By Matt Sudlow
Last week, LSE came down with a strong case of election fever. It was that time of year again when students were faced with the responsibility of deciding their representatives in the Students’ Union. A decision oh so crucial in shaping our university experience.
For AU President, we saw Chris Adewoye come up against Maha Khan, and it was Adewoye who ended up victorious. Adewoye is a second-year Philosophy and Economics student and a member of LSE Men’s Football. I spoke to him before the election on his plans if elected and on the major issues facing the AU.
Why are you running for AU President?
If it wasn’t for the Athletics Union, I’m not sure I would have made it this far through my LSE Journey. It’s been a safe haven for me, to connect with some amazing people – whether that be at AU Ball or the Berry pitches – away from campus, where I have at times struggled to feel like myself. The AU offers an amazing experience alongside our academic study, but I see aspects of the AU that can be improved in order to make the experience even better next year and onwards. As a well-connected, charismatic, and creative person who absolutely loves his sport, I see myself as the perfect candidate.
What does sport and the AU mean to LSE?
Like I said, it can be a haven away from studies and campus life, where academic, social, and career-based pressures pushing you from all sides. Sport means a lot to LSE, for it can be said that it is easier to build long-lasting relationships in the collaborative, interconnected environment that sports and particularly the AU cultivate, than in the classroom – especially in this era of social distancing and masks. Not just providing a highly accessible avenue to remain active in the pursuit of healthy living and to pursue personal athletic goals, the AU is the social hub for a lot of our busy students. My goal in office is to progress both of these aspects even further.
What is your number 1 priority if elected? What are you hoping to achieve?
My primary goal is to secure funding that will enhance our capabilities and simply allow us to do more! I don’t mean just subsidising the big events of the year like AU Ball, because while important, there is more to the AU than these events. I also want to use increased funds to help some of the smaller clubs access what they need to progress in their own right – for example Water Polo and Swimming currently do not have access to a pool that meets their training needs. Off the top of my head, I can name a handful of cricketers that we have that could’ve forged professional careers, yet the Club doesn’t have the equipment that matches their talent. We as a union cannot just accept such circumstances, things need to change.
I hope to change this by securing funding from external sponsors, a goal that I know is feasible from my discussions with the current AU President. Essentially, I am hoping to give clubs more opportunity to accomplish what they want to accomplish. However, I am equally committed to promoting inclusivity and funding will help us achieve this too, namely through hosting intended new events such as AU Sports Day, a Pride Week event, as well as potentially an inclusive non-alcoholic Wednesday social. These events will quell the misconception that the AU is catered mainly to heterosexual party-lovers.
Is there a diversity issue within the AU? How will you attempt to combat this?
For me this is one of the toughest issues in the AU. As a young black man, myself, it is hard not to notice the stark lack of my fellow brothers and sisters at social events within the AU. I attempt to combat the ethnic diversity problem by fortifying the lines of communication between my committee and the Afro-Caribbean Society in particular, as well as the BME Students officer. In doing so, we will be more attentive to the grievances and desires of our students from ethnic minorities.
From conversations with ACS key figures already, I am aware that the Sway and drinking culture of the AU is not attractive for some of our students, as it conflicts their upbringing. The introduction of daytime, non-drinking socials could certainly combat this. I intend to adopt a similar method to increase LGBT representation, liaising with incoming LGBTQ+ Students Officer Arya Barkesseh to figure out what may best work, as he will have a much better conception of the specific issues than I do at this point in time.
Does the AU have an issue with “lad culture”? If so, how will you attempt to combat this?
It would be naïve to suggest that lad culture is something that doesn’t exist in our Union. The problem has two strands, the first being excessive alcohol consumption and the second being a general lack of empathy for female AU members. I have ideas to diversify the alcohol-focused nature of our Wednesday socials. As I mentioned before, I will seriously look at introducing more inclusive non-drinking socials where possible – this will show AU members and those currently on the outside looking in that there is more on offer here than intense partying. Champions League and World Cup watch parties are some ideas I have in mind.
Furthermore, we need to further combat prejudices and sexual harassment against women. I envision a two-pronged defence so to speak. It came to my attention that both Women’s Hockey and Netball’s first teams have both had historic seasons, but this is hardly common knowledge within the AU. So, we will bolster our social media to enhance the spotlight on women’s teams and their achievements. Hopefully this cultivates participation.
Secondly, I aim to team up with HandsOff to increase their exposure to the wider student body using our social media, tripling the number of annual HandsOff events at Sway, as well as exploring the possibility of a chat portal where sexual misconduct incidents within the AU, irrespective of location, can be reported directly to the committee and objectively investigated.
How will you secure funding from external sponsors, and who are you aiming to target?
We are luckily enough to study at an institution with a name that carries so much weight in the working world. We are also fortunate that all our AU members possess the core competencies that so many employers will be looking for. I would hope to sell the LSE brand and all it offers to potential sponsors, from media coverage and campus brand recognition to potential future employees. We will perform a sponsorship audit and subsequently draw up a list of companies to attempt to come to agreements with, and then pursue these.
At this stage, there are no concrete targets as we have to do our due diligence first, but that will wait until I assume office. However, we will certainly try and engage the alumni with improved ReAUnions, in the hope this creates a stronger network between current and past students. From prior education, I have first-hand experience of how effective leveraging alumni contacts can be in securing additional funds.
Do you think LSE can be made a more sport university?
For this I see a simple fix – abolishing Wednesday lessons or, alternatively, allowing all AU members to change their Wednesday classes to other days. By freeing up people from academic commitments on this day, not only do we improve inclusivity by removing one of the most significant barriers to entry, but it offers more fixture flexibility, both in terms of earlier starting times to mitigate the race against time to get to the Wednesday socials as well as being able to field full teams. I would also like to see what I can do to better cater for the needs of our elite sportspeople. If we can make LSE an excellent environment for elite sport, maybe we can attract more sporting talent. Achieving both of these goals would certainly make LSE a sportier university.