Geraint Morgan is treasurer of the Celtic Society. The opinions expressed in this letter are his own, and not representative of the views of the society.
I am an executive committee member for a well-established student society in St Andrews and would like to respond to Ms Flores’ article in the 7th of March edition. Ms Flores’ main gripe with Society ‘events’ is their repetitive nature, rarely breaking the mould of balls, fashion shows, etc.
I fear that Ms Flores has misunderstood the nature of a society. A Society is not an events committee. Its purpose is to pursue the common interests held among its members, not merely to hold large events. When it does hold these events, most societies are celebrating their year, their community, and their fellowship. Ignoring Ms Flores’ clear disregard for the local population (essentially describing them as culture-less, a crass statement which highlights everything which is wrong with the town-gown relationship here), she does raise an important point. St Andrews does not have the night-life of a large city.
But this shouldn’t come as a surprise to students here. This is a small town, whose population numbers around fifteen thousand, and students should not come here without understanding that the nightlife will not be much to write home about. Students should not act like surprised pikachus on the lack of a nightclub. If they desired that form of student experience, many other universities across the world would have provided a more suitable location. Yet they chose to come to this wonderful, quiet, town in North East Fife. Ms Flores is right that societies do fill the gap left by the lack of an entertainment industry. But they are so much more. They are communities, and their events express only a small portion of what they do. Most societies have regular meetings which allow the formation of genuine human bonds, often without inebriation and without a fee beyond membership. Whilst we may be ‘playing the same games over and over again’, I see nothing wrong with that if we enjoy them!
There is an extent to which some societies duplicate the work of others. But the situation is often more nuanced than this. Whilst some societies may have similar objectives, their cultures are often fundamentally different. My society essentially never charges far beyond a dozen pounds for members for events, including our balls. However, another society affiliated with the union with very similar objectives regularly chares members over £70 pounds for an event!
A diversity of student societies can only be seen as a positive in my view. Each society is different, having its own culture and responding to the interests of one specific group. That some societies replicate each other should be welcomed, keeping the whole body of societies on their toes.
If Ms Flores would like to get in contact with me, I would be more than happy to show her what a well-rounded and diverse community looks like in the form of a society.