“… breaking the glass ceiling”

LUMS elects its first female student council president

Anoosh Fatima Khan is an economics and political science senior at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS). Besides her studies, she maintains a writing and poetry account on Instagram @intothe_mind_. Khan is the first female president of the Lahore University of Management and Sciences (LUMS) Student Council since its inception in 1984. The News on Sunday (TNS) brings you her ideas about values and achievement.

The News on Sunday (TNS): What is the significance of Student Council to the LUMS system? How important is the election of a female president?

Anoosh Fatima Khan (AFK): The LUMS Student Council is a prestigious body of the university. Hundreds of students take part in lobbying, rallying and voting for the nominated batch representatives. The council has the important role of bridging the gap between the student body and the top administration and implementing policy changes.

It is a highly competitive election. The candidates have strong academic and social standing within the LUMS community. Also, they have to have significant support among students who hail from many regions across Pakistan.

Till now no woman had been elected to lead the LUMS community since its inception. Women are represented in good numbers in the council but had been unable so far to win the coveted seat on account of factional politics and regional alliances.

This time, due to my efforts to voice the students’ concerns in response to the Covid lockdown, I was able to garner early support of the student body. I am incredibly humbled to have set a precedent not just in terms of gender but also the fact that a clear manifesto and its demonstrated implementation can do wonders. It was time finally to break the glass ceiling for women.

TNS: What makes student councils essential for institutions of higher education?

AFK: Councils elected by students are important because they act as a bridge between the administration and the students. Council members need to understand the ground level concerns of the students and communicate them effectively to the concerned personnel in the administrative hierarchy. From improving access to basic facilities, ensuring inclusiveness, working with the finance department to increase pay scales of on-campus teaching assistants, everything and anything that involves collective sentiments of the student body is to be catered for by the council.

Elected teams have worked tirelessly to implement policy-level changes at the LUMS to the greatly benefit of the student body.

Having such a mechanism enjoying administrative support makes LUMS shine as an institution that delivers its promise of student inclusiveness.

From improving access to basic facilities, ensuring inclusiveness, working with the finance department to increase pay scales of on-campus teaching assistants, everything and anything involving collective sentiments of the student body is to be catered for by the council.

TNS: Tell us about your plan for the next year. How do you plan to lead the council?

AFK: There are great expectations from us. That can feel intimidating and motivating at the same time. My manifesto centred on the phrase ‘a new precedent for the president.‘ Moving onwards, I believe the focus would change to ‘maintaining the precedent’.

Currently, my goals are two-fold: a complete reopening of campus, remaining mindful of the Covid-19 constraints and ensuring that the campus environment remains safe, inclusive and nurturing for all.

The Student Council must represent the student body. I am passionate about developing greater communication. The council must be approachable in all situations. The issues we face now are graver than what the previous councils dealt with, but I am hopeful and have confidence in our team.

TNS: What is the best thing about LUMS for you?

AFK: The vibrancy of its people. It is the students and the teachers who make the LUMS experience the best in the country. They hailing from across Pakistan and beyond. The campus life is so vibrant because everyone brings their unique sense of style, ideas, expression and interaction to the table. When you couple uniqueness with inclusivity and tolerance, it opens a myriad possibilities.

This culture of inclusivity and tolerance results from good administrative policies at the LUMS, which ensure a safe space for students to express themselves and be heard regardless of their economic, social and religious background(s).

Academically, regardless of our major, everybody has to study religion, politics, law, poetry, astrology, business and various other courses to graduate. This is to ensure that we are well aware of the world and the people around us.

By the time one graduates, one has learned immensely through interaction with people from all walks of life. The education enables us to strike an intelligent conversation on many subjects. The learning experience here, both in and outside the classrooms, makes the LUMS stand out.

TNS: Apart from the friends who supported you and students who voted for you, who motivates you to aim high and work hard?

AFK: My parents are my biggest motivation and example. They have been the biggest proponents of girl power their whole lives and have sincerely propagated the message of ‘Girls Can and Girls Will’ amongst their friends and relatives. We are four sisters; all of us have grown up to be hardworking individuals who are independent, resilient and equal to their male counterparts. They have always supported us in our endeavours with every ounce of their energy, knowing their girls’ potential to realise their dreams.

The writer is a journalist based in Lahore

“… breaking the glass ceiling”