In somewhere like St Andrews, where during term-time students make up a considerable proportion of the town’s population, positive community relations are of the utmost importance. Whilst for the most part residents and students get on, there is undoubtedly tension from time to time, especially over issues like housing and noise. Making sure those relations not only run smoothly, but improve in a sustainable way, is part of the portfolio of the current Community Relations Officer, Morgan Morris.
Mr Morris is a second-year Biology and Geography student, who was elected to the position of Community Relations Officer in March 2018 having served on the ComRels subcommittee as Freshers’ Rep during the last academic year.
Having attended the nearby Wade Academy in Anstruther, Scotland, Mr Morris knows the town of St Andrews well and felt that this role would give him the chance to “really immerse myself in St Andrews and make a difference being here using my local knowledge.”
Being a relatively new position within the Students’ Association as well as a position that inherently does a lot of work behind the scenes means that very few people actually know what being involved in Community Relations here in St Andrews actually means, according to Mr Morris.
His role as Community Relations Officer sees him sit on both the Students’ Representative Council (SRC) and Students Services Council (SSC), and he was elected earlier this year to sit on the Executive Committee.
Mr Morris claims that one of the best aspects of the role has been the ability to meet new people across the town.
He said, “My role entails that I represent the students and the locals. If there are issues coming up or opportunities that arise, we bring it together and promote it to students and residents.”
He also added, “I also sit on the community council, I go to their monthly meetings and we discuss things going on in the town and so forth.
“There’s a lot of things that come with it that people don’t really see but it’s a really good job to meet loads of people in the town. I’ve met so many new local residents since March.”
Having formed his subcommittee in May, just before last semester’s exam period, Mr Morris and his team have been involved in a number of campaigns this semester, all of which have had the intention of maintaining harmony between students and residents.
He told The Saint, “We worked on the May Dip campaign with the Wellbeing committee to ensure that everybody was safe and leaving the community as they found it before May Dip happened. During Freshers’ Week we ran the bonfire campaign and we ran the Raisin campaign with the Sabbatical officers and Wellbeing.”
As Mr Morris pointed out, those campaigns are things that students notice and are aware of during those festivities, but outsiders often don’t take much notice of who is responsible for them. If the Community Relations subcommittee were not there, however, students and residents would undoubtedly notice and the town would be in a far worse state.
Something Mr Morris hopes everyone will notice is Community Relations Week in Week 11, or Monday 26 November to Saturday 1 December, which is the crescendo of his subcommittee’s work throughout this semester.
There are a number of events that will take place across the University during Week 11, and on the Sunday of Week 10, with the culmination being the annual St Andrew’s Day celebrations on Saturday 1 December.
The events they are holding include a West Sands beach clean on the Sunday alongside the Fellowship, a “Meet Your Community Council” reception in Beacon Bar on Tuesday 27 November, an East Sands Beach Clean in partnership with the Environment subcommittee on Wednesday 28 November, and finally a Chariots of Fire film screening in the Buchanan Lecture Theatre on Thursday 29 November.
Throughout the week, they will also be running a “Meet Your Neighbour” campaign, something that is clearly quite important to Mr Morris.
He said, “We’d really like people to go in and have a cup of tea with their neighbours and tell stories. This campaign has the opportunity to win tickets for three of the Christmas events in the Union.
“If you submit 100 words of your story of what you did to go and meet your neighbour, you can win these tickets.”
The showpiece of the week is the St Andrew’s Day celebration. With some national media outlets already lined up to attend, it is set to be a spectacular occasion and has already gained significant attention on social media.
Mr Morris said, “We have the market in the morning (organised in conjunction with BID St Andrews and the Fellowship) from 11 am to 4 pm, with lots of student stalls and local resident stalls, food trucks, and there’ll be music.
“There’s a little break in between and then we have a ceilidh on South Street, which we’re aiming to be one of the largest ceilidhs in the UK, or at least Scotland. We have performances throughout that as well, and that leads into a parade down South Street and down to East Sands where there’ll be fireworks around the Cathedral which should be really good fun.
“We’re hoping for a really good turnout of students and residents to make it a really big event.”
Whilst Mr Morris said that they wouldn’t have someone to officially count the amount of people present for the Ceilidh, the current record is approximately 250 and he was “pretty certain” that they would be able to beat that and do a quick head count to prove it.
Although the plans for St Andrew’s Day and the celebrations that will follow are already in place, Mr Morris was keen to stress that there are still rewarding ways for students to get involved.
“We’re looking for volunteers for the market, the parade, to marshal things. It’s a really good opportunity for students to get involved – hopefully it’ll go towards their volunteering hours from the Students’ Association and they’ll also get a free dinner voucher if they’d like to volunteer for the Saturday.
“It’s a good opportunity to see behind the scenes of St Andrew’s Day and help make it really great.”
Mr Morris said that St Andrew’s Day is a “great opportunity” to bring students and residents together in a positive way, but that those positive community relations shouldn’t stop there and that we can all do more as students to make everyone’s lives that bit more enjoyable.
“Be aware of the neighbours around you, take the time to go and say hello to them, have a cup of tea with your neighbours. Take care with your bins – just be courteous of the town.
“Of course we live here for four years, but many of the residents have been living here for more than 20 years and have grown up here. You can also learn a lot from them about the town.”
Beyond this semester, Mr Morris and his team are looking ahead to next semester and broader projects. Whilst he acknowledged that the elections in March do hamper the amount you can get done, he is hoping to extend community outreach in order to “let the community know that there is a position here that represents them.”
Those who would like to get involved with the Community Relations team are welcome to attend their subcommittee meetings on Tuesdays at 5 pm in Society Room A, or email Mr Morris at email@example.com.
He will also be getting office hours next semester in the Main Bar, where any students or residents with questions, queries or event suggestions are welcome to reach him.
Improving community relations is something that should be important to all of us in this wonderful little corner of the UK. With Mr Morris’ enthusiasm and passion at the helm, they appear to be in a pair of safe and capable hands.