The Beaver (TB): What is your diagnosis of LSE’s welfare problem?
David Gordon (DG): I think there are multiple facets to the problem. The first thing is that people don’t know what support is available. I have an inclusion plan, for example, and I’d never actually been shown it until this year like two weeks ago when my academic advisor sent it to me, and I’ve had it the whole time I’ve been at LSE and never seen it. There’s a lack of information.
Further to that, the provision isn’t what it should be. Accessing support, for example, takes a number of weeks before you can actually see anybody. There’s also a failure to represent minority people and disadvantaged people at university.
TB: If elected, what is the first thing you will do to address to address it?
DG: The first thing I’d do with my policy is an LSE support map. Visually available on the Moodle website, or LSEforYou so that people can see and know if they ever need support of any kind, they’ll be able to find it.
Second, looking at the experience of people who go through the process of getting support and work out how to make that better.
TB: How can we improve disability inclusion?
DG: The beginning of that is looking at the experience of someone with any kind of disability at university and how they’re interacting with the physical campus space and also the institutions at the university. Having a learning disability, there’s quite a bad system for me to get any support. I think it’s about looking at the process that people go through and working out how the experience can be better and what changes need to be made.
TB: Can you elaborate on that a little bit?
DG: The first thing to recognise is you’re dealing with the university system, which is set in its ways. And they’re going to be naturally resistant to change because it requires more work from them. And so the task is to win them over and get them on board and look at how they’re going to allocate funds, resources and time to change the experience.
Here’s what you need to do: you need to get reduced waiting times, you need to have open channels of communication for people to actually get their experience across. Students know what they want changed, disabled students know what needs to be better. But LSE is resistant to make those changes. So it’s about getting that relationship to bring about a positive effect.
TB: How do you foster a coherent sense of community at LSE while protecting vulnerable communities?
DG: I think there are areas of LSE that have really strong communities that don’t necessarily look after more vulnerable students.
For example, the Athletics Union is quite cohesive and community oriented, but it’s a place where you can really have a very negative time if you’re not in the mindset of AU students. One of my policies is wind-down Wednesday. I want to use that as a time to create a community for people who aren’t in the Athletics Union. They just want something to do, want to meet people, want to have a lunchtime meal, want to see some kind of performance, want to go climbing together, so something like that.
But then also an opportunity to kind of be told by the university “here’s a time for you to just practice self care and make sure you’re looking after yourself.” I want there to be a real emphasis and push on kind of taking a step back. Because I think LSE can be so fast paced that even when you’re in a community that’s positive, you just kind of need to step away from everything and have some distance from what’s going on. I think that will be a great opportunity to do that.
TB: What is your strategy to win?
DG: [There are a] few different aspects to it. First, I’m trying to present myself as a competent, genuine candidate. Second, I’m trying to mobilise the networks of people that I have around me. I’m trying to build enthusiasm around me as a candidate and the policies that I’ve got. Really I’m just trying to talk to people and get them on side and see the value in me as a candidate and what I would do as a Union representative.