The University of Edinburgh has decided to review its “historic relationship” with the all-male Speculative Society: a secret society whose alumni is littered with many prominent Scotsmen – including the Duke of Edinburgh, former Prime Minister Sir Alec Douglas-Home and senior judge, Lord Cullen. The investigation comes after students at the ancient University have lodged complaints regarding the society’s all-male policy violating equality terms.
A self-described “enlightenment society”, the Speculative Society was founded in 1764 as a platform for public speaking. The club has come into the limelight after holding a black tie gathering at the University’s Old College. Although these events have been held for 200 years within the closed rooms of Edinburgh’s Law School building. The futile decision to review the historic relationship is set to take place in response to students claiming the closed-membership infringes the 2001 Dignity and Respect Policy signed by the University, which commits to ending “discrimination” on University grounds.
The real issue facing the ‘literacy composition’ club is its closed membership. Despite having no official policy banning women, membership remains entirely male. It comes as no surprise then that there are students who oppose the all-male culture surrounding the secret society. Stacey Devine, the NUS Scotland Women’s Officer has called it ‘sexist’. A comment was unavailable from the non-existent male-welfare officer.
The pointless investigation into the society has been fuelled by the University of Edinburgh’s student newspaper, The Student. It revealed the Russell Group University was paying property tax on the Society’s room. As the Speculative has no formal links to the University, many have questioned their actual relationship. Lesley McAra, Law School Head, stated that the Society has “absolutely no links to the School of Law”, she later added, “the rooms which are used by the Speculative Society do not belong to the Law School nor do they belong to the university.” The only reason why any investigation is underway is to please a few radical students.
Many will argue organisation and clubs for women only are seen as progressive and important, dubbed “safe spaces”. The same setups for men are always seen as shady and in poor taste. I am certain those who oppose the male only membership of the society are surely in favour of all-women shortlists.
A member of the Speculative Society has condemned the investigation, stating “single-sex marriage has been recognised; it would take a remarkable degree of prejudice to question the freedom to associate in other single-sex arrangements.” Quite rightly so everyone should be free to socialise in whatever groups they choose to. It is discriminatory for the University to review the ‘Spec’ due to its all-male membership – perhaps time and effort would be more effectively utilised by allowing the establishment of an all-female debating club. I am sure no male member of the University will have any issues with the creation of such a society, let alone sullying its membership.