KCLSU: Support your socs

by Anonymous

One student explores exactly how much help KCL societies get from KCLSU.


Many words have been used to describe society presidents over the years. These have changed from “dull” to “riveting” or “sinister” to “angelic”, or even simply “the boyfriend of the last president”, according to who you talk to. Despite the Jekyll and Hyde-esque opinion of them, I expected the presidents would be best placed to discuss the ins and outs of their societies – or at least some would be. I took the opportunity to meet some of the individuals lucky enough to be able to call themselves ‘el presidente’.

Every year the existence of societies at King’s is taken for granted. It is only when the occasional society collapses, due to the weak efforts of an individual who “only wanted to run for president because they were a CV whore”, that students stop for a moment and question the support societies get from KCLSU and the college. However, this feeling soon subsides during the next social, as you chug either your 4th or 5th Kirin Ichiban (the fine Japanese beer now featured at Waterfront).

After forcing myself to stick to 3 Kirin Ichibans, I made my way across to meet my first of four society presidents: the Finance Society President, Olivia Linssen. The Finance Society is certainly strong, it had 150 paying members in 2012/13, and has relations with Morgan Stanley, Price Waterhouse Cooper, and Procter and Gamble to name a few. Olivia made it clear that the Finance Society exists due to a large interest from the student body, but also because of the support it gains from external companies. It seems that Finance Society does not gain its strength from financial or administrative support from the College or KCLSU, something many would have taken for granted. Olivia was of the opinion that KCLSU are a cumbersome intermediary between our society and our sponsors. When quizzed on how KCLSU were “cumbersome”, this reporter discovered that “the processing could be a lot faster.”

Olivia’s response did not quench my thirst for answers, so I ran off to meet with Jacob White, the third year president of the Geography Society. Straight away Jacob was giving me answers where I only had clues. “They generally ignore us” were Jacob’s first words, soon followed by the damning statement that the Union was “unnecessary and slow.” Jacob sparked debate further by suggesting there was an “inevitability” in societies becoming incestuous. However, unlike with Finance Society, the Geography department offer a support network that many other societies dream of. The department organises careers events for the Geography Society and provides food and wine when needed. Jacob described the support the society gets from the department as “enthusiastic and dedicated”. Despite this positivity, Geography Society is clearly in a transitional period after “things fell apart last year.”

So, on I trudged, making my way across Waterloo Bridge to meet with the English Society President Elena Gillies in the Franklin Wilkin’s Library. Elena admitted almost immediately that “societies can be incestuous” without a question being asked. For a society with 223 paid members, I assumed the search for committee members would be cast wide, Elena’s honesty was refreshing. The English Society continues to exist due to the support of a KCLSU grant and “a really very good” department. This existence is a flourishing one, with the Society organising a trip to Ireland, releasing the journal Of Cabbages and King’s, and recently hosting a vastly successful poetry night.

Up next was Louise Turtle, the History Society President, and the head of the society pursuing perhaps the best cause seen by an academic society. The History Society organises an outreach programme, through William Jellis. This outreach programme supports students at schools and helps them to aspire to King’s and beyond.

It is clear the support offered by the departments at KCL offer a safety net. It is also important to recognise KCLSU does seem to ground society presidents well, with its training and on-campus presence. However, if there is one lesson I learnt from meeting these BNOCs (big names on campus), it was that KCLSU needs to be more proactive and use the societies to bring campuses and students together.