Concept

University of St Andrews Union Debating Society

Summary
The University of St Andrews Union Debating Society is a student debating society at the University of St Andrews in Scotland. Tracing its origins back to 1794 and established under the current name in 1890, it is the oldest continuously operating debate society of its kind in the English-speaking world (predated only by the College Historical Society at Trinity College Dublin which ceased operations for a period beginning in 1794) and the oldest as a whole in the United Kingdom. It also holds weekly public debates in the Lower Parliament Hall, which are free and open to all students - the only Scottish Debating Society to do this. In 2015, the society became the first in Scotland to win the European Universities Debating Championship, a competition that they compete at every year. The society's motto remains "pro amicitia et litteris" meaning "for friendship and learning". The origins of the University of St Andrews Debating Society can be traced to the formation in 1794 of the university Literary Society. Despite being initially popular, the society began to suffer from a lack of funding beginning in the 19th century. To remedy this, Article 3 of the Literary Society's 1832 constitution imposed a one shilling fee per semester and fines varying in severity for lateness, absence, or the use of 'improper language'. At this stage of its history, the Literary Society operated under a strange mixture of egalitarianism and exclusiveness. Initially, there was no president of the Society and meetings were chaired by each member in rotation, taking place in St Salvator's Quadrangle. During this period, the only leadership positions were that of Secretary and Treasurer and all decisions were taken collectively by the Society as a whole. However, membership was limited to twenty-five students all of whom were required until 1844 to attend or have attended the university's classes in Logic or Moral Philosophy. Membership was by election only, and no 'strangers' were permitted to attend debates.
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