St Andrews is an environment designed with the elite in mind. Be it the exclusive fashion shows, the pricey events, or, as one study abroad student described it, “the perfect people walking around living their perfect lives”, the university’s reputation seems a true one.
Among all the extravagance in St Andrews, the one conspicuously absent from most students’ lives is an extravagant academic experience. Oxford has its union and Cambridge has its fellows, but St Andrews has nothing of comparison until recently. Enter The Lafayette Club.
The Club is designed to bring in high profile speakers, politicians, businessmen, human rights activists for low enough prices that anyone can attend its enriching conversations. Founded at the start of 2017, The Lafayette Club brought Robby Mook, Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, for its inaugural event. The setting is intimate: 150 seats in the Hotel Du Vin to listen to speakers, such as the Prime Minister of Malta, the creator of the Hermitage Fund, or a Nobel Peace prizewinner give short lectures before spending the rest of the hour answering student questions. The only prerequisite for attendance is purchasing a low-priced ticket, which is used to help fund future events, before they are all sold out. What could be more inclusive than a club of which everyone can be a part and that enhances the University experience?
Since there are no official members, no flat fee must be paid to attend all of the talks. Students are welcome to attend those events which interest them most, paying between three to seven pounds to hear leaders of both today and tomorrow speak directly to them. The club requires no commitment, other than to its chief mission: promoting conversations and ideas that will help shape our generation.
The Lafayette Club’s goal is to “bring together students and young people with the leaders from around the world who have some idea what the hell is going on (and may even have some thoughts on what to do about it),” a concept which it has perfected. One need only to reference the high caliber of speakers in The Lafayette Club’s short history, and immediate future, for proof.
This focus relates to the club’s name, seemingly random but chosen specifically to honor the 19-year-old Marquis de Lafayette, who sailed from his home country of France to the United States because of his views on liberty and democracy and his desire to help the Americans find freedom from oppression. Born into an aristocratic family, he nonetheless looked to question the world around him and try to find a way to better it, rather than contenting himself with his inheritance. Sent by his country to aid the American colonists, Lafayette explained to Washington, “I am here to learn, not to teach.” Before leaving for America he added to his family crest the motto, Cur Non? (Why not?). Both of these quotes summarize what the club established itself to do.
The club’s talks embody the tradition of learning so ever-present in the 600 year history of St Andrews. The club, founded by two 3rd years preparing themselves to enter the “real” world and leave the Bubble, was conceived of as a vehicle for students who want to make a difference in the world but don’t know where to start. The Lafayette Club aims to nurture these desires, allowing attendees to learn from the successes, and failures, of its speakers. This explains the diversity of speakers that the club looks to bring to St Andrews. As put by one of its founders, the club’s ultimate goal is to “connect the next generation to the people who have some idea of what the hell is going on”, whether the topic is politics, art, literature, finance, or science.
The Lafayette Club may be a newer club on the block, but be it the calibre of speakers that it attracts (the ones for this semester are already up on its website), the weekly event sellouts, or its current status as Society of the Year, it looks like The Lafayette Club is well on its way to becoming as much a staple of the University as its fashion shows and balls.
This semester, The Lafayette Club’s packed line-up includes the Prime Minister of Malta, the former CEO of Nestle and Chairmen of Formula One, a UN high commissioner, and many more. Accounting for all speakers, The Lafayette Club is giving students a new experience every week of the semester. More information about The Lafayette Club can be found at their website, www.thelafayetteclub.com and on their Facebook page, @lafayetteclub.