Junior fellows demand apology after alleged racist incident at Massey College
Junior fellows at Massey College are demanding an apology and anti-racism training after an incident involving a senior fellow at the college.
The incident is described in an open letter written to Hugh Segal, the head of the college, and signed by dozens of junior and senior members.
The letter claims that on Sept. 26, senior fellow Michael Marrus addressed a black junior fellow in the presence of Segal, whose formal title is “Master of Massey College.”
The letter says that addressing the junior fellow, Marrus allegedly said “You know this is your master, eh? Do you feel the lash?”
The letter does not say where the incident took place or what the larger conversation was about.
In addition to being a senior fellow at Massey College, Marrus is a history professor at the University of Toronto, with a specialty in Holocaust studies.
“To hear what he said was very surprising, only because it is completely out of character,” Segal said. “And I can't attribute what he had in mind other than I think he thought he was trying to be funny and I think it was a miscalculation. But whatever was said was said and I condemn it. I take it very seriously and have to address it in that way.”
The letter sent to Segal expresses “full support” for the junior fellows who took action following the incident, though it’s not clear what those actions were.
It also articulates a number of demands of the college, which include an apology, termination of Marrus’ association with the college, changing the head of the college’s title from “master” to something else, and anti-racism training for all members of the organization.
Segal suggested he may be open to a title change.
“I inherited the title, it wasn't something that I chose, and my view is it may not be appropriate going forward. But that's something that involves not just one group in the college but the entire college,” he said.
Massey College is a graduate students’ residential community affiliated with the University of Toronto, though it remains independent of it. Officials at the college are now in the process of setting up meetings with the complainants.
CUPE 3902, a union representing University of Toronto education workers, tweeted out the letter on Thursday, throwing their support behind the demands and saying the alleged incident belongs to a pattern of racism at the college.
“For many of our members who have seen, heard of or experienced racism at Massey College, this latest incident will come as no surprise,” the group wrote on its Facebook page. “For those who haven't, know that this is not a one-time thing, it's just a breaking point.”
Marrus , for his part, is saying little about the incident.
“I have no comment on the matter, it is in the hands of Massey College,” he told CTV News Toronto Thursday.