Statement from the senior leadership team of the University of St Andrews in response to open letter

Friday 24 November 2023

The University of St Andrews has issued the following response to an open letter signed by students, alumni and others, who have expressed concern about a recent message issued by the University Rector.


The University of St Andrews is committed to the principles and practices of freedom of speech and freedom of expression. Every member of our community has the right to express their views within the law, to be accountable for them, and should expect that they may be debated, or challenged.

The Rector is an independent representative role that is not part of the University leadership.  She is entitled to freedom of speech, to express her personal views, and to communicate with the students who she represents, and who elected her.

Those of us who have the privilege to lead and represent, however, also have a solemn duty for the pastoral care and wellbeing of all our students and staff.

That includes ensuring that we use words responsibly, and have careful regard not just to what we say, but the effect of those words on individuals and groups.

As the senior management team which leads the University of St Andrews, we are utterly dismayed that the Rector, on this occasion, put her right to freedom of expression ahead of her duty to represent all students, and to be concerned for their welfare.

We know that while some may have welcomed the message, others have been deeply offended and concerned by it.

While every one of us shares a desire for peace and an end to hostilities in Israel and Gaza, we regret that her message, the language it used, and some of the sources it cited have caused alarm, division, and harm in our community, and more widely.

Diversity, inclusion, and tolerance are at the heart of what this University stands for. We ignore those values at our peril, and we expect everyone who is part of this community to abide by them.

There is no place in St Andrews for antisemitism, Islamophobia, or racism of any kind, nor should there be a place for rhetoric or action which may be seen to enable or embolden those who engage in such abhorrent behaviour.

We do not believe the Rector intended to cause harm to students with her message.

While she is accountable only to the student body whose interests she was elected to serve, we have, as individuals and as a group of senior leaders, asked her to reflect seriously on the evidence of the upset and fear she has caused, and to take such action as is necessary to restore confidence in her leadership amongst all students, and the wider community.

We have reached out to the Rector to offer such support and help as she may require to address these issues.

In the days and weeks ahead, we will be continuing to work with all student groups to assure them that St Andrews is a place which takes no side but the side of humanity, that words matter, and everyone here has a right to feel safe, heard and valued.


Professor Dame Sally Mapstone FRSE

Principal and Vice-Chancellor


Professor Brad MacKay

Deputy Principal


Professor Ineke De Moortel

Master of the United College


Derek Watson

Quaestor and Factor


Alastair Merrill

Vice-Principal Governance


Professor Tom Brown

Vice-Principal Research


Professor Clare Peddie

Vice-Principal Education


Ester Ruskuc

Vice-Principal (Strategy, Policy and Planning)


Professor Monique Mackenzie

Vice-Principal (Digital Education, Research and Environment)


Dr Rebekah Widdowfield

Vice-Principal People and Diversity


Niall Scott

Vice-Principal Communications

Category University news

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