Massey College professor resigns over racially offensive remark, cites lack of ‘due process’ 

Opportunity for dialogue lost.

Who among us has never made any such missteps? Marrus’ comments below highlight his personal dignity in dealing with the complaint, as well as the serious process issues he raises.

There is something shameful here about the lack of willingness or openness for dialogue, and the lack of grace in acknowledging that someone can make an inappropriate comment without being automatically labelled as racist, irrespective of their personal and professional history:

Michael Marrus, the history professor whose racially offensive remarks have led to a public controversy at the University of Toronto’s Massey College, has submitted his resignation as a Senior Fellow from the college, but says he is “disheartened” by the lack of dialogue between him and those who asked for his resignation.

“Where was the due process, where was the effort to hear me out, where was the effort to relate to 30 years of scholarship that have a lot to do with human rights? There is something cruel and reckless about this campaign,” he said in an interview with The Globe and Mail.

He had been trying to apologize for the comment he made, e-mailing the person he hurt and offended and trying to talk to them, but his apology was not accepted, he said.

“I was so sorry for having wounded someone,” Dr. Marrus said. “But nothing availed,” he said.

The resignation comes after an incident during a lunch last week that gave rise to a petition that was signed by almost 200 students and faculty at U of T.

Dr. Marrus was seated with three Junior Fellows, graduate or professional students who live in residence at Massey. Hugh Segal, the head of the college, who has – until recently – carried the formal title “Master,” came to join them. As Mr. Segal sat down, Dr. Marrus said to a black student:

“You know this is your master, eh? Do you feel the lash?”

The students have filed a written complaint with the college. They have not spoken about the incident to The Globe and Mail. Mr. Segal could also not be reached.

The petition, which was made public on Thursday, demanded extensive changes and asked Massey to sever its ties with Dr. Marrus.

“In our eyes, the very legitimacy of Massey College hinges on the effectiveness of your response to this incident,” the petition stated. “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.”

On Friday, Massey College agreed to almost all the demands made in the petition, temporarily suspending the title of “Master,” beginning anti-racism training and offering a “sincere and unreserved apology” for the incident.

On Sunday, Dr. Marrus sent a resignation letter to Mr. Segal, in which he conveyed his “deepest regrets to all whom I may have harmed.”

“I am so sorry for what I said, in a poor effort at jocular humour,” Dr. Marrus wrote in his letter. ” I want to assure those who heard me … that while I had no ill-intent whatsoever I can appreciate how those at the table and those who have learned about it could take offence at what I said,” he wrote, adding that he will leave his office of 20 years as soon as possible.

An emeritus professor and internationally respected Holocaust scholar, Dr. Marrus is retired from U of T. But he has maintained an office and senior fellowship at Massey College, an affiliated independent college at U of T which opened its doors in the late 1960s. The fellowship carries no financial stipend.

“The decision [to resign] is the best one for me, the best one for my family, the best one for Massey College, for which I have a lot of affection and respect, the best one for the students who are so angry,” he said. “If so many people have announced that they don’t want me at Massey College, why should I persist?”

People may not believe him, Dr. Marrus added, but he is on the same side as those who launched the complaint against him. “I understand the anti-racist commitment of the people who have mobilized,” he said.

In addition to his scholarship, he has fundraised for Massey College’s Scholar-at-Risk program, which offers a haven for refugee researchers and has worked and written on international humanitarian law, he said.

“I feel uncomfortable citing all the work that I’ve done, but I have, and no one seems interested in it or interested in me,” Dr. Marrus said. “To be treated as a non-person is so wounding and so cruel. If you want to know what racism is it’s to treat someone as a non-person.”

 Source: Massey College professor resigns over racially offensive remark, cites lack of ‘due process’ – The Globe and Mail
Today’s Globe editorial says it well:

A senior fellow at a University of Toronto college made a stupid and hurtful racial comment to a black student last week and has been drummed out of his position. There is much to discuss here.

First, the comment. There is little dispute about what happened: Michael Marrus was sitting at lunch with three junior fellows at Massey College when the Master of the college joined them. Dr. Marrus turned to one of the students, who is black, and said, “You know this is your master, eh? Do you feel the lash?”

It is easy to imagine how hurt the student was. To find oneself the target of a bad joke about plantation owners and their tortured slaves, delivered by someone you barely know, at one of Canada’s leading academic institutions, would have been a deeply painful shock – one that absolutely required redress.

Now, the redress. Dr. Marrus has been forced to resign after a petition signed by fewer than 200 U of T students and faculty called for his removal.

