It cannot escape the reader that, when walking past East Sands towards the East Sands Leisure Centre, the landscape remains particularly blighted by a pre-industrial ghetto, dominated by towering smoke chimneys and the stench of poverty and ashen decay (or so I am told). Indeed, one can stroll through Albany Park (‘There Which Shall Not Be Named’ by popular nomenclature) and come across young students with eight children living in shoeboxes if they are affluent, or cereal boxes if they are not, who are all willing to sell their bodies for a box of Tesco everyday value cornflakes.
The name of this place is derived from an archaic Gaelic term for Scotland, Alba, quite appropriately for the roving bands of highlanders, neds, and other anachronistic survivors of Thatcherism who still reputedly launch raids on all traffic passing to and from Aldi and this place. One particular expedition there, lead by The St Andrews Revue is of an important note, because after publishing their findings in the video, they were reportedly captured and eaten alive. Their charred remains, according to legend, now form the nicest shanty house in the hall (as the north wind had blown over the many huts made of rabbit bones).
The state of Albany Park truly brings the rest of the town into disrepute. They have no caterers, no cleaners, no double beds, no en suites, no pre-eminent gardens or prominent façades, little Jack Wills and littler still Canada Goose, no neoclassicism, no gothic revival, no romanesque and (god forbid) not a trace of baroque. It’s all in the name, really; Brutalism. Brutalism, good god. What hope could its inhabitants have to live fruitful lives when they’re surrounded by perpendicular lines and a total privation of euclidean geometry? Why would anyone bother to judge the book by its contents when the cover is so deformed and dated? I’m well aware that some take issue with labelling the hell-pyre of a hall as a ‘ghetto’; these people clearly forget the definition of ghetto – a place that looks ugly where no one goes to Ma Bells.
The greatest crime of Albany Park is not that it is a dwarfing monument to economy class living (although truly no court would acquit it) – but that it prevents those of a higher crust from acquiring beach front property. The prevailing issue of the place is two-pronged, like a rusty carving fork, cheaply made, and forged entirely of people poorer than me: the issue of what is to be done with its residents, and what can be done with the land where it is built after it has been properly sanitised.
Let it not be said that the students of St Andrews do not care for their own! We will not treat our unwashed, unshaven, ugly and stunted brothers and sisters with the contempt they surely deserve. No longer shall the Albany Park economy be fueled by popular Freak Shows (although they insist in their garbled, accented tongue that the event is pronounced ‘House Party’). Indeed, for problems there are solutions, and I hereby present ‘A Modest Proposal for the preventing of the poor inhabitants of Albany Park from being a burden on their country or university and for making them beneficial to the public’. Indeed, the tiered plan is as follows:
Firstly, the University should phase out the proletariat underclass who reside there. The question is why they’d be here of all places to begin with? Fortunately the University has made excellent strides in this regard: the enlightened decision to reduce the number of housing bursaries for returning students to thirty-nine will greatly reduce the number of students who shame us by not owning a dinner suit. And yet, it is entirely disgusting that St Andrews is fifth in the rankings of fewest state educated pupils as a percentage – are we not a top three university? One wonders how we have let ourselves slip so far.
I recommend that the number of bursaries should be reduced to only three in order to rectify this. Those three bursaries should be allocated to the victors of a great tournament, a gladiatorial battle to the death in Sallies quad. The poor folk who require a bursary would make themselves useful in the service to this spectacle, where regular students could attend for a nominal fee which would raise money for more worthy causes.
Secondly, we will solve the architectural problem by bulldozing the ground on which it stands and offering a high-end replacement. Fortunately this is not too far gone from the actual proposals: the language of ‘de-ghettoisation’ employed by the Student Union is a step in the right direction, although one needs to stress that the urbane term is simply gentrification. It is not enough to crush Albany Park, to see them driven before us, and to hear the lamentations of their women – rather, fixed proposals have to be established to prevent people of a similar ilk returning.
A rebuilt Albany Park, with a higher standard of living and a higher price point will offer the correct form of competition in the housing market. Where did the deranged idea that St Andrews wants competition in the pricing of housing originate? What St Andrews wants is competition within the luxury housing market! Some will want their luxury housing on Market street, some will want it in listed buildings, and we are compelled, no – morally obligated to provide luxury beachfront housing too, in the form of the new Albany Park. To our benefit, the new housing complex on Abbey Walk that was built with the endorsement of the Student Union has magnificently dashed the hopes of those who believed Pat Mathewson’s promise to “make sure they ring-fence as many rooms as possible for students that need low cost housing”.
The new Albany Park, I recommend, should offer a series of luxury penthouses, containing showers the size of the old buildings, and ideally some gilded statue of Atlas shrugging off the globe. The price point should ideally be higher than the maximum loan size distributed by SAAS and Student Finance England, in order to remind students that if they are reliant only on that loan they are unwelcome here, the same way they are unwelcome at the majority of private accommodation and a considerable amount of rooms in university halls.
We of St Andrews have a reputation to uphold. Royalty studied here, and I’m certain you’re all behind me when I propose that we should be more and more selective in our admissions so that we might return to the golden age of education, wherein everyone who studied here was a member of some monarchy, nobility, gentry, or clergy. Ask yourselves what good are your friends who have no acres to inherit? Wouldn’t our university experience be brightened if we coerce all of the lower and middle classes into leaving? Why are so many so hesitant to make the connection between the prestige of the university and our privation of the poor – and never mind whoever keeps pointing out that other universities consistently score better on league tables without being so casually elitist. We are compelled in following through recent developments to their natural and logical conclusion. The gentrification of Albany Park, by the means outlined above or any other method, serves to further a doctrine of betterment for the university.
For goodness sake, if pricing out the less wealthy students wasn’t a good thing, ask yourself, why would the University as a collective be complicit in endorsing it?