Below is a brief history of our Union, giving you further insight into what we do and what are ideologies are. For further reading on LSESU visit Wikipedia History of the LSE.
Established in 1897
LSE Students’ Union was founded in 1897 – two years after LSE itself – under the name of the ‘Economic Students’ Union’. From the outset, it was characterised by vigorous political debate at its fortnightly meetings (referred to as the ‘Clare Market Parliament’).
By the start of the new century, the Students’ Union was also running dinner dances, concerts and other social events. In 1905, the Students’ Union started publishing a journal, the Clare Market Review, which continued to be published regularly until 1973, and then again from its recent revival in 2008. The Review included contributions from prominent academics at the School, celebrities and, of course, students.
During the years after the First World War, the Students’ Union started to organise sports clubs and other student societies, and was particularly encouraged in this by the then Director, Beveridge, who was also instrumental in obtaining the use of the sports ground in Berrylands in 1922. The Communist Party were banned from using School rooms in 1933 and the School expelled and deported American Communist Frank Meyer, then Students’ Union President.
A home for students
The Students’ Union secured its own premises for the first time in 1937, when the School purchased a building that had up until then been a public house – the Three Tuns. The location of today’s Three Tuns was originally a car park in the ground floor of the Clare Market building. By the mid 1940s, the Athletics Union (AU) had been established as part of the Students’ Union, and in 1949, the Clare Market Review was joined by a weekly campus newspaper, The Beaver.
The Students’ Union sprang to international prominence during the period from 1967 to 1971, when protests at the appointment of Walter Adams as Director and then against his handling of those protests led to riots. Adams had been accused of racist policies in his time as a Principal in white-dominated Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). The Director closed the School and erected security gates, which were pulled down by students, and also tried to expel the President of the Students’ Union. There were numerous sit-ins involving literally thousands of students during this period. These actions secured student representation on committees and groups throughout the School’s structure. The motto of the Students’ Union was “Arms the Workers and the Students – Education is a Right, Not a Privilege”. Raising and Giving (RAG) activities were developed in 1980 by Tim Barnett, and in 1983 an occupation of the Library secured the LSE Nursery. The title of ‘President’ was changed to ‘General Secretary’ to show solidarity with striking miners.
In 1989, the LSE Students’ Union hit the headlines again when it elected Winston Silcott, then serving a life sentence for the murder of a policemen during a riot, as its Honorary President in order to highlight a perceived miscarriage of justice – leading human rights charities to suggest the arrest was racially motivated. After a backlash which saw LSE splashed across newspaper front pages, the Students’ Union General Secretary, Amanda Hart, received death threats and was forced to go into hiding. The following year, Silcott was cleared of any wrongdoing.
Controversy has never been far away, however. In 2005, the AU’s annual ‘Barrel’ event – consisting of drinking barrels dry and doing a ‘ fun run’ around campus through lecture theatres and classrooms – got out of hand, leading to some students trashing Kings College, causing £30,000 worth of damage and leading to negative media attention.
Recent campaigning activities include a Living Wage campaign on campus. In 2005, the Union campaigned successfully to secure a Living Wage for the cleaners on campus and within the LSE's residences. The campaign was led by students, cleaners, academics and The East London Citizens Organisation (TELCO) and has involved several protests, petitions, motions and lobbying of the School's administration in an effort to lift cleaners out of poverty pay.
The LSE Students Union was central in the demonstrations against cuts and a trebling of fees in 2010. The campaign at the LSE was named the "strongest organising drive of any campus in two decades" by the leadership of the National Union of Students (NUS). Students went into occupation for 9 days and were profiled on Newsnight, CNN, Sky News and dozens of other news organisations.
Today the Students' Union fights, campaigns and represents the students of the LSE - with over 5,000 in a society or sports club, over 2,000 regularly voting in the democracy of the Union and an Executive elected to continue to ensure the Union continues to deliver what it does best for its members.
2010/11 Impact Report