Speaking Truth to Power: Negotiations
At some point or another you’re going to have to negotiate with management. It’s important to know what you’re doing in these circumstances because more often than not you’re not going to have much experience and management will use theirs to mess you around and try to undermine the campaign.
One is to know what your demands and your red lines are. You should know what you’re asking like the back of your hand, this will always be your benchmark to management. If you do end up conceding, every concession should give you further leverage to try and push demands. Recognise that you’re not going to win all of your demands, or even any of them in their first meeting with management. So before every meeting you need to know which demands you will not concede on, and from that the goal should be to try to win every thing over those red lines. Don’t let management know what they are though!
Third is to know what leverage you have or could potentially gain during negotiations. There’s no point having your red lines somewhere completely unrealistic if the only thing you have is a petition. Knowing how strong your campaign is in terms of effect to university finances and how much your demands relate to those damages is crucial.
Finally try to get as much information on university finances. Know how much money the opposing side is playing with. The Freedom of Information act is your friend so use it to find the amount of profits they’re making in terms of rent, use it to find out how much rent has increased over the years, use it to study your enemy as much as possible. At some universities this information will be available so do ask the SU if they can find any relevant information on this subject. Also, VERY IMPORTANT, don’t talk about what you don’t know, management will have far more information so try to shape the narrative around what you do.
Management will try to offer a bursary instead of a rent cut. This is good, but is a plaster on the problem of skyrocketing rents rather than a long-term solution. To avoid this you need to work out when management set the rents for the following year (at UCL this is February, but this can usually be found out through your SU).
With all these tools you will hopefully be able to put off an offensive in negotiations that make mangement fear you and overestimate your abilities. But the number one thing is be confident in what you’re saying. If you’ve gotten this far you can definitely take on some slimy bureaucrat.