The University of St Andrews Students for Britain initiated a petition to fly the Union flag over St Salvator’s Chapel on 29 March in response to the British government’s invocation of Article 50.
29 March marked the formal beginning of Britain’s departure from the European Union.
In an official letter to European Council President Donald Tusk, Prime Minister Theresa May wrote, “We are leaving the European Union, but we are not leaving Europe – and we want to remain committed partners and allies to our friends across the continent.”
The petition, which was posted on Change.org on 20 March, noted “the flying of flags from St Salvator’s clock tower in honour of esteemed causes throughout the year.”
The Students for Britain group further requested “the University enact this prerogative in the flying of our National Flag on the triggering of Article 50, which will begin the process of restoring sovereignty to the British parliament.”
As of the evening of 29 March, the petition had garnered 18 online signatures.
One supporter, incoming student George Psichos, wrote he was surprised that St Andrews does not already fly the Union Jack.
“I believe that St Andrews, as one of the United Kingdom’s finest institutions of learning, should fly the national colors as to promote the national character and national pride,” Mr Psichos noted. “I believe it is the duty of such an institution to instill pride and patriotism in Britons who attend as well as an appreciation for the United Kingdom, its people, and its culture to foreign students. This starts at a most basic level, with flying the colors.”
Comments on the petition varied, though all individuals expressed support for the petition.
“The remoaning principal and […] rector need to affirm their commitment to democracy and the will of the people,” student Calum Richardson wrote.
Another contribution by Robert Whalen simply stated “Rule Britannia.”
Student Konstantin Velichkov wrote, “The University ought to demonstrate that its commitment to democracy is genuine, rather than mere rhetoric.”
The founder of University of St Andrews Students for Britain, Ian Donnell, declined to comment on the petition’s status.
The University has yet to acknowledge the petition, and neither the Union Jack nor the European Union flag flew over St Salvator’s Chapel on 29 March.
Following the triggering of Article 50, University Principal Sally Mapstone emailed the St Andrews community to reaffirm the University’s commitment to its international students and staff.
She also detailed several of the University’s Brexit-related initiatives, such as hosting informational sessions for European Economic Area staff, potentially offering subsidised legal advice to those seeking permanent residence, and covering the cost of permanent residence or EEA registration applications.
Professor Mapstone concluded her email with a sentiment she and the University have echoed countless times: “St Andrews is, and will remain, a highly connected global university. We shall continue to welcome staff members and students from all countries of the world.
“These are turbulent political times in Scotland and in the UK. But great universities will always survive turbulence and disruption.”