The summer before I came to St Andrews, our little town was in my newsfeed constantly. Not because anything exciting had actually happened, but because I was compulsively researching it. It made me feel a connection with a place I’d only been to once before, and the more I learned, the less nervous I felt about spending the next four years of my life there. It helped that seeing St Andrews in the news was a largely pleasant affair in my first year. As a stereotypical St Andrews student – in that I was rejected from Oxbridge and took it quite hard – seeing headlines about how we were better than Oxford (sort of, in certain subjects, according to certain places) was music to my ears.
I found myself doing much the same thing this summer, although by now I’m so familiar with St Andrews that I could walk down our three main streets with my eyes closed. Instead of trying to ease myself into the town, I was trying not to leave, as though I could close the gap between my room in St Andrews with my room back home through the windows on my laptop.
Largely, I think it worked, even if recently St Andrews news hasn’t been quite as positive as usual – especially surrounding the pandemic. Compared to most of my friends, I’m a St Andrews apologist. And on those times when they’ve gotten things wrong, it seems more likely to me that they’ve made honest mistakes, rather than been caught out in a sinister ploy to make as much money as possible, with Sally Mapstone as the mastermind dragon atop a hoard of university gold.
However, as with practically every other institution, the university could be doing a better job handling the pandemic. People shouldn’t have been railroaded into costly accommodation contracts before they knew what they were signing up for this year, as the BBC reported. The timing of the online-only teaching announcement could credibly be called suspicious by the university’s critics. And given that the effectiveness of an impotent rage-filled St Fessdrews post, the angry student’s natural recourse, seems so far to be fairly limited, maybe wider publicity from the BBC is what we need for change to be enacted.
The university’s pandemic response, alongside the ongoing Alpha Epsilon Pi scandal, have rightly occupied most of the media’s coverage of St Andrews. But I’ve found that it’s important to take stock of the positive developments as well, so here’s one I found recently. There’s been an uptick in the number of international students coming to British universities. Considering most people expected that the number of international freshers would be catastrophically low, this is obviously great news for St Andrews’ finances. But, on a wider level, it also helps assuage the fear that St Andrews might fall victim to what seemed an inevitable consequence of the pandemic – that the world would become more insular, less connected. That would be anathema for St Andrews, and we should be grateful it looks like it won’t happen. And even though the university itself has made less than stellar decisions, its students usually make up for it somewhat.
I always enjoy finding the positives about our university in the papers – because let’s face it, we’re unlikely to find any on Fessdrews. Reading about St Andrews was a way to connect with it before I came here, and it was a lifeline during this interminably long summer, despite the news often being less than perfect. Now that I’m back, I don’t need that lifeline so much. But I’m still excited whenever I see the bubble in the news – hopefully this semester it’ll be for better reasons.