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An LSE Student suffering from acute mental illness has been evicted from LSE Halls of Residence, on the decision of LSE Residential Services and the Disability & Wellbeing Service. Two NHS professionals separately made official recommendations against this course of action prior to the eviction. This incident further tarnishes the school’s already poor record on mental health support and recognition.
The student in question was recently admitted to hospital to deal with various health issues, and as a result of this decided to interrupt their studies. The school informed the student that as a result of this decision, they had one week to move out of accommodation as they were no longer an LSE student for the 2015-16 academic year. This followed standard school procedure, not taking into account the circumstances surrounding this case.
LSESU Community & Welfare Officer, Aysha Fekaiki, began communication with the school on behalf of the student on 8 March. Ten days following her initial contact with the Head of Student Wellbeing, she had still received no response and called upon Disabled Students’ Officer Isobel Clare to follow up.
It was not until 24 March, 16 days after contact was initiated, that the student received a response, coming in the form of an eviction notice from the Head of Residential Services. This demanded that the student check out of halls by 10am the next day. This order came despite the student and SU Officers repeatedly telling the school that returning home was not a viable option and on eviction the student would be left homeless.
LSE’s Chief Operating Officer was immediately contacted following this email, and he offered a provisional two week extension to LSE accommodation, giving the student the opportunity to source alternative accommodation that offers mental health support. This provisional extension had to be authorised by the Heads of Residential Services and Student Wellbeing, both of whom refused to grant the extension. The student was, as a result, evicted from LSE accommodation on 25th March.
The Beaver has seen correspondence between SU elected officers and the school where LSE staff have shown a lack of understanding of the student’s mental health issues and were alleged by the SU Officers involved to come across as ‘somewhat hostile’. The Head of Residential Services at one point suggested that the student would be better off in some form of full time care, despite the student stating that this was unaffordable, and NHS professionals recommending that they stay in halls.
The Halls Warden system was also found to be inadequate in this case. The system is there to support students ‘with a range of issues: from health concerns to financial matters and noisy neighbours,’ according to the LSE website. During the student’s hospitalisation process, they were left to go to hospital by themselves with no phone, or contact with friends during the whole episode. In a meeting with the Head of Residential Services, it was suggested that Halls, and specifically the warden system did not have the capacity to cope with the mental health issues of the student. This was despite the school being made aware that the student’s NHS crisis team would provide 24 hour support, thus reducing the involvement of the warden system.
LSESU Community & Welfare Officer, Aysha Fekaki, commented that, “The general process that I had gone through in order to get this answer in the first place was extremely frustrating and worrying given that there is an over demand for these services in the first place. I had contacted seven different people within the school who all referred me to each other for an answer over the two week period. How can students be put through this when they are reaching out for support? When speaking with Residential Life, we were told that they need to support other students who are actually staying at LSE and well enough to do their exams and that they cannot support everyone. The staff member expressed directly to the student that they want to ‘see a healthy [student] come back in the New Year and finish their exams like all other students do at LSE’. This to me was not only a huge contradiction, but a complete lack of understanding of mental health difficulties that student’s experience. This was a complete failing both institutionally and personally to the detriment of the student. Both Residential Life and the Disability and Wellbeing Service has not contacted the student since.
“We call upon LSE to urgently take action in ensuring all students working through mental health issues are guaranteed accommodation, financial support and mental health support in finding services that meet their specific needs. We call upon the school to immediately centralise welfare services both physically and administratively to have one point of contact to reduce the stress and anxiety faced by students. We call upon staff working in student services to undertake training in mental health immediately. It is time LSE recognised their duty of care towards current and interrupting students.”
When contacted about this case, an LSE Spokesperson said, “We welcome the focus of LSESU and The Beaver on student support and wellbeing at LSE. The safety and welfare of our students is of paramount importance and we continue to urge students to come forward when they need help. Staff from LSE Residential Services will be available on the student wellbeing stall on Thursday 28 April 2016 on the Library Plaza between 10am and 4pm to discuss any issues related to wellbeing with students.”