It’s difficult to get excited about student elections, at LSE or otherwise. The state of affairs is universally generalisable: there will be a candidate from the ‘left’ of the political spectrum and from the ‘right’, determined by the particular dimensions that this measures falls at any given institution and perhaps a few in between if you are lucky; there will be some incidence of negative campaigning that will be, of course, strongly admonished by the Students’ Union of any given institution with the only ‘punishment’ being the ability to publicise oneself further through a public apology; there will be no real discussion of issues and mere platitudes offered to curry votes where the votes of people are not already locked into a candidate who happens to be a friend or fellow ideologue.
So why do we care? Why will we take an interest and follow the LSE Students’ Union election story closely? We recognise that these positions matter, which (based on last year’s voting numbers) roughly eight-ninths of the student body does not. We recognise that the substance of the candidate’s hustings rarely get beyond the walls in which they are held, to a self-selected audience who already knows the issues; already knows what they want to do about them. We feel, however, that these discussions should be made far more public than these pre-determined groups: the experience of students within the Students’ Union and without will be determined for a year by the results of these elections people should definitely be able to transparently access information from these discussions. If we can get those who would otherwise not vote, those ‘undecideds’, to vote, we would have a far more inclusive, far more representative Students’ Union executive to push forward student-led initiatives.
This information gap between students and the processes of the Students’ Union is nothing new: the Students’ Union is not the best when it comes to getting across its importance for students. Information about how to get involved with campaigns is difficult to find and obscure if one is fortunate enough to come across it. The Union General Meeting, much venerated though it is, rarely has motions of significant salience to students go through it, both through lack of knowledge on the part of students of the correct procedure of how to submit motions and the lack of publicity of the meeting itself.
The blame is not to be laid completely on the heads of those working for the Students’ Union, however: LSE is unusual in that its student body tends to be atomistic and individualist in its makeup. This may be a side-effect of its economics specialisation and strong presence of international students leading to the impossibility of cross-cultural identification for such a diverse body, but it should not be considered insurmountable. Again, information is key: prospective students, generally keen to know about the workings of the institution they will be spending their money and time in attendance of, should be able to do so.