Barclays vs RAG ; Is the LSE SU placing corporate interests above student interests?

By Taryana Odayar, Executive Editor.

Whilst the majority consensus is that this year’s RAG week was hugely successful, it was not without its ups and downs. One such complication occurred during the RAG Street Festival on Thursday 28th  January, when a Barclays stall giving out free waffles was set up on Sheffield Street, directly clashing with the RAG stalls that had already been set up to ask for charity donations. This resulted in the RAG stalls having to close early since they were unable to collect substantive donations given the presence of the Barclays free waffle stand.

This led several RAG members to express their discontent with the lack of communication between LSE Careers and LSESU, the former of which should have notified the SU and hence the RAG street festival team that there would be a Barclays waffle stand on the same day as their food stalls, or at least arranged for the Barclays stand to be set up on another day. According to RAG President James Wurr, “There should be a lot more communication between the SU and the Careers department, something which is severely lacking. I had two societies, who had spent time and money on their stalls, pack up at 12pm because they had sold nothing due to the Barclays stand. This is extremely demoralising and demotivating for them and has an adverse effect on the relationship which RAG has with societies.”

When asked for comment, General-Secretary Nona Buckley-Irvine stated that, “There was an admin error and I do apologise for that, as it is certainly frustrating for fundraising to be impacted by other factors – and as a former RAG President I wholeheartedly understand this. We have reviewed our processes substantially since to ensure this never happens again, and RAG accepted this as a satisfactory resolution in our meeting last week.”

But cutting the Gordian knot of complications only gets more difficult from here onwards. Allegations that the risk assessment form filled out by Barclays contained several inaccuracies have surfaced, and this coupled with allegations that the crowd control measures taken by Barclays were unsatisfactory, points to a lax regard for the procedures that LSE SUw Societies usually have to go through. This has led to many in the RAG community, which constitute around 10% of the LSE student body, to call out the LSE SU for alleged hypocrisy and having double standards for student societies and corporates.

However when questioned on this, Buckley-Irvine stated that, “It is entirely false that there was an incorrect risk assessment and a concerning allegation to make by a member of the SU executive, as it has already been made clear that this was not the case. Similarly it might be an opinion that there should have been crowd control, but in line with policies and procedures this was not necessary – it is testament to the brilliance of the puppy day that there were such high levels of interest and as such we did need to ensure that the crowds were managed effectively to ensure that the day ran as smoothly as possible for RAG.”

But when it finally boils down to who really lost out over the mishap, Wurr says, “I have several members of my committee who are very upset about the whole issue when they should actually be celebrating an incredibly successful week.” Buckley-Irvine was quick to point out however that, “Asides from this, the week was a roaring success and it is great to see how substantially increased SU support for RAG has supported an excellent committee to fundraise such an extraordinary amount.”

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