AUT moves to reveal freemasons

November 20, 1998

Freemasons working in universities must declare their affiliation in the interest of openness and equal opportunities, the Association of University Teachers is expected to demand soon.

The AUT's equal opportunities committee has discussed plans to ensure that any membership of a masonic lodge is explicitly identified in all procedures relating to recruitment, promotion, peer review, discipline and finance. A campaign is planned for the coming months.

The move follows revelations in The THES in March this year that at least 11 masonic lodges have affiliations with British universities.

The lodges, registered with the freemason's governing body, the United Grand Lodge, are operating under the name of universities in Oxford, Durham, Cardiff, Liverpool, Aston, Birmingham, Edinburgh, London, Manchester, Nottingham and Sheffield.

Adrienne Aziz, AUT assistant general secretary responsible for equal opportunities, said: "The secrecy surrounding freemasonry is incompatible with the principles of open and transparent procedures ... and has an adverse effect on equal opportunities."

Ms Aziz said that campaign details have been complicated by employment law. But it is expected that the AUT will write to all university governing bodies asking them to adopt a model clause in the rules of governance.

The AUT welcomed the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals' positive response to the Nolan committee's report into standards in public life, which called for clear rules governing conflicts of interest. But Ms Aziz said that the CVCP's guidance for registers of interest on campuses was too narrow.

The AUT is in talks with the CVCP to try to ensure that its guidelines are wide enough to include freemasonry, and that "there is a sufficiently sharp impact on procedures such as appointments and promotions".

Adrian Perry, spokesman for the masonic United Grand Lodge and a member of two lodges affiliated with Oxford University, where he is an alumnus, said that university lodges, like most, were established through an "historical accident". They only had informal affiliations with institutions, similar to the relationship between a company and its "office five-a-side football team", he said.

The Grand Lodge has made clear its resistance to any involuntary disclosure and has insisted that the principles of freemasonry "do not in any way conflict with its members' duties as citizens". "There is no conflict of interest in a freemason's obligation and his public duty," the Grand Lodge has said.

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