CIVIL war has broken out among members of an all-male club at Scotland’s oldest university.
Two members of the Kate Kennedy Club at St Andrews University have quit in protest and set up a rival organisation.
The 85-year-old old club, which has only 60 members and admits just nine male freshers each year, has been accused of elitism.
Members Sunny Moodie and Patrick Mathewson have now set up a rival organisation, the Kate Kennedy Fellowship, which will be open to all students.
They said they members of the club should “wake up” and “realise we’re in the 21st century”.
The Kate Kennedy Club was formed in 1926, and holds a series of events in the town, including a drink-fueled ball.
During the annual parade through the town, members dress up as notable figures from the town’s history, including John Knox, Robert the Bruce and Mary Queen of Scots, with one male first year being chosen to dress as Kate.
Prince William famously distanced himself from the club when he attended the university.
Mr Moodie said: “We have to stand up and be counted – to say what we believe in. For too long now we have said we believe that we should be all male and that women cannot be part of these precious traditions. That is no longer true. It should never have been true.
“From now on every student at St Andrews will have equal opportunity to promote our traditions, our history and our future.”
Mr Mathewson added: “I don’t think that all the things we profess to believe in and hold dear belong only to one gender. Without the strengths women bring we do ourselves only a disservice.”
Asked if the old club would continue, Mr Moodie said: “Whatever they’re doing, it’s their own thing.
“But I hope, I really hope, they wake up, they realise we’re in the 21st century, realise we’re part of a public institution with responsibilities to make statements all the time about equality, about the importance of involving people no matter where you’re from, no matter how much money you have or what gender you are, in celebrating all that is great about this institution.”
Former members include former presiding officer of the Scottish parliament, George Reid. Former rectors said to be associated with the club include comedy actor John Cleese and Scots lawyer Donald Findlay.
Two years ago the university’s Principal, Professor Louise Richardson, withdrew the university’s recognition of the club because she did not approve of the male-only stance.
She told students she believed the university could not endorse a club from which so many were excluded at birth.
The split from the Kate Kennedy Club has been backed by the Student Representative Council (SRC), the Students’ Association and the University.
Director of Representation Sam Fowles said: “I can confirm that the Kate Kennedy Fellowship will have support from the SRC… from the Rector, from Lady Catherine Erskine, who chairs the Procession Committee, and from the University itself.
“Just to be clear, this move came from within the Club, and we’re delighted to both support and endorse it. It’s also been agreed that there’ll be a ‘grace period’, where members of the old Kate Kennedy Club will be offered Fellowships if they choose to join the new entity.“
The Kate Kennedy Club has raised a considerable amount for charity over the years but some students viewed as an exclusive club for a wealthy elite.
In 2010, a student wrote in student newspaper The Saint: “When one begins to dig deeper, a torrent of secrecy and elitism begins to emerge.”
In a statement the Kate Kennedy Club said they would continue to exist independently.
They said: “The two members who regrettably resigned their membership from the Kate Kennedy Club yesterday evening never brought their proposal to the Club until the decision had already been made to establish this Kate Kennedy Fellowship. We have always sought to engage in dialogue with the University and student body, however both the Principal and the SRC have repeatedly refused our attempts in the past.
“We have always been open to discussing our membership practices and will continue to consider these proposals within the Club in the future.”
In an email to the university’s students, Principal and Vice-Chancellor Professor Louise Richardson said: “It takes real personal courage to stand up among your friends and disagree with them on a point of principle. It takes even more courage to take the next step and walk out of a Club that has been such a large part of your student life. I think that these young men deserve our admiration.
“In an effort to ensure maximum student involvement in the Kate Kennedy traditions, the SRC and the former members of the Kate Kennedy Club have developed the idea of a Kate Kennedy Fellowship. All students would be eligible for membership and they would elect a core group of 36 Fellows. Initially, current members of the Club would be invited to be a Fellow. This arrangement strikes me as altogether more in keeping with the values of our university. I have been asked to endorse the Kate Kennedy Fellowship and I am delighted to do so.”