Students urged to stay safe ahead of Raisin Day celebrations

Raisin Day takes place on Monday, October 19, 2015
Raisin Day takes place on Monday, October 19, 2015

St Andrews is bracing itself for the annual round of student ‘celebrations’ which have grown out of the once traditional Raisin Weekend.

And students have again been warned strongly that anti-social behaviour will not be tolerated and could lead to criminal charges and being “severely disciplined” by the University of St Andrews.

With drinking too much being at the root of problems we have also emphasised to the students the need to be safe, encouraging them to look after each other and not place themselves, or their friends, in danger

The now-famous foam-fight in St Salvator’s Quad on Raisin Monday - images of which regularly feature in news outlets around the world - represents the clean, fun side of the occasion but what townspeople have come to dread is the preceding weekend of partying, with drunken students spilling out on to the streets of the town.

In previous years, local residents have reported inebriated students in gangs shouting in the street, breaking bottles, discarding beer cans and causing a nuisance.

Although not an official University of St Andrews event, the institution recognises the problems that can be caused and will operate a call line on Sunday to co-ordinate any help that might be needed.

The warning not to raise hell over Raisin Weekend follows briefing sessions with students in halls of residence with the University, Students’ Association and Police.

“We’d like to build on the improvements in behaviour shown last year,” said PC Norman Hill, the dedicated St Andrews University liaison officer.

“It has been made clear that noise nuisance, anti-social behaviour and drinking in the streets will not be tolerated.

“But with drinking too much being at the root of problems we have also emphasised to the students the need to be safe, encouraging them to look after each other and not place themselves, or their friends, in danger.”

While there will be an increased police presence in the town over the weekend, PC Hill said reports of criminal behaviour should be made by calling 101 or, in the case of emergencies, 999.

In a letter to the Citizen this week, the University’s director of student services, Dr Christine Lusk, clarified the role of the university and Student Association in the annual event.

“We have not ‘created’ it, nor do we ‘own’ it and, in fact, we have not encouraged it for years,” Dr Lusk explained. “However, both the Association and the University recognise that the students themselves have created this tradition and maintain it year on year, so we do try to act as go-betweens with the town, and to minimise any impact student antics might inadvertently have on local residents.

“To this end, we are writing personally to every student to remind them of their responsibility to maintain respect for others and for property. Students will be warned that we shall severely discipline anyone who is found to be breaching the values of our community.”

She continued: “On Raisin Sunday we shall, as usual, be providing a staffed centre in the University to answer any queries or co-ordinate assistance on 01334 462020.

“We would ask any member of the public to call this number if they have any concerns or wish to make us aware of something.”

Earlier this year the University’s rector, Catherine Stihler MEP, defended the traditions of Raisin Weekend, describing it is a “rite of passage.”

She was responding to criticisms about the celebratory weekend at a meeting of St Andrews Community Council.

Raisin Weekend celebrations traditionally begin on a Sunday with freshers, known as “bejants” or “bejantines”, being taken for tea or on a pub crawl by their ‘academic parents’ - older students who have agreed to be mentors.

In return, they present their ‘parents’ with a pound of raisins, which were luxury fare in centuries past.

The tradition of giving raisins has evolved into the giving of wine and other drinks and, in exchange, the academic parents give their ‘offspring’ a formal, often humorous, receipt in Latin.