UGM - January 2021
Should LSESU introduce a part-time Neurodiversity Officer?
Proposer: Sam Crutcher
Seconder: Victoria Anns
What is the issue?
Neurodiversity refers to the demographic that exhibits different mental functions in a way that leaves them vulnerable to misinterpretation within the existing societal institutions and environments (such as people with ADHD, autism, a brain injury, dyslexia etc.). LSE ought to view neuroatypicals as 'disabled by society'. As such, the LSE ought to make greater progress in terms of supporting the neurodiverse students to navigate the complex educational and social environment on campus, especially given the demanding pressures of LSE life. The status quo implicitly confounds neurodiversity as being sufficiently covered within the LSESU by a disabled student's officer, but this is inadequate and misinterprets neurodiverse students as being somehow analogous to students who are handicapped by physical disabilities.
It can be extremely isolating as a neuroatypical with impairments that nobody else can see; the struggles of a neuroatypical to complete their academic work or to socialise go unrecognised by the LSE institution and by its students. The LSESU should make progress in promoting inclusivity for all vulnerable students.
The existing institutional support for neurodiverse students is very limited, being centred mainly within the DWS. Conversations with many neurodiverse students lead me to suggest that the DWS currently offers insufficient support for neuroatypicals; it can feel like quite an impersonal source of support that doesn’t do much to include vulnerable neuroatypicals in the LSE culture and the presence of a student official within the LSESU specifically charged with supporting neurodiverse students would be an effective form of additional support. Many neuroatypical students would very likely feel more confident discussing their issues with somebody who looks and sounds like them - that is, a fellow student who can empathise with their struggles.
The sense of isolation that a marginalised neurodiverse demographic may feel is only exacerbated by the absence of advertised support for this vulnerable demographic within the LSE campus. The lack of visible support on campus can add to these feelings of an ominous environment of woeful misinterpretation for neuroatypical handicaps.
The wider lack of understanding surrounding neurodiversity can undermine the confidence and exacerbate the feelings of insecurity for neuroatypical students. As a result, neuroatypical students may feel inferior to their neurotypical peers within an intensive university environment.
What is the solution?
I propose that we change the Student Union’s bye-laws, as demonstrated in the appendix, to introduce the position of a ‘Neurodiversity Officer’.
Given the all-pervasive misinterpretation of neuroatypicals, there ought to be a channel of support within the LSESU that is both catered and devoted for the needs of neuroatypicals. This would most effectively mitigate the sense of isolation that could be a problem for some neuroatypical students. A ‘neurodiverse representative’ would be effective for this – a compassionate, empathetic official who also shares neurodiverse handicaps as an LSE student would be appropriate.
The visible extension of support within the LSESU would promote a wider culture of acceptance whose benefits would percolate towards all marginalised students. Improved visibility and explicit recognition of the multifaceted nature of disadvantage and discrimination within an educational setting with strengthen the appearance of 'progressivity' within the LSE campus.
Appendix (demonstrated changes to Bye-Law 6)