He has not been given an opportunity to defend himself, or to apologize directly to the student. Nor is anyone on campus willing to take into account his much-praised scholarship about the Holocaust and anti-Semitism. That has been conveniently erased.

“I understand the anti-racist commitment of the people who have mobilized,” he said – something he would do, of course, given that he is a Jewish scholar who has spent a lifetime studying one of the greatest acts of racism in history.

In short, Dr. Marrus has been treated unfairly, which is as unacceptable as the remark he made. He has not sought to exonerate himself, but he deserved the right to make amends, just as the petitioners deserved the right to complain.

Instead, the professor has been summarily exiled by a widespread on-campus climate of illiberality that can fairly be characterized by “its self-exoneration from any and all contradictions; and its contempt for precedent, conventions… and civility.”

Those are Dr. Marrus’s words, from a piece he wrote in The Globe and Mail last July. He was describing the subtler traits of totalitarianism.

As for Massey College, it has announced that its head will no longer be called “master,” pending a search for another title, because the word, intended in this context to denote expertise – as in a Master of Arts degree – is presumed racist, and must be expelled.

Oh the irony. As Massey College was purging itself of Dr. Marrus, the Invictus Games for wounded warriors were holding their closing ceremonies a few blocks away. The event is named after a 19th-century poem, whose final lines are, “I am the master of my fate/I am the captain of my soul.” That is also the Invictus Games’ motto.

The poem was Nelson Mandela’s favourite and an inspiration to him during his long imprisonment, before becoming South Africa’s first black president. In 2013, Barack Obama, America’s first black president, speaking at Mr. Mandela’s funeral, closed his eulogy by quoting its last stanza.

If only they’d been educated at Massey College.

Source: Editorial Globe editorial: Massey professor showed terrible judgment, but the response was worse

Massey College under pressure to cut ties with professor after comment denounced as racist

Surprising that someone like Marrus whose extensive scholarship on the Holocaust and human rights could make such a flippant and inappropriate remark:

Massey College, an independent residential college affiliated with the University of Toronto, is under pressure from faculty and students to sever its relationship with one of the university’s professors after a comment he made was denounced as racist.

The comment was made during lunch on Tuesday by Michael Marrus, an emeritus history professor at the University of Toronto, scholar of the Holocaust, and a Senior Fellow at Massey.

Dr. Marrus was sitting with three Junior Fellows, graduate or professional students whose academic and extracurricular accomplishments have earned them a prestigious residence spot at Massey.

Hugh Segal, who leads the school and has the title of Master of Massey College, asked whether he could join the table. At that point, Dr. Marrus asked a black Junior Fellow: “You know this is your master, eh? Do you feel the lash?”

After the students left the table, Mr. Segal stayed and spoke to the professor.

“I made it clear to the Senior Fellow that the remark was completely inappropriate,” Mr. Segal said.

The three students took the issue to the dean of the college the same day and the comment was raised at a meeting of Massey’s governing board the same day. A written complaint by nine students – the three present during the lunch and additional members of the diversity committee – has been lodged with Mr. Segal, who is working with Massey’s governing board to deal with the requests made by the students.

In the wake of the comments, a petition signed by almost 200 faculty and students was sent to Massey College on Thursday asking for Dr. Marrus to end his association with the college.

“In our eyes, the very legitimacy of Massey College hinges on the effectiveness of your response to this incident,” the petition states. “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.”

The petition also asks that the college issue a formal public apology, organize mandatory anti-racism training and drop the title “master” to refer to its director.

Mr. Segal said he would be open to that change.

“The term is tied to Oxbridge and the idea of master of one’s craft or art, not a master-slave reference. But we should be open to revision if it is no longer appropriate,” he said.

That demand has been made in the past. As a result, a task force has worked for several months examining whether to drop the title. It will report back in several weeks, Mr. Segal said.

He has also invited the students to meet with him.

Dr. Marrus did not respond to a request for comment. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, the author of eight books on the Holocaust, including The Holocaust in History, Lessons of the Holocaust and co-author of Vichy France and the Jews, and a former dean of the University of Toronto’s school of graduate studies.

That history does not excuse the remark or make it less hurtful or offensive, Mr. Segal said.

“His scholarship would indicate someone who has fought his entire life for human rights. Younger Junior Fellows may not be familiar with it; it is reasonable to react how they did,” he said.​

Source: Massey College under pressure to cut ties with professor after comment denounced as racist – The Globe and Mail