A local resident has accused students of vandalisng his car, putting town-gown relations under strain.
A former student of the University himself, Reverend Doctor John Cameron hit out at the University after students jumped on the bonnet of his car in the early hours of Wednesday last week, causing a “massive dent” in his vehicle.
In an email to the University – that was simultaneously shared with The Saint – Dr Cameron explained why he believed the vandals were students: “We heard the metal bending but by the time we could get out of bed and onto the street they had raced away to the sounds of male and female laughter. “Before you say it could have been ‘townies’ – the perennial excuse – I used to live in London and can tell Home Counties’ accents when I hear them.”
The incident has now been reported to the University’s discipline officer.
However Dr Cameron’s email criticised how the University deals with cases of unacceptable student behaviour. He said: “In the old days when the principal took responsibility for student behaviour a ‘sending down’ offence was to ‘bring the University into disrepute.’
“Today no-one takes responsibility for anything but you should know that two elderly pensioners of limited means think your students are a disgrace.”
The Proctor of the University, Professor Lorna Milne, expressed her apologies for this behaviour.
Her reply was also shared with The Saint. She assured Dr Cameron that the University takes “any misbehavior by our students extremely seriously.”
“If it is possible to identify the person who damaged your car as a student, we will take action. We do have provision within our regulations to expel a student permanently or suspend their studies as a result of unacceptable conduct and I’m sorry to say that in a small number of cases this does happen.”
“As an institution, we utterly condemn antisocial behaviour,” she added.
Professor Milne went on to say that the majority of the student body does not act in such a disgraceful manner.
She said: “I hope you will acknowledge on the whole that the great majority of our students are law-abiding and public-spirited.
“I’m extremely proud of what they do almost all of the time – which makes instances of bad behaviour, that unfairly tarnish the reputation of the whole student body, all the more unacceptable.”
When asked what he thought about this incident in regards to town-gown relations, Dr Cameron told The Saint: “Of course I am biased because when I came up to St Andrews in 1960 on a major residential scholarship from the West- Central coalfields – I thought I had died and gone to heaven.
“I had the time of my life here with Chapel Choir, Kate Kennedy, SRC, Rectorial Drags, I was even Rag Convener, and after my athletics career was over I spent my final years playing for the University golf team.”
“I love this place and am the proudest of alumni and this incident is just the sort of stupid prank that used to drive us wild in the SRC,” he noted.
The reverend also spoke about the tension that can arise from the negative perceptions he believes students and locals hold for each other. He said: “I was moaning away about it to a retired professor down at the R&A and said, ‘if [students] wanted to make a ‘statement’ why did they jump on poor old runabout when there were so many beemers and mercs surrounding it?’
“His reply was that the beemers and mercs almost certainly belonged to fellow students and it would be very embarrassing if it turned out to be a chum’s car. No self-respecting student would be seen dead in my elderly VW, so it could safely be assumed to be a townie vehicle. “Of course he was kidding but that actually represents a sizeable proportion of town thinking.”
Dr Cameron believes that the only solution to these problems is tor emind students that their actions have consequences.
Pat Mathewson, President of the Students’ Association, emphasised that although the Students’ Association believes such behavior is unacceptable, it is in no way representative of the student body as a whole.
He said: “We are first and foremost members of the local community and take that responsibility very seriously. In the last year alone, we have expanded our internal laws to enable the discipline of students who damage town-gown relations and currently work closely with the University to this end.
“The relationship between students and local residents is fundamentally one of volunteerism, stewardship and support for local business. The Students’ Association will continue to foster these bonds within our community.”
The University declined to comment on this matter when asked by The Saint.