It has emerged that Queen’s University has been paying for its Vice Chancellor, Professor Peter Gregson, to have membership with an exclusive members-only Gentleman’s club in London.
Yet another example of being caught out abusing expenses, The Irish News’ Freedom of Information request revealed that Gregson claimed the £920 membership fee back on his expenses. This membership entitles Gregson to, among other things, frequent dinners and wine tasting events at the Athenaeum.
According to the Athenaeum's website, it was founded as a "meeting place for men who enjoy the life of the mind". Women have only been eligible to become members since January 2002.
A university spokeswoman said, “Membership of the Athenaeum provides a London base for Queen's and access to low cost accommodation when available.”
However, the Freedom of Information request revealed that Gregson stayed at the five-star Mayfair hotel on 23rd October last year, claiming back £294.55 for just one night. The information provided to the The Irish News shows that Gregson stayed in a hotel on at least two out of five visits to the city of London.
Anna Lo, South Belfast Alliance MLA, has questioned how such a payout for membership of a club and accommodation in the ritziest part of London can be justified in such tough times. She said, "On one hand there is speculation of job cuts at Queen's and increases in tuition fees yet they can afford to pay for something like this. Queen's may try and justify this, but people will still be very surprised and annoyed at this payment."
This has all come to light on the back of the revelation that Gregson enjoyed a £20k increase in his wages, an increase which is more than what many people make in a year. It was revealed in June that his salary now exceeds £200,000.
The Gown would also like to point out once again (see a previous editorial by Catherine Wylie) that Gregson ignored pleas for financial help when the paper was facing closure last academic year.