LSE administration declines further meetings with LSESU Palestine Society

By Cameron Baillie

On 11 March, LSE’s Executive Office emailed a representative of the LSESU Palestine Society, declining again to meet with members of the student group who were calling for a reassessment of the university’s financial investment portfolio. 

No further explanation was provided, despite administrators expressing their willingness to continue conversations with LSESU Palestine Society representatives at their first and only meeting on 30 January, according to students involved.

The email came after over a month of correspondence between LSE’s Executive Office and the society, during which members consistently reiterated demands stated in its open letter to the university administration: that LSE support a ceasefire in Gaza, divest its endowment from oil, gas, weapons, and crimes against the Palestinian people, and enhance  protection for students expressing pro-Palestinian views.

Further to these were demands that LSE introduce cultural sensitivity training around the Prevent program, a UK Government ‘counter-terrorism’ initiative which, according to academic research, is ineffective and actively perpetuates Islamaphobic tropes.  

During the initial meeting in January, students raised concerns about the university’s indirect investments into companies profiting from weapons, fossil fuel production, or violations of international law in Gaza. The latter includes Toyota, General Motors, BAE Systems, and Raytheon––totalling over £3.5m––while fossil fuel holdings include Total, Shell, BP, British Gas, and Exxon Mobil, totalled at nearly £7m. 

These investments were identified from LSE’s publicly available 2023 financial investments portfolio, analysed, and compiled into a draft report which was presented to representatives of LSE’s management at the meeting. The Beaver is advised that the final version of the report will be made public in the coming weeks.

LSE’s Investment Adviser, Caroline Butler, stated in the meeting that the School’s Environmental and Social Governance (ESG) policy was about “financial risk, not ethics”, according to students in the meeting. 

The LSE administration has also failed to respond to requests for a meeting concerning the case of Amena El-Ashkar, a Palestinian refugee from Lebanon. El-Ashkar was admitted to a PhD programme at LSE but her visa was denied by the Home Office. Despite over 750 signatures in an open letter from the LSE community calling for action, the university has not responded to the letter.

One member of the LSESU Palestine Society questioned incoming LSE President Larry Kramer on El-Ashkar’s case at a university Town Hall on 29 February. Kramer responded that, while he was not familiar with the details, he was sure that “the School is doing what it can behind the scenes to help his case”, misgendering Amena. 

Kramer’s response has been taken by LSESU Palestine Society members as indicative of the School Administration’s general lack of awareness and inadequate knowledge regarding the welfare of prospective Palestinian students, pointing to a lack of regard for LSE’s Palestinian community as a whole, The Beaver was told by one society member.

An LSE spokesperson responded to these claims, stating: “School leaders continue to be mindful of supporting our students impacted by the conflict in the Middle East, meeting with multiple societies and student groups to ensure the views of a wide range of students are being listened to and represented.

“It is important that conversations around these concerns, including on investments, free speech and student support, take place across the whole LSE community.”

Cameron reports on LSE refusing to meet with LSESU Palestine Society.


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