Hypocrisy, greed and corruption: a St Andrews story

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lower college lawn

A response to the below article has been published. Out of respect for those who felt personally targeted, names of specific events (regardless of context) have been removed. 


St Andrews charity events are a terrible shame.

An outsider would not think it. Every year, we students fulfil infeasible fantasies through our charity fashion shows, balls and festivals. St Andrews has established a place for itself outside the shadow of Wills and Kate, and that place is a dazzling spot in the sun. Most adults, in their entire lifetime, will not attend events of the same calibre as those hosted by our student body. Champagne and black tie, VIP areas and customised cocktails – all are things suited to a socialite’s diary. In St Andrews, they form the building blocks of our Facebook newsfeeds, alternating places with the latest promotional cover photo change.

Be it our innate ambition or the competitive edge fostered by all those Oxbridge rejections, St Andrews certainly excels in the art of FOMO. Considering this admirable spirit, it is a shame that our University’s largest inside joke revolves around corruption, embezzlement and excess.

dancing guys in tuxedos
Photo: Taylor Almeraz

Every student has participated in the collective laugh shared at the mention of the phrase “charity event.” Even when no explicit joke is made, the sarcasm remains inherent, as though the notion of a genuinely charitable committee could not be fathomed at this University. “It’s for charity” lost its lustre somewhere, somehow, and now holds a full-time position as a punchline.

Nowhere else can such a pathetic punchline be found, and nowhere else is a student body so blatantly hypocritical in its humour. We laugh at the idea of an event being for charity, call a committee corrupt; then we buy a ticket anyway, attend the event, enjoy the evening. We have, by our own definition, participated in the system that effectively steals money from charity. To stand contentedly in a marquee, ice cream in one hand and Cava in another, laughing at the thought of all the money charity won’t be receiving, seems rather cruel – veracity of such beliefs aside.

In this regard, I find St Andrews to be completely bizarre. Corrupt clubs and committees are treated as an open secret: “Sure, it’s for charity,” people say, winking slyly as they queue for tickets; “I’m sure it’s for a great cause,” as they fork over a fistful of cash; “Bet the donation will be massive,” as they enter the marquee. These people intend for the committee to be the butt of the joke; and yet, I see the charity as the ultimate recipient of their mockery. Never have I heard an individual say, “I refuse to attend this event because I believe the organisers embezzle money.” Not once. People prioritise their desire for a party over the well-being of a charity – assuming that corruption has even taken place to begin with.

Funnily, the event itself often acts as a breeding ground for these gossip sessions. Event guests cheerfully ruminate on the ways in which the chosen charity will be screwed over, not bothering to admit their own roles in such a system. These event-goers appear blind to their own hypocrisy, unable to recognise that by purchasing a ticket, they are enabling the very organisations that they baselessly claim are corrupt.

champagne opening ball
Photo: Taylor Almeraz

These paradoxical accusations stem in part from self-consciousness. We are students, privileged by the very nature of being at this university. On a certain level we recognise the ridiculousness of our grandiose society. “Starving” students are not meant to pop bottles of Veuve Clicquot and bid on diamond necklaces; we should be drinking Lambrini and window-shopping at Accessorise, surely. As spectacular as these nights can be, certain guests may feel embarrassed to be participants in such a flagrant display of materialism.

These people combat awkward self-awareness with deprecation: By smugly expressing their disapproval of the ball and disdain for the committee, the event becomes an ironic expedition instead of a display of wealth. Never mind that they paid £30 for a secondhand afterparty ticket, after failing to secure a table in the dinner ballot. They may look across the dancefloor at Kinkell Byre and tell themselves that they are better than the rabble, because they know the truth.

But what is the truth? Where do these rumours of corruption originate?

Hand-in-hand with self-awareness comes self-hatred. St Andrews, for all its elitism and pride, is wrought with a powerful sense of scorn for itself. “Classic St Andrews!” frequently captions photos of champagne and dinner jackets – but it’s okay because it’s ironic, right? Unfortunately, these jokes only serve to propagate the culture that we often criticise. They planted the seed for 2012’s ‘champagning’ incident, a viral video of St Andrean males pouring champagne onto their heads. The video netted criticism from countless publications, alumni and the University, eventually necessitating a formal apology from the creators. They attributed the video to a misplaced desire to parody our uni’s reputation as “posh.” Somewhere between overturning a bottle of Moët and laughing at a local charity, that reputation has become a sad reality.

