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It’s been an incredible, unprecedented year this year. Whether it be working with my Sabb team, Part-Time officers, halls, societies or clubs, we’ve been able to achieve so much. We’re further along with liberation than ever before, we’ve made progress on making LSE more financially viable for students, and our Union is stronger than ever with an impressive elections turnout of 50% of undergraduates and 30% of postgraduates. There is so much more to be done to make the LSE the best it can be, as well as the SU, and I’m incredibly excited to see what can be achieved next year with our Union. It has been a pleasure to represent you this year, and I’m looking forward to a second year as General Secretary working for you, with you.
What has been achieved this year?
We’ve achieved a lot! Flagship wins would be securing a rent guarantor scheme, freezing the rent price of shared rooms in halls, increasing the amount of scholarship support for international students, securing a 20% increase in our Annual Fund allocation for societies and clubs, as well as developing our stance towards liberation - saying that it does matter - plus working with our fantastic Executive on campaigns such as reforming the Dean’s system, implementing both a Zero Tolerance to Sexual Harassment policy and a Safe Space policy, and finally facilitating broader conversations within the student body on liberation matters.
What didn’t come off?
We haven’t made as much progress on halls rents as I would have liked. Unfortunately, the School are resistant to prioritising affordable halls rents and have failed to see the impact it has both on your bank balance and deterring wannabe LSE students from coming to the LSE. What has been achieved is promising, and we have committed the School to developing an affordable halls rents strategy, so this is just a longer term project.
What obstacles have been overcome?
It’s been an unusual year and we’ve encountered many obstacles this year such as crises like the Men’s Rugby scandal, Occupy LSE, and event hosted by the Palestine Society and Feminist Society. When crises emerge, we have to go into full reactive mode and de-prioritise projects we’ve been working on. However, each time we encounter something like this, we learn how to deal with it and be more efficient, so each instance has been treated as a learning experience.
What are the big plans for the future?
The big plans for the future are focusing on delivering on my manifesto pledges! There are a lot of key decisions coming up in the School, such as which facilities should go into 44 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, so I’ll be using the summer to lobby for the sports hall, performance and music practice facilities we desperately need.
I’ve started conversations with the Pro-Director of Teaching and Learning, Paul Kelly, about overseas study and expanding Erasmus, and pressure will continue to be put on the School to better the education here.
Beyond that, there is much more work to be done on liberation and fully implementing policies, as well as changing support systems at LSE, all of which I’m really excited to work on with the incoming Officers. I also want to continue the great work that LSE Divest has done this year and am sitting on a Socially Responsible Investment review for the School, so I’ll work with the incoming Community and Welfare Officer on leading a full consultation with students, to find out what you think LSE should and should not be investing in.
Above everything else, for me next year is about making LSE as financially accessible as possible. To achieve that I’ll continue working with the Postgraduate Students’ Officer on postgrad funding, halls rents, and developing initiatives to support students from less well-off backgrounds.
Have a good summer everyone, can’t wait for next term!
Politics has definitely been the word on the (Houghton) street this year. Not only has LSE democracy achieved record numbers of voters (37% placed a vote in the Lent Term elections, making us the most active LSE community so far, and next year’s Officers the most representative yet), but there have also been countless student-led campaigns such as #BreakTheSilence, LSE Divest, accessibility awareness and the White Privilege Project, that inspired students from all backgrounds and walks of life.
In recent years, it’d be fair to say that the weekly Union General Meetings (UGMs) didn’t attract audiences in their thousands, but 2014-15 saw the highest number of motions debated in several years, as well as record voter turnouts.
Dozens of students took the initiative to propose motions on issues they are passionate about. 12 motions were debated at the UGM, of which 10 passed (the other 2 not reaching quoracy): a great increase on last year’s 9. Motions that pass are now officially endorsed by LSESU.
Some motions reached unexpected heights: the campaign to introduce Meat Free Mondays was hotly debated, with 454 voting in favour and 366 against. The motion to lobby the School to divest from fossil fuels also garnered one of highest voter turnouts, with 432 in favour and 36 against.
Controversial topics emerged too: the vote on Free Education ended with 239 in favour and 165 against, and after a petition of 300 names called for an Emergency Motion to discuss the government’s Counter-Terrorism Bill, 242 people voted in favour of taking action, with just 8 in opposition.
