THE BLOG

How Positive Action at LSE Got Lost Under a Pile of Leaflets

15/10/2014 12:14 BST | Updated 14/12/2014 10:59 GMT

In the last week the news has been dominated by stories condemning LSE's Men's Rugby Club - and rightly so.

The Club produced leaflets which went beyond the pale, making outrageously misogynistic and homophobic comments, and distributed them at the Fresher's Fair.

Naturally, the Club has been promptly sanctioned, undergoing disciplinary investigation and has been banned by the SU for the upcoming year. Everybody already knows this, as it has been covered here in the Beaver and by the national press... extensively.

There's no doubt about it, the leaflets were abhorrent.

The aftermath is a re-evaluation of tolerance at LSE in particular, and a conversation about the state of discrimination at universities in Britain generally. But for me, there seems to be more to this than a condemnation of the Men's Rugby Club's behaviour. Rather, it seems the whole university is under attack.

In an article by Rhiannon Lucy Coslett for the Guardian, the questions are asked: "What has happened to Britain's universities? Or more specifically, what has happened to the London School of Economics?"

As is often the case, the LSE is at the receiving end of very harsh judgement because of the actions of one group of people.

What I find telling is the lack of attention the university receives when it excels. In the context of a discussion on equality, tolerance and diversity, how is it that no mention has been made of the LSE's commitment to those from lower income families. Or what about disabled students and the provisions the LSE makes for them?

As a student in my second year, when it should have been my third, I am extremely grateful for the LSE's treatment of both groups of people. I receive an LSE bursary each term, and when I needed the extra year due to illness, I had the option, if I had need of it, of applying for funding for just such a cause, through the Janetta Futerman Scholarship.

When I took on a paid position for the LSE Annual Fund to further earn financing for my studies, I was proud to be raising money for more bursaries for future undergraduates that need support. And when I became too ill to work, the position was held open for me indefinitely - more than can be said for many other employers.

With a few chronic illnesses and some mobility issues, I was worried that my university career would be cut short. Having to have surgery mid-term and see a handful of consultants on a regular basis I didn't know how I would be able to continue studying.

I was terrified the university would want nothing to do with me, and I couldn't have been more wrong. LSE's Disability and Wellbeing service, along with my academic advisor and every lecturer and teacher I've had have gone above and beyond to make my life easier.

From temporary funding while I apply for DSA, to offers for note-takers to enable me to keep abreast of my work from home, I was inundated with support. The support for disabled and chronically ill students at LSE is more than I could have ever expected. It is comprehensive, confidential and unwavering.

I didn't know how ill I was going to be when I started my studies, but LSE was ready even when I wasn't. I honestly believe that if it weren't for my bursary and the support from staff with regard to my health I wouldn't be in higher education at all.

I really value the opportunity they made possible, yet this incredibly positive impact on the lives of myself and others who need financial or non-financial support is ignored - even when there isn't a scandal of depravity to take precedence.

The LSE was named one of the UK's biggest university spenders on bursaries and outreach, on which they spent 42.2% of additional income in the 2012-13 academic year and yet this has received no mention.

When you google 'LSE rugby' the first things you see are national media reports on the inexcusable situation with the Men's Rugby Club, but google 'LSE bursary spending' and the only pages you'll find are LSE's own.

It's not wrong that the disgusting behaviour of the Rugby Club is under scrutiny, but it is wrong that positive action by the university on outreach and funding for students in need of support is apparently not worth mention - especially when it's the sort of information some students need in order to feel able to go into further study.

So while the SU addresses the issues with the Men's Rugby Club, and hopefully brings about positive change that will enable female and LGBTQ students to feel welcomed and continually supported at the LSE, I felt that someone needed to commend the services the school already provides to make sure that other vulnerable student demographics are welcomed and supported.

I personally wouldn't choose to study anywhere else, and without the LSE's continuing help I wouldn't be able to study at all.

This article was first published in The Beaver newspaper of the LSESU.