably good publicity campaign in the run up to the vote may have helped broaden awareness however.
Concern with corporate involvement in the university has been growing over the past few years, however, and it has become a public issue at the University of York. Articles on it appear in student newspapers, there have been several protests, and the Club of Politics, Philosophy and Economics (entirely corporate-funded) recently hosted a public debate on the issue with FreeSoc.
Of course, we cannot trust the SU to take over the campaigning work for us and to do so effectively and democratically. This sucess simply needs to be encouragement for further actions.