By Joelle Tomlinson
A University of Waterloo professor canceled a lecture at Ryerson because of the University’s involvement in Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW).
Edward Vrscay, a math professor at the University of Waterloo, was scheduled to give a colloquium talk to Ryerson’s math department on March 19.
He decided to opt out of the seminar in protest of the IAW, a controversial week dedicated to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Vrscay informed Professor Sebastian Ferrando, the chair of Mathematics at Ryerson, of his decision through a letter.
In the letter, Vrscay said that his choice to not speak at Ryerson was made because of his personal disagreement with the event and his concerns about its consequences, including anti-Semitism and hate-mongering.
“It is convenient for academics in their comfy offices and jobs to avoid the unease created by such situations by simply turning their eyes away and dismissing everything with an escape clause to the effect, ‘It’s not such a big deal. I’m afraid, however, that by not thinking it was a big deal, it has become a very big deal – the proverbial elephant in the room that everyone wants to avoid,” said Vrscay in his letter to Ferrando.
In a subsequent interview, Vrscay said that he meant what he said in the letter.
Vrscay also said he received many supportive emails from members of Ryerson’s math department.
“As you see in the letter, my beef was not with the department of mathematics, that’s why there was no reason to direct any anger towards them,” said Vrscay.
Peter Lawrence, a math professor at Ryerson, said he does not believe that Vrscay’s actions were necessary in light of the week.
“I don’t think it’s entirely appropriate for an academic to take academic revenge on a school in regards to the politics of another, in fact any, country,” said Lawrence.