Upon my arrival in St Andrews, the crowds and bare Tesco shelves transported me back to when I was in first year. The first day I walked the hallowed streets of St Andrews, I felt overwhelmed with joy and an unsettling amount of pressure. In particular, the pressure to attend certain events was a constant. How could I possibly have skipped THE Opening Ball? Everyone else was going, and it only made sense that I should too. Not going would mean missing out. Going would mean £35 –and this was only the beginning.
Before deciding to attend St Andrews, I knew it was an elite university. Unfortunately, our university possesses both types of elites: the academic elite and the monetary elite. Although these types are not mutually exclusive, those among the monetary group dominate at the social expense of their peers. This domineering presence poses a threat to the creation of an inclusive St Andrews social scene.
Maybe, for the majority of us, dropping £35 for a night out once every few months isn’t a huge setback. However, when one ball follows the other, funds can quickly dry up. Last year, the money spent on a ticket for May Ball was worth two to four weeks of generous grocery shopping, depending on your choice to enter the night as a VIP, with£70 for VIP and£45 for general. Traditions such as pricey Christmas dinners, with an average price of £20, also prevent those with lesser funds from participating socially in their sports club. Social life in St. Andrews is expensive – it’s difficult to keep that in perspective.
Of course, one could argue that there are many less costly alternatives to these events. However, these alternatives are often on the periphery of the stereotypical St. Andrean social calendar. If we want our bubble to be inclusive, the prices of these events need to change.
Yes, our balls raise a lot of money for charity. Additionally, I believe that charitable contributions are something our university can and should be proud of. However, there are other ways to fundraise that do not directly alter the diversity of our student community. At some events, the expenses often result in little profit.
If charity is as central to us as it seems, we should easily be able to collect huge sums of donations by other creative means. In the meantime, I wish for more affordable events to be in the focus of our St. Andrean social calendar.
In my first year at St Andrews, I struggled to see past the expensive social gatherings. Once I did, however, I met brilliant minds and kind friends — who couldn’t afford Opening Ball either.