It was an ordinary meal on campus that became a turning point in Michael Marrus’ academic career. And now the emeritus professor of history and scholar of the Holocaust has resigned from the University of Toronto’s Massey College.
Marrus was sitting with three junior fellows - graduate students who had earned residence at the college through academic and extra-curricular achievements – for lunch last week when the master of the college, Hugh Segal, asked to join them, The Toronto Star
Marrus said to one of the fellows, who is black: “You know this is your master, eh? Do you feel the lash?”
After the students left, Segal reportedly told Marrus his words were inappropriate.
Nearly 200 students and faculty members signed a petition for his removal as senior fellow at the college.
"In our eyes, the very legitimacy of Massey College hinges on the effectiveness of your response to this incident,” the signatories told Segal. “We encourage you to approach this moment with the seriousness it demands, and with the courage and vision to make this an occasion for fulsome transformation."
In his resignation letter, Marrus said his remarks were made “in a poor effort at jocular humour.”
“What I said was both foolish and, I understood immediately, hurtful. I want, first and foremost, to convey my deepest regrets to all whom I may have harmed.”
The student to whom Marrus made the statement declined to comment and, out of concern for her safety, asked that she not be named.
Massey College has suspended the formal title of “master”, apologized for the incident, and committed to hold anti-racism training.
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