Cars damaged; townsfolk abused; members of staff bitten; shops robbed; buildings damaged; violence in the street. The
long litany of excesses that have come to characterise Raisin Sunday over the years will make even the most fiercely
proud Raisin reveller blanch. This year appears to have been no different.
Dozens of irate locals took to social media to condemn the high jinks that have become increasingly high spirited in recent years: “Vandals”, “outrageous”, “tragic” and “disgraceful”, just a few of epithets thrown about to describe students’ behaviour. Grievances were myriad and their details stark. But one word kept rearing its head:“tradition”.
Apologists for the weekend’s revelries want to preserve the “tradition”while its critics say the “tradition” has lost its meaning and has simply become a licence for appalling behaviour. In 2013, Professor Lorna Milne, the proctor, threatened to withdraw her support for the “tradition” if the University witnessed reports of anti-social behaviour.
This year’s customary email struck a similarly candid tone. “Despite firm warnings last year, events on Raisin Sunday 2013 stretched the patience of University staff and our fellow citizens too far. We cannot defend student actions when a minority create a nuisance in the streets, damage town property, are rude to others, and even, on occasion, become aggressive or violent,” she informed students.
One point laboured through out the email was the University’s decision to disassociate itself from Sunday’s activities. “This year…we shall have more formal arrangements for Raisin Sunday than in previous years”. As far as the University is concerned, “Raisin Sunday and Monday are very different from each other, Professor Milne wrote.
The Monday’s foam fight invariably makes the splash of at least a few Scottish papers and, if it is a really slow news day, the inside of several English ones as well. Indeed, the sight of foam clad first years grinning is one of St Andrews’ quirks that sets
it apart from other UK institutions. A University prospectus is nothing without at least one photo of freshers covered in shaving foam.
The Sunday, conversely, makes headlines for all the wrong reasons. It’s a tradition the University
probably wish had never existed.“Raisin Sunday has in some quarters taken on a tone that selfishly disregards others and disrespects the town. This is almost always associated with alcohol,” Professor Milne noted. “Raisin Sunday is your event”.
St Andrews’ website will tell you that Raisin Sunday sees students enjoy a tea party at their mother’s house before a pub crawl or party at their father’s house. The official version of events bears little resemblance to the current celebration, however. The combination of time, alcohol and a fetishistic attachment to “tradition” has proved toxic.
But what to do? The University’s attempt to distance itself from Raisin Sunday does nothing to help. It may
threaten to “change the tone” of Raisin Sunday forever but any veiled threat is in fact an admission that the University is powerless to the spiralling problem.
This newspaper believes in students’ right to celebrate Raisin Sunday. However, if these Raisin revelries become an excuse for behaviour that threatens to upset the relationship between students and locals then
something needs to change. And perhaps it is that much manipulated word that holds the solution: tradition.
Current tradition dictates that on Raisin Sunday you drink to excess. Current tradition dictates that the more you drink, the more you will enjoy your Raisin. For the good of St Andrews and the relationship it has with the people who live here, it is
time to detoxify the current interpretation of Raisin and remember the real tradition.