St Andrews grad claims Kate and William’s university can ‘feel like a bad place to be a woman’

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A recent graduate of the University of St Andrews has claimed the academic institution can ‘feel like a bad place to be a woman’.

Writing in The Times, the anonymous student said there was a level of wealth and privilege on show that felt ‘medieval’, and told how a friend of hers alleged she was groped by a male tutor finishing his PhD.

The Scottish university, which was attended by Prince William and Kate Middleton in the early noughties, recently came under fire after sex assault claims were levelled against members of a US-style fraternity.

Several members of a chapter of the Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi), an all-male and predominantly Jewish society founded in New York in 1913, were suspended following a series of claims made on the St Andrews Survivors Instagram page in July.

A recent graduate of the University of St Andrews has claimed the academic institution can 'feel like a bad place to be a woman'. Pictured: stock image

A recent graduate of the University of St Andrews has claimed the academic institution can ‘feel like a bad place to be a woman’. Pictured: stock image

And last month a handful of members of the Kate Kennedy Club, an exclusive society founded in 1926, were accused by students of sexual assaults including groping, sexual violence and misogynistic drunken behaviour. 

One woman claimed she suffered a ‘panic attack’ after a member of the club, best known for its annual procession where members dress as historical figures including Mary, Queen of Scots, assaulted her at a student ball. The Kate Kennedy Club described the allegations as ‘appalling’.

While the student who penned the article for The Times acknowledged the claims were ‘shocking’, she said she was ‘not surprised’.

‘Even when it isn’t a matter of harassment St Andrews can feel like a bad place to be a woman,’ she wrote. 

‘Not only was the level of privilege and wealth on show at the university overwhelming but, thanks to the number of secretive drinking societies and expensive balls, it wasn’t just the architecture that felt medieval… Raucous, drunken behaviour is common and largely applauded. Drinking and dining societies abound.’

The Scottish university, pictured, which was attended by Prince William and Kate Middleton in the early noughties, recently came under fire after sex assault claims were levelled against members of a US-style fraternity

The Scottish university, pictured, which was attended by Prince William and Kate Middleton in the early noughties, recently came under fire after sex assault claims were levelled against members of a US-style fraternity

She made a further claim that drinking societies extend to sports clubs, with regular Wednesday night club nights seeing some male members ‘grab and grope’ women in the student union. 

The recent female alumnus said an incident in her second year, which happened at a local night club during a society-organised night, changed her feelings about St Andrews – the UK’s third oldest university – forever.

What is the Kate Kennedy Club? 

The Kate Kennedy Club, an exclusive society founded in 1926, traces its origins back to the 15th century. 

It is famous for its annual Kate Kennedy Procession, where thousands of students and citizens gather on the streets to watch Scotland’s oldest historical pageant.

According to the society, the procession leaves the medieval gates of St Salvator’s College. 

The procession traces its origins to the adoration by students of the niece of Bishop Kennedy, the founder of St Salvator’s College, the oldest in the University. This niece was Lady Katharine Kennedy, affectionately known as Kate, the fairest and most beautiful woman in her day. 

The part of Kate is traditionally played by a first year male student, whose identity is a well-guarded secret until the procession begins. 

According to the society: ‘The crowd’s anticipation builds outside St Salvator’s Quad as over a hundred colourfully draped characters from the history of St Andrews march out of the medieval gate – characters as diverse as Robert the Bruce and John Cleese, Mary Queen of Scots and Rudyard Kipling – all culminating with the unveiling of Kate. 

‘Horse drawn coaches, the jester entertaining local children, the Pipe and Military Bands filling the streets with melodies, and Kate’s shield bearers charming the crowds by handing out daffodils are just a few of the happenings that make the Kate Kennedy Procession a special day for town and gown alike.’ 

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She recalled being groped on the bottom by a local man who was playing pool – but when she reported him to the society that had organised the evening, she claims ‘nothing was done’ and she had to walk past him when she left.  

‘Almost every woman I know at St Andrews could share a similar story — many far worse,’ she added.

The student claimed a fellow graduate told her a university tutor, who was finishing his PhD, ‘tried to feel her up’ in a club and was ‘very sexually forward’ – and behaved inappropriately with a friend of hers, leaning in close during conversations and following her on Instagram.  

Other students she spoke to, she claims, told her they were plagued by harassment by a young man she shared her digs with; she said he became so ‘violently intimidating’ she didn’t feel safe in her room asked to be moved away from him. But, she alleges, she was told it would take two weeks and urged not to let on why she was moving in case the man in question was ‘bullied’. 

