By Nora Lorenz and Angbeen Abbas
Over the course of two days the LSESU hosted two events for students to meet and quiz their future representatives running for positions in the Michaelmas Term 2019.
The first hustings session took place on Wednesday, October 23rd at the Venue in the Saw Swee Hock Students Centre. Initially quiet, the Venue filled up eventually and hosted about 60 people listening to candidates’ presentations and challenging their agendas. Anti-Racism Officer, Democracy Committee, Disabled Student’s Officer, LGBT+ Officer, Mature & Part Time Students’ Officer, NUS Delegate, Trustee Board and Postgraduate Students’ Officer are all positions up for election.
None of the three candidates running for Anti-Racism Officer, nor the two prospective members of the Democracy Committee were present. Jesser Horowitz, running for Disabled Students’ Officer, emphasised the importance of making LSE accessible for everyone through universal design. Edouard Panciulo shared his own history with the audience to advocate for a more inclusive and supportive LSE community for LGBT+. Neither of them had a contestant on stage with them. While Sebastiano Caleffi, running for Mature & Part Time Students’ Officer, was not present to face the audience, his statement was read out on stage.
Subsequent positions, such as Member of Trustee Board and Postgraduate Students’ Officer attracted significantly more candidates. After presenting their agendas, eleven candidates for Postgraduate Students’ Officer were quizzed on stage, with questions related to mental health, conscientious investment and accessible building design.
While acknowledging that measures have been taken with respect to mental health issues, several candidates as well as members of the audience highlighted that much more needs to be done. The main concerns were shortening the time to see a mental health counsellor and bringing psychiatrists alongside psychologists to LSE.
Particularly interesting to students participating in the event was candidates’ involvement with other societies or organisations that would enable them to increase collaboration within the SU.
The second hustings session was held the next morning on 24 October, at the Activities Resource Centre (ARC) of the SU building. The positions were General Course President, Member of the Academic Board, and Members of the LSE Council.
While none of the candidates for General Course President were present at the hustings, Nico Robben sent a statement that was read out. If selected as General Course President, Robben plans on “leveraging LSE’s resources for our [General Course students] welfare”, while also creating change that can improve the experience for future General Course cohorts.
One of the issues raised during speeches for Member of the Academic Board was that of ‘decolonising’ the curriculum at LSE. In their candidate speeches, Andrew Ferris and Blaise Rein discussed the importance of making an active effort to increase program inclusivity, through more diverse course material.
Rein also mentioned how his agenda includes making material available in a broader range of languages. Abhilash Vishwanathula, another candidate for Member of the Academic Board, emphasised the need for a mechanism to ensure more continuous feedback from students, as well as making the process of course selection less difficult.
During speeches for the position of Member of LSE Council, issues included the need for more international job opportunities, support for those suffering from mental health issues, and sustainability initiatives.
Abhilash Vishwanathula and Aarthi Ratnam focused on the need for more job opportunities with international organisations at LSE Careers, as well as a greater presence of start-ups. In terms of support for students, Ella Marshall talked about how she would ensure that academic advisors receive training to equip them to provide pastoral support to students, as well as the need to create a zero plastic environment at LSE. Both Ella Marshall and Blaise Rein highlighted that LSE must work on reducing its carbon footprint more substantially.
Candidates’ commitment to an environmentally sustainable campus was a central issue raised by the audience. Some of the specific changes that candidates proposed include banning single-use plastics and moving towards reusable cutlery. Ella Marshall spoke on how the catering services at LSE should shift their focus from profit to sustainability. Aside from this, one of the solutions that Blaise Rein promised to implement is the formation of a farming society, which would use food waste to grow produce on campus.