Campaigns that deserve a spotlight
The White Privilege Project
The White Privilege Project kick-started a conversation about what the buzzy yet controversial phrase ‘white privilege’ means. The project asked what White Privilege meant to individuals in the LSE community, succeeding in doing this both digitally and physically. The silent conversation that developed through the interactive chalkboard wall enabled students to respond thoughtfully to each other.
The campaigners responded to criticism by hosting a film screening with a Q&A session after, to make space for everyone to query the ideas and explore their concerns in a respectful environment.
By engaging with criticism openly, the campaign was talked about in new contexts and continues to explore the ‘what does ‘white privilege’ mean to you?’ through social media.
Having successfully and creatively lobbied the school for a review of ethical investments, LSE Divest are setting their sights on a new goal: getting the school to freeze any current fossil fuel investments until the review is over. LSE Divest also held the first student protest at a school committee meeting in over 7 years.
2015 is also is a big year for those who care about green, sustainable policymaking, with the United Nations holding COP21, a conference on climate change, in Paris. LSE Divest are aiming to push the School for a full divestment from fossil fuel before the conference starts in November.
Getting involved next year
You can also make your voice heard at the Union General Meetings, by coming along on Thursday 1 - 2pm in the Old Theatre. Your incoming Democracy Committee are already planning to get some topical discussions and big-name speakers on the agenda for next year so LSE continues to be a centre of ground-breaking debate. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.
If you want help to establish a campaign drop us an email at: email@example.com. We can provide 1-to-1 support, training, funding and resources.
To keep up-to-date with the campaigns mentioned follow them here:
Could you take any of these campaigns into the future?
Students leading many of these movements are graduating. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to run with the great work they started!
We’ve had a really exciting year at LSESU, finally getting postgrads’ needs to the front of the agenda - not only educationally and financially, but socially as well. I’ve absolutely loved representing postgrads to the School and the Union as a whole and I hope the changes I’ve made have impacted a few experiences and made some progress.
This year I’ve focused LSE Students’ Union’s activities on postgrads much more, and as a result we’ve had higher society involvement, a greater voter turnout in the SU elections, successful lobbying for a new postgrad study room in the library (opened in April) and the most events and socials we’ve ever had. These ranging from the Christmas and Lent term parties to the regular Postgraduate Breakfast Socials, in which attendance and satisfaction was extremely high.
In addition to this I’ve been lobbying LSE Management on postgraduate funding, and since this is a long-term campaign, we’ve made in-roads on policy changes to the way scholarships are awarded to postgrads at LSE. In the wider context, a comprehensive policy document has been produced on postgrad funding and the government’s latest proposals on postgrad loans.
What didn’t quite come off?
At the start of my term, I was determined to lobby the School on their improvement of academic standards and on having greater contact time with academic advisers. With the complexity of the school being what it is, that was a big undertaking, and due to time constraints I unfortunately wasn’t able to get it off the ground. Similarly I wanted to work with LSE Careers on providing a better service and widening their industrial scope, however this again was not possible.
However, engaging in conversations about both these campaigns did make some impact, and I hope they will remain on the agenda for the future.
What obstacles have been overcome?
The many engaging events and campaigns that LSESU has done throughout the year has allowed for higher postgrad involvement in our activities. For example the Literary Festival Competition had mainly postgrad contestants, with the winner also being a postgrad.
The Postgrad Breakfast series and evening Postgrad Parties allowed for further cross-departmental exchanges and social cohesion within the postgrad community, combatting the feeling that so many have of being cocooned within courses or departments.
It is clear that Postgrad loans and funding are going to be a hot topic for the future, lobbying efforts by me and others have meant that this is an issue that LSE SU will take forward into the next few months and year. 61% of respondents to the LSE Postgraduate Survey indicated that better financial support would be the main thing that improves their time at LSE.
On the whole I’ve been working hard on postgrad engagement in societies and clubs. We’ve had many positive developments, such as the Active LifeStylE initiative being popular among postgrads that want to play sports but don’t have the time to join the university club teams. Further promoting this to postgrads through departments for example, would be beneficial for the future, so I highly recommend future Postgrad Officers keep it up.
Thank you again and have a great summer!
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