For a university as characterised by conformity as I believe St Andrews is, it must be vital that actual University-run organisations promote uniqueness and encourage students to embrace their different interests, however much they clash with the norm of St Andrews.
According to a recent Change.org petition, many lesser-known societies feel that the Students’ Association does the opposite of this. The Rock Society, or RockSoc, created a petition about two weeks ago with the title “Petitioning Student Association St Andrews”, which is accompanied by the description “Improve how the St Andrews Student Union treats societies”. The petition reportedly was a “victory”, as it received its goal of 65
The petition addresses the many different complaints that some societies have with the Students’ Association. The problems the Rock Society, along with a few other societies have, include the Union cancelling room reservations last-minute for Union-organised events or because a member of the Association did not approve of the previously-scheduled event, the removal of societies’ advertisements despite prior permission, the Union not following through on promises to provide various items for the societies, the Association taking a rather long amount of time to respond to requests, a lack of sufficient funding for the societies, and, finally, “general hostility and lack of co operation from certain Association members and staff, and other Union staff”. Although the Students’ Association
surely has their own side to this conflict, the fact that the petition exists, and received even above five signatures certainly suggests something is amiss. It is not just the RockSoc that feels as though the Students’ Association has mistreated them; the Craft Society and the Reeling Society also posted comments on the petition that concurred with the Rock Society’s argument.
The President of the Craft Society wrote, “Our major issue is the loss of washable floors. We can no longer use any paint or glue within the union because of this… Also one of our committee members was treated in credibly rudely about an event that was cancelled by Union Staff on the day”. Even if the Association had no choice but to cancel the event, surely they could have been nice and properly apologetic about it! Aside from the more specific problems at hand, there are some complaints that the Students’ Association is biased in its treatment of societies. The petition stated that all of these mistreatments seem to especially “be the case with smaller, more niche societies”. If the Students’ Association cannot be trusted to fairly advocate for all societies equally, then whom can these societies turn to for support? How does a new society get off the ground?
It cannot be denied that the St Andrews environment is one that values money, appearances, and the seemingly unattainable “cool” vibe. Of course, this is the case in most universities, if not places, in the world. But let’s be real: St Andrews encapsulates this to an extreme. For those people that do not necessarily easily relate to most of the students here, it can be very difficult to find others that are relatable and share similar interests. Societies, however, often present the perfect solution to this dilemma. The Shinty Club, for example, is known for providing a tight- knit, family-like community within St Andrews. It is societies like this that are absolutely essential for providing both fun and friendship to students who very easily could not have found it otherwise. Thus, it is surely essential for the Students’ Association to support and encourage each society within St Andrews. The aim of the petition is “to get the SA to acknowledge their shortcomings and make a conscious effort to accommodate all societies more, making clear decisions that are not revoked without a valid reason, and most importantly to have constant and unambiguous communication with societies to ensure that both our, and their, needs are being met”. This does not seem like a far-fetched or unreasonable request from the Rock Society. In fact, it could even be said that they should not have to make any of these requests in the first place.
Within all of the societies at St Andrews, there are bound to be some that are better known than others, some that are respected, others that are scoffed at, and still some that hardly anybody knows about. The point is that it should not matter which societies have which reputation or lack thereof; every society is important to the people that belong to it, and thus each society must be prioritised equally by the Students’ Association, which, after all, is there to help, support, and provide for the students of St Andrews.