Freemasonry & Higher Education #2

I’m grateful to my old friend Euripides Georganopoulos, for his comments on my last blog about Freemasonry in HE. Nevertheless, we must agree to differ on this subject.

I came across the following in an old copy of the Times Higher Education Supplement (July 2007), from June Purvis, Professor of Women’s and Gender History at Portsmouth University:

“The announcement that the Freemasons are to campaign in our universities fills me with dread. The prime loyalty of a Mason is to other Masons. This can mean, therefore, that fellow Masons are privileged in regard to key and influential areas of academic life, especially promotions.

The Masons are overwhelmingly a single-sex organisation of white men (although there is a small separate female group). Historically, our universities have been sites of male privilege, and the struggle of women to enter them and be accepted on equal terms has been painstakingly slow. Although the majority of our undergraduates are now women, this does not mean that our universities are always female-friendly places. This is particularly evident in regard to university staff, where the higher the post, the fewer the women. The fact that only 17 per cent of professors are women and just 13 per cent are black or from minority ethnic groups is not good news. In the old days of patronage, exercised by vice-chancellors, a few chums would be consulted in regard to the worthiness or not of a candidate for promotion. It is to be hoped those days have gone as standardised procedures have been produced. But talk to any academic in our universities today and you will find that concerns about the pernicious influence of Freemasons is with us still. There is no doubt that some bland mediocrities are promoted to posts beyond their level of competence. Invariably, the suggestion is that they are Masons.

If an academic is a Freemason, then that should be declared for all staff to know to avoid conflicts of interest.”

How much has changed in the past 10 years of academic life? Male student sexism appears to be on the increase in UK HE, which is in part a reflection of institutional culture. Meanwhile, university heads’ salaries are rising (average £272k pa), but staff salaries remain stagnant. Even though progress appears to be made, women still make up only a little more than a fifth of vice-chancellors across the UK higher education sector.

“Correlation is not causation, but it sure is a hint.” (Edward Tufte)