Photo: Catwalk

The Trouble with RAG Week

Name a charity. Just one.

I think RAG Week is good, but I’m not sure.

Rag Week is arguably one of the greatest innovations to come out of UK universities; a whole week dedicated to fundraising and creating as much support as possible for a range of charities sounds ideal. The name, “raising and giving” exudes generosity and promotes a sense of selflessness that is often lost in today’s chaotic world.

However, it seems to me that as time has progressed, the meaning of Rag Week has been somewhat left behind. The reason for this is the answer to one simple question – do you know who we’re raising money for? Adverts for Rag Week are splashed across the Union, and pop up as every other post on Facebook, but there is something significantly missing in the form of information about the charities we’re supporting.

Earlier this week I happily paid my £5 to take part in a slightly amateur “room escape” in the union, and whilst it was enjoyable, I was left with a slightly uncomfortable feeling because I had no idea who I’d just donated to; I could have been supporting a white supremacist group for all I knew.

I’d argue this wasn’t entirely my fault – I’m sure I could have found out if I’d searched hard enough, but the majority of the (albeit rather professional looking) posters and adverts for Rag Week events completely disregard the need to know which charities we’re supporting. Even the Union website page about Rag Week gives no definite answer but directs me to another page about the Charities Campaign, comprising just a list of committee members. It takes me a fair amount of time to find a list of charities on the information section of the Rag Week Facebook page, which suggest we’re supporting Families First, MacMillan Cancer Support, and Medecins Sans Frontieres. However, I’m entirely sure that this is irrelevant, given that the same page advertises information about the Rag Weeks of both 2015 and 2016.  If the aim of Rag Week is to support various charities, it seems to be that an obvious step would be to promote the actual charities, raising awareness of who they are and who they help.

Furthermore, the fundamentally politicised nature of the St Andrews student body also somewhat obliterates the concept of Rag Week. Catwalk is arguably the pinnacle of the week, and to an extent epitomises the University, which is now famous for its charity fashion shows, thanks to Kate Middleton. Yet these shows also underpin the prevailing atmosphere of exclusivity which surrounds St Andrews, with the limited number of tickets costing almost £30 each. Similarly, one YikYakker anonymously complained that the models, who are essentially volunteering for charity, aren’t as good as last year, undermining the fact that they aren’t professionals, but simply aiding a good cause. Again, the true meaning of Rag Week is warped by people’s refusal to focus on what actually matters.

It is undeniable that Rag Week is a good thing, raising thousands of pounds each year for a plethora of charities, in a society that remains egocentric and far too focused on self-improvement and gain. However, given the lack of information about the charities being supported, it could be argued that people are donating not because of a desire to help others, but in order to further their own image as a good person who does good things.



95 thoughts on “The Trouble with RAG Week

  1. Dear Author – RAG is connected to the Charities Campaign. Unless the societies have partnered with RAG have chosen to fundraise for a different charity (in which case it is their responsibility to let the audience know, not RAG’s), the money goes to the three nominated charities. If they do choose to donate to another group, the Charities Campaign still manages and processes their donations for them. I don’t see the point in trying to cause drama where there isn’t need for any.
    The Charities Campaign, by virtue of being connected to the Students’ Association, gets audited. It is therefore probably one of the most transparent bodies that hold charity events in St Andrews. I’m not suggesting that they are any less legitimate than other groups that try to hold student fundraising events, but merely stating that this group has a guaranteed form of oversight that can leave you feeling very secure about where your funds are going. Don’t tarnish them.

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