After approaching a female member of staff in a different department, she claims her concerns were taken seriously and she was able to move the same day, but said she felt too daunted by the process to report it.

A spokesman for St Andrews told The Times: ‘We require that every member of our community treats others with dignity, courtesy and respect. We do not tolerate any forms of unacceptable behaviour, abuse or violence. We take very seriously our duty to ensure all students and staff enjoy a safe environment.’

They added that AEPi and Kate Kennedy are private organisations and since the Survivors account was first published, the university has received one actionable report, from a former student, which it is investigating. 

‘No others have come forward, despite repeated appeals from the university and the police,’ they said.

The AEPi spokesman said: ‘Brothers who are found guilty of this kind of behaviour following an investigation by the proper authorities will be immediately brought up for expulsion from the fraternity… At St Andrews, our chapter continues to co-operate with the university and local authorities and are relying on them to conduct this investigation.’  

A Kate Kennedy spokesperson commented at the time: ‘The allegations made against individuals are not representative of our membership nor a wider culture within the club. We have a zero-tolerance policy of such behaviour and, as a club, are committed to ensuring that this message is clearly understood by all members.’ 

Since its inception in July, the St Andrews Survivors Instagram channel has been flooded with claims from current and ex-students about rape, sexual assault and harassment.

Since its inception in July, the St Andrews Survivors Instagram channel has been flooded with claims from current and ex-students about rape, sexual assault and harassment. According to its bio, the St Andrews Survivors account aims 'to expose the reality of sexual abuse at our university' and 'empower survivors'

Since its inception in July, the St Andrews Survivors Instagram channel has been flooded with claims from current and ex-students about rape, sexual assault and harassment. According to its bio, the St Andrews Survivors account aims ‘to expose the reality of sexual abuse at our university’ and ’empower survivors’

More than a hundred episodes of misconduct were alleged to have taken place at the world-famous institution, including 20 claims of rape and dozens more for sexual assault, harassment and domestic violence.

One anonymous post said: ‘I was out drinking and had met a frat boy through friends. I had a meltdown outside The Union and he comforted me, I explained that I had been sexually assaulted on another night out.

‘He offered to take me to his for some water since he lived nearby and I didn’t. I was very drunk and so he put me to bed and he was going to sleep on the floor.

‘I woke up sometime later and he was in the bed with me feeling me up. I can’t believe anyone could do this.’ 

‘Multiple’ accusations were directed at members of AEPi, a branch of a US college fraternity which counts Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg among its alumni.

More than a hundred episodes of misconduct were alleged to have taken place at the world-famous institution (pictured), including 20 claims of rape and dozens more for sexual assault, harassment and domestic violence

More than a hundred episodes of misconduct were alleged to have taken place at the world-famous institution (pictured), including 20 claims of rape and dozens more for sexual assault, harassment and domestic violence 

Some of the allegations reportedly occurred at society events, which include toga parties but also charity fundraisers.

A separate allegation claims a member of the Kate Kennedy Club called an alleged female victim a ‘stupid slut’ and mocked her for being ‘ugly’ before declaring that his membership of the society made him ‘invincible’.

She also accused the club of hosting ‘notoriously boozy dinners’ that culminated in ‘terrifying’ violent behaviour including dish-smashing.

The Kate Kennedy Club voted to admit female students to the exclusive society in 2012, three years after St Andrews withdrew its official recognition of the club.

Louise Richardson, then university principal, wrote to students in 2009 that she could not endorse a club ‘from which so many of our students are excluded at birth’.

On July 3, AEPi released a statement saying: ‘Alpha Epsilon Pi St Andrews was made aware of allegations of sexual assault, harassment, and rape against multiple members of our fraternity, including incidents at chapter events.

‘We find the contents of these allegations abhorrent, and are taking them extremely seriously.’

It added: ‘The chapter was unaware of these allegations before they were brought to light. As soon as chapter leadership was made aware of the allegations we assembled our members to gather additional information.

‘Following these discussions, the chapter immediately suspended members who acknowledged any role in the alleged incidents and entered them into Alpha Epsilon Pi’s expulsion process, which allows for thorough investigation, a standard that will apply any time more evidence comes to light.’

It is not clear how many members were suspended, but the Telegraph reported two.

AEPi has faced sexual abuse allegations at other universities, including the Penn State chapter which was suspended following a police investigation.

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