When Student Politics Came of Age

by / March 23, 2016 Comment, Print No Comments

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by Nadeem Shad, LSE Alumnus

The events of the past few weeks concerning elections at the LSESU are nothing short of the best entertainment that the LSE has had in recent years. It highlights both the best and the worst of student politics. However, before we judge the entire affair as petty, consign it to the history books and chalk it up to a case of typically over-serious student electioneering, we should remember that this is really a case of the ‘real world’ imitating the ‘student’ world’

‘This place is run like a North Korean military dictatorship’. Studying my masters at the LSE last year, the words that marked my first experience with student politics at the LSE are seared into the recesses of my mind. As a political outcast from my undergraduate days, I had revelled in the role of the serious student, and had no time for the aspirants mandarins of student politics. As a student of ‘real’ politics, I loved to focus on the titans that rocked the world stage; ‘high politics’ was a phrase often used and I adopted a ‘holier than thou’ stoicism in my self-imposed ovidian exile from the SU.

Scandal, election upsets, and candidates using under- hand tactics are nothing new – a fact reinforced by the ever present spectre of American primaries over the last several months. Neither is it particularly surprising in SU politics. They are, after all, hyperbolic microcosms of the political reality we find ourselves in. However, that statements is not true anymore if we’re really honest with ourselves.

As a recent graduate, and having worked on world news this past year, several key issues have been dominant: one of them the aforementioned American primaries. Given this, it becomes apparent that in many ways LSESU is doing better than ‘real’ politics. No one has done anything with livestock, for one thing, and no one has proposed building a wall to fend of KCL students from accessing the Virginia Woolf building precariously located on LSE turf. Although, I was hearing the phrase ‘Make LSE Great Again’ an awful lot that night, albeit in an ironic fashion.

So when I decided to visit friends, only to be convinced to turn up to election night at the SU, I was in the peculiar situation of being both an LSE alumnus and an avowed opponent of the student polity. However, this inside-out perspective meant I did make a few observations:

The spectacle of RON (re-open nominations) prevailing is a far cry from the system failing. In fact, it’s a sure sign the system worked. Two candidates were found wanting and, hence, a re-run is the most democratic and sensible option. Our American cousins in the Republican Party may soon be wanting such an option.

Another standout moment was the way in which this publication handled itself during the whole affair. From my experience in journalism, reporting stories based on incomplete information can have disastrous consequences. It can ruin the lives of people in the media glare with the Rolling Stone university campus rape story coming to my mind. It can also make a news source a laughing stock, as was the case when a reporter from CNN erroneously reported an ISIS flag at a gay pride parade in London last year. Publications are built on a foundation of trust with their readership and the decision not to publish articles based on screen grabs from Facebook is a commendable and very hard one to make. When sacrificing a potential scoop and marquee article for integrity, you always walk a fine line between what is an acceptable risk. As it turns out, the alleged Facebook comments were indeed written by one of the candidates, however, the most reputable news organisations often go for hours, if not days before publishing certain material and putting their name to it unless they have several sources confirming authenticity, again speaking from experience.

When the apoplectic red mist of broken student dreams that invariably accompanies election season lifts, LSESU has a lot to be proud about this election season despite the actions of a few. The student newspaper acted with integrity and the election procedure worked as two very flawed candidates were found unworthy and left trampled under foot by the relentless march of RON supporters.