A history professor at the University of Toronto’s Massey College has resigned amid backlash over racially insensitive remarks he made to a Black student.
Professor Michael Marrus submitted his resignation as a senior fellow at the school Sunday, Oct. 1, after 200 students and faculty signed a petition demanding that he be removed, the Toronto Star reported. Marrus has since apologized for his comments.
“First, I’m so sorry for what I said, in a poor effort at jocular humor at lunch last Tuesday,” he wrote in his resignation letter to college head Hugh Segal. “What I said was both foolish, and understood immediately, hurtful, and I want, first and foremost, to convey my deepest regrets to all whom I may have harmed.”
Marrus was dining with three junior fellows last week when Segal asked to join them. At the time, Segal’s official title was “master” of Massey College.
“You know this is your master, eh?,” Marrus reportedly said to the Black junior fellow. “Do you feel the lash?”
The professor’s off-putting comments prompted an open letter to Segal from students a day later demanding Marrus’ resignation and other changes to address the atmosphere at the college, according to the Toronto Star. Andrew Kaufman, a junior fellow at Massey College and one of the signatories who first reported the incident, said this isn’t the first incident of racism at the campus.
“This was not strictly an indictment of Michael Marrus,” Kaufmann said. “It was an indictment of the atmosphere where this statement can be comfortably uttered.”
Beverly Bain, one of 150 faculty members who signed the letter decrying Marrus’ racist comments, agreed, saying the professor’s words reflect a larger issue the college is facing when comes to racism — both covert and overt.
“It’s not just about this individual — it doesn’t end with him and neither did it begin with him,” Bain told the newspaper. “He is part of the culture that continues to replicate itself in these institutions, allowing him to articulate that sort of thing.”
By Friday, Massey College had agreed to nearly all the demands laid out in the petition, including students’ request for Segal to change his own title from “master,” the newspaper reported. The college also promised to implement anti-racism training and apologized for the entire ordeal.
“Words and statements like these in no way reflect the position of Massey College as a whole,” Segal said in a statement. “We are committed to providing an open, welcoming and inclusive academic and residential community and will ensure that it is a safe space for all our Fellows in which this kind of encounter can never happen again.”