St Andrews University's first female black Rector is a step in right direction – Scotsman comment

St Andrews University students have elected Dr Leyla Hussein as their new Rector (PIcture: Jamie Callaghan)St Andrews University students have elected Dr Leyla Hussein as their new Rector (PIcture: Jamie Callaghan)
St Andrews University students have elected Dr Leyla Hussein as their new Rector (PIcture: Jamie Callaghan)
“Change is coming.” With these words, Dr Leyla Hussein welcomed the news that she had been elected as the first black woman to be Rector of St Andrews University.

One day, in a brighter, imagined future, this will not be something that even needs to be mentioned and the focus instead will be on the new Rector’s individual achievements.

In Dr Hussein’s case, these are considerable and have already attracted official recognition: she is a psychotherapist and an international lecturer on gender rights, whose work on tackling female genital mutilation (FGM) saw her awarded an OBE in 2019.

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History made as University of St Andrews elects first black female rector

Her election comes just a few years after Professor Louise Richardson, the then principal of St Andrews University, was snubbed by the then male-only Royal and Ancient Golf Club, which had given honorary memberships to her two predecessors but decided not to do the same for her. She later told BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs that some members had been “waving their ties in this puerile way boys do sometimes”. However, shortly after a public row over the snub, the club finally voted – in the year 2014 – to allow women to become members.

Despite being thoroughly discredited for decades, bigoted ideas about race and sex continue to blight our society. But it seems clear that we are moving, if slowly, towards that brighter future, thanks in large part to the example set by talented individuals like Dr Hussein and the prevailing attitudes of the younger generation, such as the students who elected her.

So change is indeed coming. The quicker, the better.

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