On Tuesday 21 November, the Joint Councils passed a motion which stated that the Councils believes Brexit is not in the best interest of the University of St Andrews.
The decision was based on two Brexit surveys carried out by Students’ Association President Lewis Wood, the most recent having taken place in October of this year.
In the October survey, 78.78 per cent of respondents stated that they believe that Brexit will have a negative impact on the University.
The motion was proposed by Mr Wood and seconded by four other SRC members before passing unanimously.
The Saint asked why the Joint Council was now taking a political stance as opposed to just fighting for student interests in the Brexit negotiations.
Mr Wood said, “The Students Representative Council is the representative body of all students and is treated as such by external stakeholders, so any motions that it passes of a political nature are accepted as the collective opinion of St Andrews students.
“That’s why we make such a big deal out of elections in Semester 2 – the manifestos and political opinions of the people that you elect shape student representation for the next year, so it’s important to read what candidates are saying, vote accordingly, and consider running if you’d like to get involved.”
During elections for the student representative body held in March of this year, both candidates for Association President, Lewis Wood and Lewis Campbell, were opposed to Brexit.
Nonetheless, current president Lewis Wood ran on a platform of “making our opinions [on Brexit] loud and clear.”
All anonymous responses to the Brexit survey are listed in the final report.
One respondent stated that since Brexit, “I have already encountered xenophobia,” while another asserted that “I feel less welcome here now.”
79 per cent believed Brexit would have a negative impact on St Andrews
The October Survey also lists responses which have optimism for the University following Brexit.
One respondent wrote that Brexit was “an opportunity to end the injustice of EU students paying far less than RUK students.”
The Saint also asked what Mr Wood would say to pro-Brexit students at the University, and if they might feel disillusioned with their representative body following the passage of the motion.
Mr Wood expressed hope that “few students feel disillusioned, because we haven’t come out against Brexit, we’ve claimed that we believe it’s not in the best interest of Higher Education.
“We’re not calling for Brexit to be reversed, but for the potentially detrimental consequences of it in relation to St Andrews and our University community to be alleviated as much as possible.”
He continued, “I also think it’s important to note that our discussion on Brexit was very well advertised, and we put a call out for students to come and shape the statement we would give.
“It was advertised in an all-student email, on social media, and in our ‘Top 5’ things to do in the week, and yet nobody came to the meeting to express that they believed this was not a positive and constructive motion.
“If students want to change the way we’re talking about Brexit, then get in touch with me, or come to a council meeting! I’m a big fan of the quote – ‘Decisions are made by those who show up’, so show up!”
The Joint Councils has previously rejected motions of a political nature. Last academic year, the SRC rejected a motion in opposition to US President Donald Trump with specific regard to his Muslim travel ban.
Members at the time cited that the reason for this was that the decision may not have been representative of the opinion of the entire student body.
The Saint therefore asked why this was not taken into account in regards to the Brexit motion. Mr Wood said, “Our survey revealed that 84 per cent of participants believed that Brexit was not in the best interests of Higher Education – I believe that’s a pretty strong mandate for this motion.
“With regards to the Trump motion, at the time we were certainly very careful as to what politics we should be engaging with. One of the big criticisms of NUS is that it partakes in political discussions that are of no particular relevance to UK Universities, and I’m concerned about adopting the same irrelevancy.”
He continued, “Does St Andrews, a Scottish University with no influence on US politics, have any ability or legitimacy in relation to US politics? I’m not sure, but I think I’d change my vote on that front, and I’d welcome any student who wants to make a political statement to bring it to what is certainly a more politicised body.”