Can The Bubble come down into the real world please?

Sweetie, your elitism is showing

If you’re here reading this, you probably clicked because a) you relate to feelings of frustration towards our sometimes-pretentious-yet-still-entirely-lovable little town, or b) you know that you yourself are part of the problem and you just wanted to engage in a little bit of soul searching.

Either way, you’ll be more than aware of the tag of “elitism” that is often pinned on our university. You’ll also, most likely, be aware that this tag is actually kind of justified.

Initially, I tried to reject the label of elitism that’s so regularly attached to us – who wants to believe that their university is one that marginalises people who didn’t there through the private school system, or are from lower income backgrounds? Yet, as my time here has gone on, it has become harder and harder to ignore.

Recently, I sat in on a talk by one of the cofounders of one of the world’s leading stationery brands and learned all about their creative projects in third world countries.

So far, so good; until I realised that the amount of profit going towards these projects from sales was shockingly low and that the projects themselves only impacted 100 people per year.

Many of the people who benefitted were actually students and therefore already far better off than those who the project was supposedly aiming to help – and all of this was even before they tried to sell us their stationery on our way out of the door, at the entirely reasonable price of just £18 per notebook.

I’m not sure how many of the people in that talk batted an eyelid at the hypocrisy of pitching charity projects with limited impact and then proceeding to try and sell those same overpriced products to students (only this time in a first world country).

This kind of “charity”, running events or activities which largely serve as a money making machine, appears time and again here. What more can we expect in a town where possibly £10,000 of a hall ball budget is handed over to a Radio 1 DJ of questionable talent? Or where it’s totally okay to ask for £150 for a piece of fortified red felt? (It’s a very warm piece of red felt, but still, felt it is.)

I wish I could defend this culture by saying that it only pops up once a year, in the frenzy of hall ball season, where the ever increasing ticket prices are just part of the package we accept in exchange for a really good time – but I can’t. Because this type of thing is everywhere in St Andrews; we see it in the renovation (or, in Albany’s case, the total destruction) of the cheapest halls of residence in town, forcing us to either pay more to live here or simply apply to another university in the first place.

We see it in the clamouring for elusive Christmas Ball tickets every single year, where those who can’t afford to ridiculously offer hundreds of pounds for a resold wristband are edged out by those who can.

We see it at the notorious St Andrews fashion shows, such as FS, where for just 90 quid (per person) you too can sit at a fold up table with a compromised view and share your bottles of champagne with 9 other humans – unless, of course, you want to pay a little extra for the VIP section, or even the illustrious VVIP section, as featured in last year’s Charity Polo Tournament.

The point of all this is not just to rant about people wasting money (alright, maybe it is a bit), or even to condemn people who like going out (I enjoy a good ball as much as the next person) but rather to highlight the reasons that we have the reputation that we do.

All of these factors play in to create an environment where a certain “type” of people feel welcome and others feel excluded. Money is not necessarily the issue, but people’s attitude towards it and its expendability most definitely is.

Cover Image: Amir Emami