Normally, universities have a reputation for being hotbeds of political sentiment, protests, and ‘power to the people’-style movements. Our university, though traditional, is unconventional in this respect – not only is there a lack of left wing opinion, there seems to be a general lack of political action. It cannot be that students here are apolitical – the International Relations department is world renowned and people from all around the globe, particularly from America, come to engage with this subject. Is lack of protest due to universal consensus? Not so – there are societies in St Andrews that cater to particular political views.
For instance, the Labour Society and Conservative Society allow students to express their political views in support of the left and right wing parties, respectively. Unsurprisingly, the former has less than half the number of members as the latter; the political left has little support in St Andrews. We are fortunate to study at a university with people from so many countries and cultures, but, despite the disparity in tuition fees – particularly between international and EU students – there appears to be homogeneity when it comes to political affiliation. We have all heard the jokes about the ‘St Andrews uniform’ of Hunter wellies and Barbour jackets – it’s part of the “it’s funny ‘cause it’s true” line of humor. The conformity in fashion sense seems to reflect a sameness in background, which apparently leads to an invariable political inclination.
In most other places, however, there are at least a small number of students who will carry on protesting, even if they protest alone. It is hard to imagine this happening in St Andrews. When people discuss politics here it seems to be in largely theoretical and intellectual terms, rather than an active engagement with political issues. Fully empathizing with other cultures or peoples and fighting for a cause that doesn’t directly inconvenience one’s life is hard, and it appears as though St Andrews students are not up to the challenge.
In short, St Andrews is politically apathetic. We are physically isolated, and this translates into a mental and emotional removal from global issues. I think we need more political angst in this beautiful Scottish town – our biggest problem here may be the recent closing of Ma Bells, but that does not mean that we should forget about the indignities happening in other places. We should burst the bubble and engage with issues and perspectives from across the political spectrum.
Jo Boon is in the process of setting up a Socialist Society, for those interested in debating left-wing issues. E-mail her at jmb35 if you would like to know more.