SCOTLAND’S only female MEP has defended the traditions of St Andrews University’s famous Raisin Weekend, claiming it is a “rite of passage.”
Catherine Stihler, 41, who has been appointed as the new rector at Scotland’s oldest university, spoke at the seaside town’s community council meeting amid criticisms about the celebratory weekend.
Catherine, who was a former student at the university said: “I think it is part of the university experience is about preserving the rich traditions we have.”
She added that this tradition should be protected to enable students to “fulfil that rite of passage.”
She said: “There is a lot of work that goes into it to try to make sure everything goes as smoothly as possible.”
Raisin Weekend celebrations which normally take place at the end of October, 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, freshers traditionally present their “parents” with a pound of raisins - 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.
Over the years receipts have been written on awkward items such as ladders that have to be carried around.
In the 1960s, one receipt was written on a donkey fed on laxatives, resulting in the university banning the use of live animals.
In the 1998s, an inquiry was launched after medical students at the university put a human hand from a dissection corpse into a pillar box.
It was found by a postman when he went to collect the mail.
Ms Stihler spoke at the meeting in response to complaints that every year their were issues raised with the council about Raisin Weekend.
Council Chairman Howell Greenwell said that most of the complaints revolved around the events on the Sunday, not so much the Monday.
He said: “A lot of the issues we tend to get revolve around very drunk students by lunchtime on Sunday, causing offence and other things.”
However, Ms Stihler assured community councillors and said: “I take on board your comments over rowdiness, which we have to work together on, safety is paramount.”
She added: “I will certainly be helping out this year and I would encourage members that want to take part in the safety initiative to please let us know and we will work together.”
Prince William and Kate Middleton took part in Raisin Weekend, but kept a low profile.
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