The Fair Trade Resolution is the first necessary step in order to change SUNY Geneseo’s procurement policy. However, because Geneseo is apart of the broader SUNY system, which has various purchasing contracts with businesses in the state. This was our main pushback from the Commission and they expressed their concerns of having a SUNY Geneseo Fair Trade Resolution and how many of our purchasing contracts are separate from what the college is able to do itself. Procurement is multi-dimensional, and as a public state institution, we bounded by bureaucratic contracts and purchasing agreements that make it difficult to change these policies. The Commission suggested that we meet and discuss more closely with procurement at the College to see what Geneseo can do specifically. Both Meg Reitz and Dan DeZarn expressed that Geneseo has some flexibility in the “Offices” and “Stores” areas of the Resolution, and it would be best to begin with those. After that, it would be easier to tackle taking about procurement and language in some of SUNY’s state-wide required contracts. Many of the contracts include language about purchasing from companies that emphasis “minority- and women- and veteran-owned businesses, ”but does include any language of fair trade in any of its contracts, nor does Geneseo specifically.” The Commission suggested that it might be useful to target this language and replace it with Fair Trade.
Similarly, CAS offered some pushback. Although the Resolution is non-binding and reaffirms what the college is already doing in terms of Fair Trade projects, CAS expressed concerns that they would take this as a non-binding agreement. They felt that if the President was going to sign something, then they would feel obligated to follow these guidelines and they didn’t feel as though there was enough of a discussion on the implications of the resolution and what it meant for CAS.
Moving forward, the Commission suggested that we form a more sustainable Fair Trade team that is composed of non-graduating seniors, CAS, and Procurement. There are many projects that reach the Commission and can take years to accomplish, however, there are not always students to keep the movement going. Similarly, students do not hold as much “political” power as administrators in CAS or in Procurement so it would be helpful for to the effort to have these kinds of people engaged and eager to see change at the college. Going off of “Offices” and “Stores,” they suggested we bring more awareness to these areas and possibly highlight them during GREAT Day to show what students are doing and what their interests are, as well as highlight the challenges due to how SUNY is organized. They also suggested we find out more information from other Fair Trade Colleges and Universities, specifically public colleges, to understand their challenges and what they did to overcome them.
Our understanding was that we needed the Resolution to be signed before we change Procurement, so Fair Trade club has been working on the Resolution as the first step. However, there needs to be greater discussion to see what exactly could be done in the college’s purchasing agreements. We also failed to take into account the organization of SUNY and its effects on the way Geneseo itself is organized.
This reflects the wider understanding of environmental and social movements, and the problems that may arise for organizations that do not have the same resources and political power. While Geneseo has late on its response to sustainability efforts, the President’s Commission is dedicated to understanding and acknowledging grassroots efforts and value the interests of students. However, the wheels of bureaucracy are a huge obstacle in implementing new environmental policy, and we got first hand experience in doing so. There are so many different facets at the college that this Resolution would effect, and although this does not even change anything specifically about policy, we received pushback because the Commission wanted to make sure that Geneseo had adequate resources to move forward. While we have the support of the President’s Commission, there is much more work to be done before getting the President’s signature.