Page last updated at 10:57 GMT, Friday, 10 April 2009 11:57 UK

Male-only student club 'sexist'

Dr Louise Richardson
Dr Richardson was appointed as principal in a ceremony last month

A historic male-only club at St Andrews University has had all official support withdrawn after the institution's principal said it was sexist.

The Kate Kennedy Club was founded in 1926, although its origins date back to the 15th Century.

It hosts an annual pageant which features a male student dressed as a medieval woman.

Dr Louise Richardson said the university could not support a group that excluded on gender grounds.

Dr Richardson is herself at the centre of controversy over whether or not she should be given honorary membership of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club, as the university's previous two principals were.

I look forward to the day when membership of the Kate Kennedy Club is open to every student of St Andrews
Dr Louise Richardson
University Principal

The row led to First Minister Alex Salmond calling for an end to the centuries of discrimination and tradition by the world's governing body for golf.

In an e-mail sent to every student at St Andrews - Scotland's oldest university - Dr Richardson said it would be withdrawing its official recognition of the Kate Kennedy Club.

Dr Richardson, who was installed as the first female principal of St Andrews last month, told students that she could not endorse a club "from which so many of our students are excluded at birth".

She also said she hoped the society would continue, and praised its charitable work.

But she added: "The university will not, however, be participating officially in the procession this year nor continuing its recognition of the Kate Kennedy Club.

"The official endorsement of any club or society which excludes people because of their gender or race would be completely at odds with the values of this university, and our commitment to foster an open and inclusive international community of scholars and students in St Andrews.

"I look forward to the day when membership of the Kate Kennedy Club is open to every student of St Andrews at which point the university will be delighted to treat the Kate Kennedy Club in the same way as all other clubs and societies."

Arrival of spring

The annual Kate Kennedy Club procession continues a tradition dating back to the 15th Century, when the beautiful niece of Bishop James Kennedy, Kate, was celebrated as a sign of the arrival of spring.

Every year a male first-year student is selected on the morning of the event to dress as Kate.

Only male students of the university are invited to apply for membership of the club, which cannot exceed 60.

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