Close Search
 
MEDIA, JOBS & RESOURCES for the COMMON GOOD

Philanthropic giant suspends university funding over lack of diversity in award recipients


9 March 2022 at 5:03 pm
Maggie Coggan
“We would have preferred not to have taken this step, but now is the time for action – not just talk.”


Maggie Coggan | 9 March 2022 at 5:03 pm


0 Comments


 Print
Philanthropic giant suspends university funding over lack of diversity in award recipients
9 March 2022 at 5:03 pm

“We would have preferred not to have taken this step, but now is the time for action – not just talk.”

Australia’s largest medical foundation is suspending the University of Melbourne from its lucrative fellowship program for only awarding honorary doctorates to men for three years running. 

The Snow Medical Research Foundation (Snow Medical) has donated over $90 million to medical research in the past two years, including $24 million to the Melbourne Parkville campus, and $16 million to the University of Melbourne via two Snow Fellowships.

However it decided to suspend the university from future fellowship applications after a picture of six white men receiving honorary doctorates was released last week. 

The foundation said in a statement that the decision to suspend ties with the university was also influenced by the fact that in the past three years, not a single honorary doctorate had been awarded to women or someone of non-white descent. 

“This is unacceptable,” the statement said. 

“We would have preferred not to have taken this step, but now is the time for action – not just talk.”

The University of Melbourne said that three women and an Indigenous man would be awarded honorary doctorates in the future, but has not named the recipients or publicly acknowledged their achievements.

Tom Snow, the chair of the Snow Medical board, told Pro Bono News that with one of the core values of the foundation being diversity and inclusion, it was important that the foundation took action. 

“When I saw the photo of the six white men, my heart sank… I was genuinely really upset,” Snow said.  

“It sends a message to women and people who aren’t white, that white men will be awarded before you are.”

An opportunity for change 

While the $16 million that has already been donated to researchers at the university will not be taken away, Snow said the suspension of future applications was an opportunity for the university to rethink its processes. 

“I really think that there is a bigger cultural problem at the top that no one picked this up, that no one looked at the line up of recipients and thought that maybe this was a problem,” he said. 

“The big message of International Women’s Day 2022 is walking the walk and not just talking the talk, and in this case I don’t believe that they are just yet walking the talk.” 

Snow Medical sought an explanation from the University of Melbourne regarding why only men have been conferred with honorary doctorates over the last three years, but found the response “unsatisfactory”.

He said that it was critical for philanthropy to look at the entire picture when funding projects, and not just at the specific program. 

“The University of Melbourne conducts really excellent research. I also think that the university has some great programs that empower women, but this really missed the mark,” Snow said. 

“I think it’s critical for philanthropy to fund projects and programs with a view of how it’s affecting everything and everyone, not just what the specific program is about.” 

In a statement, University of Melbourne said that while it acknowledged the areas where it need to improve, Snow Medical had made their decision on the basis of a single honorary doctorate event. 

“This event is not a true reflection of who we are as a university and the steps we are taking, and continue to take, to build a diverse university community, reflective of broader society,” the statement said. 


Maggie Coggan  |  Journalist  |  @MaggieCoggan

Maggie Coggan is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

PB Careers
Get your biweekly dose of news, opinion and analysis to keep you up to date with what’s happening and why it matters for you, sent every Tuesday and Thursday morning.

Got a story to share?

Got a news tip or article idea for Pro Bono News? Or perhaps you would like to write an article and join a growing community of sector leaders sharing their thoughts and analysis with Pro Bono News readers? Get in touch at news@probonoaustralia.com.au or download our contributor guidelines.

Advertisement

Webinar Value Packs

Get more stories like this

FREE SOCIAL
SECTOR NEWS

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



YOU MAY ALSO LIKE

Cross-sector partnerships ‘make room’ for everyone

Danielle Kutchel

Monday, 2nd May 2022 at 4:06 pm

Community foundations granted access to DGR

Wendy Williams

Wednesday, 30th March 2022 at 11:57 am

Philanthropic groups unite for impact

Maggie Coggan

Wednesday, 2nd March 2022 at 11:32 pm

New philanthropy, old digs: Why we invested in Yirranma Place

Glyn Davis AC

Wednesday, 2nd March 2022 at 5:18 pm

pba inverse logo
Subscribe Twitter Facebook
×