Snow Medical cuts ties with the University after inaction on gender and racial diversity

Australia’s largest philanthropic donor to medical research Snow Medical has suspended the University of Melbourne from their Snow Fellowship program.


Content Warning: references to racism, sexism and medical discrimination  (no explicit detail)


Australia’s largest philanthropic donor to medical research Snow Medical has suspended the University of Melbourne from their Snow Fellowship program. This decision was made on 7 March, in response to the University of Melbourne’s “unacceptable” inaction on gender and racial diversity in their academic community.

The action was spurred after the university awarded its highest degree—the honorary doctorate—to six white men last week, sparking a debate on social media about the culture of an ‘old boys club’ at UniMelb.

Snow Medical also notes that the University had not awarded their prestigious degree to any “women or [persons] of non-white descent” for the past three years. Snow Medical dubbed the University’s repeated inaction as “unacceptable” and has now cut the University from its fellowship program, until “real change” surrounding racial and gender diversity occurs.

In their statement, Snow Medical reiterated their aim to “foster an environment where everyone is treated fairly”.

Through this, Snow Medical has committed to partnering with institutions that promote “gender equity, diversity and inclusion”. Snow Medical further recognises that an inclusive and diverse environment is “critical to success and excellence in research and discovery”.

In response, the University released a statement, claiming that three women, and one First Nations man also received the degree but were not present at the ceremony. This announcement was only made after online backlash, and the press release is yet to be updated to include the names and faces of these graduates.

In an interview with Farrago, Tom Snow, chair of Snow Medical, said that his “heart sank” after seeing the announcement of the honorary doctorates.

“[Women and BIPOC academics] were being told by that image [that] that no matter how hard you worked, no matter how hard you tried, white men would be recognised ahead of you,” said Snow.

In response to Snow Medical’s decision, the University made a follow-up response, vowing a commitment to “strengthening a vibrant and inclusive community where diversity is recognised, valued and celebrated”.

Although the University acknowledged the “areas where we need to improve”, the statement dismissed Snow Medical’s concerns, claiming that they were based only upon a single honorary doctorate event. The University pointed to the work achieved by their ‘Diversity and Inclusion Strategy’ and the upcoming Gender Equality action plan as an example of the steps that the University is taking to foster a more diverse community that is “reflective of broader society”.

UMSU Women’s Officer Lauren Scott, noted their disappointment at the “defensiveness” in the University’s response. Scott also noted the systemic nature of the issues, one that far extends beyond “diversity quotas”, recognising that the University’s choice of who to bestow these awards to has an “impact beyond academia”.

Scott recalled the “culture of misogyny and racism” in medicine, and recognised that in order for this to change, institutions must commit to “platform[ing] women and people of colour both in medical research and in practice”.


Image from the University of Melbourne.

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