The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) Residential Services were recently accused of evicting a student from their Halls of Residence following their decision to interrupt their studies as a result of acute mental illness.
This decision was reported to have been taken by university staff from the Residential Services and Disability and Wellbeing Services at the prestigious London university, despite this going against the advice of two seperate NHS professionals, LSE Students’ Union officers, and the wishes of the student in question.
The university’s weekly online publication, The Beaver, which broke the story, said, “This incident further tarnishes the school’s already poor record on mental health support and recognition.”
The student decided to interrupt their studies as a result of being hospitalised with severe mental health problems, and according The Beaver the School informed them that as they were no longer a student for the 2015–16 academic year, they would be evicted.
The LSE Students’ Union’s Community and Welfare Officer, Aysha Fekaki, made contact with the Residential Services and the Disability and Wellbeing Services on behalf of the student, and waited 16 days for a response, despite contacting them several times. When the student finally received a reply, it came in the form of an immediate eviction notice.
The decision is said to have “followed standard School procedure” without taking into consideration the specific circumstances of this student. Moreover, the order came despite warnings from Students’ Union Officers that the student did not have the option to return home and thus would be left homeless.
The Beaver was privy to correspondence that led Union Officers to declare the School’s attitude “somewhat hostile”, as they displayed a distinct lack of understanding of the student’s health issues, even overturning an extension given to the student by the Chief Operating Officer of LSE. Moreover, the Halls Warden system has been called into question after it appears they did little to help the student in need before or during their sudden hospitalisation.
The LSE Students’ Union Wellbeing Officer, Aysha Fekaki, spoke to The Beaver: “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 [sic].
“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 [sic].”
A petition posted online in support of the student, which had over 1,000 signatures but has since been deleted, asked several demands of the School in order to address the issues that had come to light. Elaborating on this, Fekaki adds: “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”.
The petition also called 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.”
The LSE Students’ Union (LSESU) has since released the following statement: “In recent weeks, LSE Students’ Union has been in dialogue with the School to address the concerns raised regarding a student with mental health difficulties being left effectively homeless on Thursday 24th March.”
LSESU representatives met with LSE’s Chief Operating Officer, Andrew Young to discuss the issue. As a result, they announced that the School “will offer specialised support and assistance for the student in question, including pre-existing access to support from the Student Welfare team; arrange a series of meetings between LSESU representatives, the LSE Head of Student Services and the LSE Chief Operating Officer.
These changes were announced to begin this week and they also promised to “discuss the efficacy of the processes currently in place to address acute student welfare issues, with a view to delivering an improved student experience and fully engaging LSESU elected Officers as necessary”. They also plan to “work with LSESU to agree ways of ensuring that students in crisis can access emergency accommodation when facing extenuating circumstances; Work with LSESU to conduct a full review into ‘interruption of study’ and the policies associated with it, with a focus on improving support for students.”
The statement from the Union added: “In light of ongoing student dissatisfaction regarding LSE’s mental health support, we are very encouraged to see that the School is taking proactive steps to support the student concerned as well as an organisational review of support provided to students during their time here.
“We hope that, through effective cooperation between LSESU and the School to prioritise student welfare, instances like these can be prevented in the future.”