Ryerson University students, faculty and alumni criticized the university on social media for erasing a message critical of a wealthy donor who posted a photo in which she posed with former U.S. president Donald Trump.
Suzanne Rogers, who is married to Rogers Communications board chair Edward Rogers and whose family has donated millions of dollars to Ryerson, posted a photo featuring Mr. Trump to her Instagram account over the weekend.
In the photo Ms. Rogers, her husband and her sons posed with Mr. Trump at his Mar-a-Lago resort. The photo was captioned “A special way to end the night.”
A social-media account for Ryerson’s fashion program, to which Ms. Rogers has donated $2-million over the past five years and whose Suzanne Rogers Fashion Institute bears her name, invited Ms. Rogers to consider the implications of that photo.
The message went on to say that the school’s aim is to resist and undo the “structures and practices of white supremacy” that it argues Mr. Trump promoted. It also invited Ms. Rogers to discuss the impact that Mr. Trump and his supporters have had on racial minorities and marginalized communities working in fashion.
The post was quickly taken down, however, and replaced by a message from Ryerson’s administration. It said that the post directed at Ms. Rogers was not authorized by the university and did not reflect Ryerson’s views.
“We do not believe social media is the appropriate platform to judge the actions of others,” Ryerson said.
The social-media criticism of Ryerson was swift.
Anjli Patel, a lawyer who has taught a fashion and law course in the program, accused the university of “silencing” the fashion school. In a letter addressed to Ryerson’s president she described how the fashion program, under the leadership of Dr. Ben Barry, had been guided by principles of “inclusion, decolonization and sustainability,” while Mr. Trump “is the antithesis.” Dr. Barry did not respond to an interview request.
Colleen Derkatch, a professor of English at Ryerson said on Twitter: “This is what happens to the academic mission of free inquiry when you financially starve public postsecondary institutions to the extent that they depend on the philanthropy of wealthy individuals.”
Ryerson president Mohamed Lachemi was not available for an interview Monday. Ryerson also declined to answer specific questions. Instead it issued a statement in which it said the message was posted by an institutional account, not by an individual faculty member. Although it did not say so specifically, the university is marking a distinction between individual faculty members, who are entitled to academic freedom, and social-media accounts connected to the institution, to which it contends different rules apply.
The university said the school of fashion “did not consult widely within the university on the statement,” and that sharing it via the fashion school’s social-media account “suggested that it was approved and endorsed by Ryerson University and it was not.”
“Ryerson University faculty are free to teach, to carry out scholarly research and creative activities, and to discuss and to criticize both the University and wider society,” Ryerson said in the statement. “However, if they decide to use institutional channels, such as school social media accounts, proper procedures must be followed.”
The Rogers family are major donors to several Ryerson programs and the school of management is named for late patriarch Ted Rogers.
Rogers Communications did not respond to questions from The Globe and Mail.
Lisa Tant, a communications consultant and former editor of Flare magazine, resigned from the advisory board of the Suzanne Rogers Fashion Institute, a voluntary position she held for five years.
Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.