Over my years as a students' union officer I have had the fortune (and sometimes misfortune) to work with many different people. Many have stood out from the crowd because of their dedication to the simple cause of improving the student experience, against whatever obstacles had to be faced down. And Laura, who had to face some of the toughest odds, was one of the best of these.
When I think of Laura, I will always think of her eyes. They seemed to dominate her face, radiating at once friendliness, compassion, dedication, support and so much more. And that was Laura to a tee. She was one of those people whom it was impossible not to like. Even when one was in disagreement with her there was never any personal animosity whatsoever - it was a professional difference of opinion and in no way affected upon one's friendship with her. What was also astounding was her dedication. She was one of the rare students' union sabbatical officers who served two years, first as Vice President Education and Representation (2003-2004), then as President (2004-2005).
Each year was especially intense for those respective positions. Her year as Vice President Education and Representation saw the battle against the Higher Education Bill, bringing in university top-up fees and moving education away from being for the sake of educating and enhancing people and towards being a business. Laura was at the forefront of Queen Mary's contribution to the fight, never giving in to despair. But her term as President saw Queen Mary students come under threat at the local level, requiring ever more energy and dedication to spearhead the campaign against. This was the year that Queen Mary Students' Union was under threat from a take-over by the College, to lose all independence and become a monkey to the college organ grinder, and it seemed as though there was nothing we could do. It was Laura who rallied us, finding ways for the Students' Union to survive as an independent entity, and lobbying hard to build alliances with those in college who would support us. A referendum with the largest turnout I have ever seen in a students' union was held, generating much media coverage and giving all students the opportunity to reject the proposals. And thanks to Laura we succeeded. Soon, as part of the redevelopment of the campus, the students' union will be relocated to a new site by the Student Village. No greater tribute could be paid than to name it after Laura.
There are many moments I could recall about her, but I will stick to two. The first was when I first arrived at Queen Mary, when the position of Students' Union Postgraduate Officer was vacant. It was Laura who asked and persuaded me to stand for the post in the first place and was a huge source of help as I learnt the ropes. The second was last year, in the aftermath of the defeat of the College's attempted take-over. At a College meeting she and I both attended, an attempt was made to deny that this had ever been on the agenda. Laura stood her ground against this attempt to rewrite recent history and won the room over.
Today has been a very sad day at QMSU, and the reaction of many has shown just how much Laura meant to us all. Most apt are perhaps these words:
- The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long, and you have burnt so very, very brightly.