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Freemasons begin university recruitment drive
Friday June 8, 2007
Male undergraduates who have had enough of the "lager mentality" of university life are being encouraged to join the Freemasons.
The English masonic lodge is looking to boost its numbers by actively recruiting students and staff from several UK universities.
The organisation's second-in-command, assistant grand master David Williamson, started the recruitment scheme to create wider opportunities for undergraduates and other university members to enjoy freemasonry.
He hopes to replicate the success of the established Oxford and Cambridge university lodges across the country.
At present there are nine lodges in university cities participating in the scheme: Bath, Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Durham, Exeter, Manchester, Oxford and Sheffield, but the aim is to gradually expand it beyond these universities.
Mr Williamson said: "This is a challenge for the lodges that have chosen to participate. Young masons under 25 make up only about a quarter of 1% of the membership of the craft in this country, so we want to make the craft more accessible to young men."
The masons hope to encourage new members by dropping the joining age from 21 to 18 and halving the fees for under 25s. Lodges at Oxford and Cambridge can already admit members at 18 at their discretion.
The group's chairman, Oliver Lodge, said: "Oxford and Cambridge have proved just how popular freemasonry can be at universities. I hope we can help to make those same wonderful experiences available to more prospective masons."
The group's media manager, Chris Connop, said: "We've fundamentally never been a recruiting organisation. But we really should be trying to appeal to young people as well as old. It was always possible to join at 18 at Oxford and Cambridge, but in this day and age that's a bit of a nonsense."
Mr Connop, who was headteacher of a comprehensive school for nine years, interviews potential members and tries to gauge whether they are suitable or not before introducing them to lodgers.
"I'm the first obstacle. They have to write a letter of introduction first, saying how the masons came to their attention and why they want to join. I head off people who think they will get an advantage from it because that's part of the mythology about the Freemasons. It's against the rules. You don't just walk into the Freemasons, we want people of the right calibre with the right values from whatever level of society."
The organisation does a lot of charitable work and Mr Connop says this explains a lot of the interest. "We do an enormous amount for charity and that really appeals to students."
What also appeals to new members, the majority of whom are aged between 18 and 35, is contact with older generations.
"When I talk to these youngsters they really appreciate meeting with adults with more experience. Most are tired of going to the pub and of the lager drinking mentality. They are traditionalists as well. We uphold traditions and they like that aspect," Mr Connop added.
Blair, AAAS and 1994 group oppose UCU’s Israeli boycott motion Prime Minister Tony Blair has said he opposes the University and College Union’s plans to consult its members on boycotting Israeli universities.
Responding to a question from Andrew Dismore, the Labour MP for Hendon, during Prime Minister’s Question Time on 6 June, Blair said, “I very much hope that that decision is overturned because it does absolutely no good for the peace process or, indeed, for relations in that part of the world.”
The 1994 Group, which represents 19 smaller research-intensive universities, has also issued a statement saying it strongly opposes the motion passed by the University and College Union to debate the Israeli academic boycott.
Steve Smith, chairman of the 1994 Group and vice-chancellor of the University of Exeter, said, “We oppose the call for an academic boycott, which is contrary to the values of freedom of expression and freedom of enquiry that every university must fundamentally uphold.”
The American Association for the Advancement of Science has also urged the UCU to drop its plans for a boycott. “We join with others in condemning the motion as antithetical to the positive role of free scientific inquiry in improving the lives of all citizens of the world, and in promoting cooperation among nations, despite political differences,” the AAAS said in a statement.
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