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After Michael Marrus Resignation over Race Remark, Massey Masters Are No More

October 13th 2017

U of Toronto Massey College

The recent scuffle at Massey College at U of T with imputations of racism in some ill-considered cracks about “the master” and “the lash” by retired prof — and Holocaust scholar — Michael Marrus, actually joins a long peculiar history at Massey.

When it began in the 1960s, it was a snooty, men-only institution with an anglophile head, novelist Robertson Davies, who revelled in Brit pretensions. It took 10 years and a big fight just to get women in as members. The filthy rich, aristocratic Massey family endowed it, along with Hart House at U of T, also restricted to men for its first, oh, half-century.

Part of the shtick at Massey was the archaic lingo. It was the only part of U of T with a “master.” Davies loved that stuff. My own guess is that Marrus, who I’ve known since high school, wasn’t just making an offensive, tin-eared joke. He also meant to take the piss out of the pretension. His jibe was probably directed mostly at the current master, Hugh Segal, a lifelong Tory, not at the Black student who was present. But everything went shriekingly off the rails.

Apologies have now been rendered, Marrus has resigned, “master” will no longer be used — and this is how things get resolved at that weird place: with maximum public embarrassment. It’s a great piece of architecture, by the way, and you should drop by to see it, but be prepared for stuff like the gowns they still wear to dinner, where they still have a “high table” for the nobs and boffins.


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