On the morning of March 2nd 2017, I was in trouble. It was the day before ABLAZE 2017, the most important event on the African-Caribbean Society’s (“ACS”) calendar. For the first time in its history, we were hosting it at an external venue-Shoreditch Town Hall. As Vice-President, I was responsible for making sure the show went ahead and the Committee’s invaluable contributions did not go to waste.
For some devilish reason, the venue only sent us the final contract the day before the big night. This left us only 24 hours to obtain SU approval and send Shoreditch Town Hall an invoice for £9000. Panashe Bera, our long suffering Treasurer, arrived at the ARC that morning with the lowest of expectations, convinced the SU wouldn’t be able to help. How wrong he was. Within a few hours, the papers were signed and the invoice sent.
This is just an example of how resourceful and willing to help our SU can be in times of need. Unfortunately, this is not a common experience. Most stories of SU-related experiences are irate tales of chaotic room-bookings, inefficient customer service and a discouraging lack of support. Despite this, it’s difficult to ignore the SU’s great potential to positively impact each student’s experience through greater support and the provision of meaningful opportunities.
Through my roles as Carr-Saunders Hall’s President, ACS Vice-President and Student Trustee, I have grown to appreciate the breadth and quality of support available. Provisions such as the Annual Fund, the Hardship Fund and the Sports Ambassador Programme are just a selection of great ways the SU can actively support a student during their studies.
But there seems to be information gap between the SU and the people it exists to serve.
Many are unaware of these things. With respect to the SU, it’s not enough to solely broadcast information. When marketing, you have to approach it thinking, “how can we make this idea/programme/opportunity more relevant to those with who could enjoy it?” The potential is there.
Continuous dialogue is the key. This will come through good and sincere leadership throughout the SU. If our part-time and full-time officers truly work to serve their respective clubs, societies and community groups, then there will be a seamless chain of communication throughout the SU. By striving to fulfil student’s needs, information will be better communicated to target groups because their members will reach out to officers and coordinators in the full knowledge they will get an honest response.
However, when representatives don’t fulfil their roles as conduits of students’ desires and frustrations, many lose out. Empowerment works through representation. It works through students being confident that their views are valued and respected.
A great example of this is the ‘This LSE Girl Can” campaign where Meghan Beddoe, the Activities and Development Officer, collaborated with the Athletics Union to showcase the strength and success of sporting women on campus during Week 4. The message was clear and real for those involved. It is vital we work to get this right more often or else all we’ll get is disillusion and frustration.
Our SU is a work in progress and I believe its employees have students’ best interests at heart. But more needs to be done to inspire confidence amongst students. If officers are proactive in serving the people they represent, they will naturally highlight opportunities and initiatives relevant to them. The information gap would disappear, and more students would get more from their Union. It is possible. Let’s unlock that potential.