One of Australia’s largest philanthropic donors to medical research, The Snow Medical Research Foundation has suspended ties with the University of Melbourne after last week’s awarding of honorary doctorates to six white men. The Snow Medical Research Foundation has told the University of Melbourne that it has suspended the university from its Snow Fellowship program because its “outcomes on gender equality and diversity do not align with Snow Medical’s goals.”
The foundation has been one of the largest donors for the University of Melbourne. It donated $24m to the University of Melbourne’s Parkville campus and last year granted two Snow Fellowships, totaling $16m, to the institution. The foundation is known for its efforts for encouraging research, providing funds and aid to deserving Universities and students. Explaining why they decided to cut off ties with the University of Melbourne, its statement said “Unfortunately, last week the University of Melbourne awarded their most prestigious award, their honorary doctorate, to six white men”.
The University of Melbourne awarded honorary doctorates on 28 February to Leigh Clifford, Prof Sir Peter Donnelly, Prof Allan Fels, Dr Francis Gurry, Dr Mark Schipp and Prof Colin Wilks. The University clarified that the doctorates were awarded based on merit and achievements of the recipients, not on the basis of their race and background.
“The honorary doctorates are awarded to those whose work has transformed our understanding of the world and the lives of many people”, said University of Melbourne chancellor, Allan Myers. The University also clarified through a press release about the recipients who had missed the ceremony. “This list includes three women and an Indigenous man who were recognized for outstanding achievements in their fields of endeavor,” it said. “These honorary doctorates will be conferred at a later date.”
The University also slammed the foundation for unilaterally suspending ties. “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.”
They have also stated that the foundation should reconsider its decision as it may have an adverse impact on the programs and students who got fellowships. On the other hand, the foundation stated that it will honor its promise to current Snow Fellowships offered to medical researchers at the University of Melbourne.