Zulum on his GenSec Legacy

Zulum Elumogo became the LSE Students’ Union’s (SU) first black male General Secretary in Michaelmas of 2018, graduating earlier that year with an undergraduate degree in Social Policy and Government. Winning his second term in March 2019, he is now at the end of his tenure. “I definitely felt more established,” he says about his second year. “You can just hit the ground running.” He says that in his first term, he “probably only fully climatised by December.”

In noting the changes to the student voice from his first to his second year, he suggests the climate crisis played a crucial role: “Of course there were moments of eco-activism happening during my first term,” he says, “but this year’s been on a different level.” The Beaver has reported throughout the year on the ongoing climate crisis, from the Climate Collective’s multiple open letters to LSE Director Dame Minouche Shafik in efforts to call a climate emergency, as well as a recent UGM motion to ban beef on campus.

It’s obvious to assume that a lot of Zulum’s work goes on behind the scenes, with the lobbying process happening without students knowing much about it, if anything at all. Zulum speaks of “interest convergence”, saying that “usually there’s a direction of flow, and you want to see where you can add value to that.” He emphasises that “the student experience is all of our responsibilities – not just the Students’ Union’s.” He references his work on establishing the Creative Network, a product of his second year, whereby students and creative societies have a space created for them to develop skills for, and clearer pathways into, creative industries.

He argues that the necessity for the Network is not borne out of structural deficiencies on campus, such as the fact that LSE lacks artistic degrees: “It’s about culture, and the framing of transferable skills and mindsets,” he says. “You’ve got your dancers, choreographers, musicians… and then you have the creative application within your field, which is actually an amazing way to innovate, develop, and be distinct in your craft.”

Zulum, after his second-term win, promised many things: a Summer Ball, SU reform, and an independently-staffed SU, as reported by The Beaver. However, Zulum stated that his “number one priority” for his second term was combatting local homelessness. He claimed in research conducted by The Beaver to be launching a Homelessness Mission Launch Event on the 12th of February, which never came to fruition. Instead, Zulum told The Beaver that this event, now to be moved to the 30th of March, “will be hosting employers that are seeking to build relationships and employ these rough sleepers.” He adds that “we’ll also be asking for volunteers to come and ‘buddy-up’ with these rough sleepers to dignify them as human beings, share their stories, encourage them, and perhaps deliver some skill sessions.” As of writing, this event for the 30th of March is yet to be made public on the LSESU calendar and website.

Arguably one of the largest issues students face on campus is support for mental health and wellbeing. The Beaver has reported that £1 million will be spent on the Disability & Wellbeing Service, to reduce wait times for counselling and increase the numbers of counsellors available. Zulum commended Disability and Wellbeing Officer David Gordon, as well as his predecessor Faye Brooks Lewis. 

When discussing the investigation conducted by The Beaver about the treatment of LSE cleaners, Zulum admitted that he didn’t know much about it, but states that he will become more involved with Justice For LSE Cleaners: “I’ll do my reading before I go.”

In terms of widening engagements within the student body, Zulum says, “We’re also looking to have a democracy review for next year as well, meaning that we want to overhaul the way the system works because we know we don’t engage with enough students. In our elections we only see maybe 12-15% of the student population vote.” He adds that “we don’t want to just be talking to ourselves, and I’m sure every critique you have about us we have about ourselves too.”

In talking about his successes, Zulum considers one of his “most enduring achievements” to be the split from UAL. He also implemented a new Summer Ball, which is set to happen on the 13th of June. “Some of my biggest accomplishments weren’t even on my manifesto,” he says. “I was very privileged to be part of drafting [LSE’s 2030 strategy], and there’s some very tangible wins from that.” He notes that by capping the number of students at 12,000 until 2023, “there’s more space per student than ever before. You need to get the student experience right, if you want to think about expanding,” he says. “I quite like the size we are. It’s good for now.”

In his final words to those wanting to run in the upcoming SU elections, he says, “You want to see the community come alive and flourish, you know, localise amazing potential that there is in the various corners of the student community. And if you don’t, no one else will.” He advises those running to “be creative, of course, and don’t be confined by what’s happened before. Think broadly… never be dogmatic.”

In his plans after his final term ends, Zulum suggests that he wants to work in the music industry, “but from a more management corporate angle, I suppose… I think that’s my calling. I can’t see myself in a straitjacket in an office job.”

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