LSE’s leftist history should drive the union once more

Catherine MacLean – Chair of Labour Society

While the SU has made progress it now has to deliver on its promises

LSESU has a long and proud history of leftism. In the 1980’s the SU President position was renamed General Secretary to show solidarity with striking miners. For the Labour society, an ideal Students’ Union would draw lessons from this time, and push for more radical, inclusive campaigns on campus, on issues that are vital both to us and the next generation of students.

As young people, we should be at the forefront of the battle against climate change, the encroaching far-right, and the fight for the rights of international students and workers after Brexit. The incoming General Secretary will have to deal almost immediately with the threat of a no-deal Brexit, and the hard hitting consequences that will have for a huge portion  of the student population.

University, and places of education, should be a safe haven for immigrants and refugees, and those most vulnerable in our society, who need the benefit of higher education the most. The campaigns this year have been successful and heartening- but we would like to see the positive change taken further, with more focus on consent workshops, anti-semitism and islamophobia training, and a far-reaching divest campaign to make our university as green as possible.

The SU must follow through on it’s promise to provide free sanitary products, and continue to push for inclusive sex education for students. In order for campaigns to be successful, the SU has to collaborate with its many societies further, and make organising on campus easier and less bureaucratic. Societies need transparent, accessible resources and real support from the SU in order to shape and inspire students during their time at the LSE.

Our union should function as any other – it should support workers. Workers at LSE need to be treated with respect, paid well, and be brought in house. The Justice for Cleaners campaign accomplished a lot, but the SU should put it’s full force behind the people who keep the university running.

The Union should also be protecting it’s student workers. For many working class students, living in London is impossible without a job. The SU should recognise this and help those who need it with workshops on the students’ workplace rights, a more accessible hardship fund, and representation for students battling to continue their studies and pay their rent when the university offers no help.

A small way to help working class students get the most out of their LSE experience is to make it easier for them to get involved in societies.  This means changing the expenses scheme to make it more financially feasible for students on a budget. Students wait for weeks to be refunded and so are put out of pocket by the SU. This constitutes an added stress specifically on working class students which the SU could lift by adopting better admin processes.

LSESU should also take account of its own place within the local community. We would like to see campaigns to help the rough sleepers who take refuge on campus at night. The SU must also take a harder look at measures it can take to help, including giving away excess food, holding drives for coats and blankets, and possibly even opening its doors in sub-zero temperatures. If our university is to act like a corporation, the Student’s Union should at the very least provide some corporate responsibility.

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