As previously stated, the students who ridicule the charitable nature of balls do not intend to trivialise the charities themselves. Rather, they hope to express their hatred for the event organisers. Numerous clubs and committees fall victim to the twisted relationship that St Andrews shares with its own reputation, a relationship defined by a simultaneous embrace and rejection of elitism. These committees orchestrate the grandest events of the year, all of which sell-out amidst high levels of demand. Despite their commercial successes, members are frequently targeted by their own guests, who fall back onto accusations of embezzlement to reconcile themselves with their baseless hatred of a charitable club.

polo tournament food champagne
Photo: Sammi Ciardi

All that said, there is the small potential for truth hidden within this predominately unfounded litany of complaints.

Imagine an event attended by 1,060 people. Hypothetically, this event may be divided into three ticket tiers: VVIP, VIP, and Standard. Each tier grows proportionally smaller as the price point increases, meaning that the majority of guests will be Standard. We may consequently break the guest list down into 600 Standard guests, 400 VIP guests, and 60 VVIP guests. In this scenario, we may charge Standard guests £20, VIP guests £45 and VVIP guests £60. Some hasty maths places the total revenue from ticket sales alone at £33,600.

£33,600 is a lot of money for a theoretical teenager to have in his or her back pocket. Based on this, I understand the skepticism that many people hold for our committees. These are numbers that working adults may be tempted by; in the unchecked hands of a student, it feels dangerously unsecured – particularly if the money is placed in that student’s personal savings account, rather than a monitored committee account.

I do not have the authority to say, without a doubt, that there is no deception present within St Andrews. But no problems have ever been solved by senseless, bitter rumours which are quickly discredited by the innate hypocrisy of their makers. Until students put their money where their mouths are, the system that they claim to hate will continue to function.

By all means, purchase event tickets. But do take heed: at most parties, it is considered rude to accuse the host of corruption while drinking their champagne.

32 COMMENTS

  1. I was expecting, after the irate start to the article, to have some people named and shamed!

    Bring out the guillotines! The crowds are baying for blood!

    ‘The blood of the martyrs will water the meadows of France!’ (Or rather, Lower College Lawn)

      • You seem like someone who likes to reply to comments on university newspaper website articles. I recognise that I like to reply to people who reply to comments on university website articles.

  2. Interesting the author is on the ‘Don’t Walk’ committee yet fails to mention this in is the article…. Do you recommend we hipocrites boycott that too?

  3. Well and truly agree. I think the finest bit of journalism The Stand attempted in years was their aim to work out exactly how much money these events actually send to charity. The evasiveness of just about every ‘charity’ event seemed to confirm the suspicion that they send embarrassingly little to the charities themselves. And of course, because these are ‘charitable events’ rather than actually registered charities there’s zero accountability.

    The truly bizzare thing is how much these events insist on the charity label. I don’t mind that groups have managed to establish important events in the term, nor that they probably pay themselves for their effort, but I do think people should mind that they label it a charity event when they won’t go on record saying most of the benefits go to the organisers rather than charity.

  4. I agree that the people who go to these events and gossip about them aren’t exactly consistent, but the fact that some attendees are hypocrites shouldn’t release the organisers from the burden of following the bare minimum standards of charitable accountability which they generally dodge year on year.

    Just because these events sell out doesn’t mean the entire student body is somehow complicit. Plenty of people don’t go to those events and plenty of them laugh at the charitable pretense.

  5. This is a pathetic attempt at journalism from The Saint. The author is trying to make a serious argument of embezzlement by committees. I appreciate the go however this is invesitgative journalism with no actual sources. How the editor of this paper has allowed this to be published is frankly quite pathetic.

    Is this an op-ed? Is this just random gossip that the author has fluffed out with stupid language? I honestly don’t know what this is but it’s a shame that this is the standard of journalism that is now accepted. If you are going to make claims Natasha Franks you need to have a basis for these claims. You have to have hard facts or sources. You can’t write a scathing report on committees if all you are going by is, to use your words, “gossip.” You should be embarrassed as should The Saint for publishing an article that is factually incorrect.

    The Saint should publish an apology and seriously consider what is published in the future because the content of this article is nothing short of defamatory.

    • ah, i believe the article landed rather well, shame about those frayed nerves James, Im sure when you take a good hard look at those whom you defend, you might see its all for the best

  6. Absolute rubbish. Author is on the DW committee, is a member of the hunter-clad shooting club she denounces and asked to take part in the St Andrews Shooting Challenge (the precursor to Welly Ball). Hypocrite.

  7. NATASHA.

    YOU WERE ONE OF US. YOU EVEN STOOD UP TO THOSE ARROGANT FS PRICKS! AND NOW? YOU’VE JOINED THEM… AND NOW YOU’RE EVEN TRYING TO DEFEND THEIR EMBEZZLEMENT PRACTICES?!

    • And what they do make goes to their charity; whether it’s a little or a lot, it still is definitely going somewhere other than the committee’s pockets.

  8. When you buy a £30+ ticket, here’s where your ‘charity’ money goes:
    To “Press” (like Natasha who is “Events Editor”) get FREE access to ALL balls (to ‘review’ them).

    To “DJs” (your friend who just bought a mixer, doesn’t really know how to use it, but does what everyone else does, so you’re happy) and
    To “Photographers” (ditto expensive camera) don’t just get free entry, they get paid ~£100-200

    Sure, people who are working to entertain guests should be paid. What’s corrupt is the hiring system, which is not based on merit, but connections. Natasha is on the same DW committee as the DJs behind Heat, House of Horror, Tea House etc.

    This DJ corruption extends to weekly events:
    1. Know someone on DW committee
    2. Get them to select you as “DW Head of Music”
    3. Get free flyers handed out hyping your events (a.k.a. “The Saint” ‘s positive reviews written by your trusty friend on the inside), earning you £150-200 for a night in The Vic.

    Until Natasha cleans up her conflict of interest, The Saint isn’t publishing “News/Reviews”, it’s publishing “Advertising”.

  9. I was quite surprised to see this particular article attached to Miss Franks’ name. Something about “Judge not lest ye be judged” I think

  10. first year students are very susceptible to “the game” and after a few years they graduate, its hard to change a system in that timeframe: but it is possible.

    FS & Co have to think very carefully about how they show off st andrews to 17-19 year olds who arrive: if your hot, your in in, if not, you cant even audition..

    BRAVO MISS FRANK! A TERRIFIC ARTICLE. bold and brave and dangerous, whatever the personal consequences. just what journalism should be. I support you to the hilt in this. you will find it is not just teenagers who get misty eyed and forgetful at sock fulls of cash.

    OPEN THE BOOKS ON ALL ST ANDREWS EVENTS: EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM, published on their websites and here on the saint. money in, money out, money left, where it goes. every treasurer should be able to do it. dont be afraid of a bowtie and a faux aristocratic veneer… and definitely don’t bankroll the little buggers,

    • What? what? how does that mean anything related to the article? this poorly written article is about how “greedy” and “corrupt” the St. Andrews ball culture is. if you do not like pollution, then petition our lawmaker, don’t comment on a student’s article.

      Regarding the article, the author brings up interesting points but I disagree about the corruption aspect. Life isn’t fair. If they want to say they are in the name of charity, yet only donate 1 pence to a charitable organisation, then technically they are not lying. All of this goes back to corporate society in general. “corruption” is just a term used by lefties to attack the upper classes and their successes in life. This is why we need Donald Trump to be elected on Tuesday. #makeamericagreatagain

  11. I cannot believe you guys are avoiding the real issue here. The author of this article probably had a huge night and wrote this hungover

  12. Honestly I don’t care if they are corrupt, my stance is a lazy fair approach to all this. Do you know how many bake sales I have to walk by on my way to the library?? No? somewhere between the price of a bottle of Grey Goose and a Canadian Goose jacket!!
    Natasha Frankly I’d much rather have a ball in which I can indulge myself. Champagne. Drink. Tuxes. Ball Gowns. Huge. Night. If the ball goers have a even a large night (with chips) then its worth it.

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