Nine months after complaining to Toronto’s Ryerson University, and at the start of a new academic year, Jewish students say they’re still waiting for an explanation for how an instructor’s anti-Jewish tweets were handled.
Students at Ryerson and York University began complaining last December that tweets from Valentina Capurri, a contract lecturer in Ryerson’s department of geography and environmental studies, were littered with references to “zio,” a short pejorative for “Zionist.”
Capurri’s tweets said she does “not engage in conversation with zio trolls,” that there is a “zio-fanatic PM here in Canada” and that ISIS and Israel “are in bed together.”
One message warned that “the day will come when the zio-murderer will have to pay a price for this. #GenocideInGaza.”
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Another tweet linked to an article by the notorious U.S. conspiracy theorist Kevin Barrett, who fulminated about the Rothschild banking family and its plans for global domination.
The Israeli Students Association at York University lodged the complaint in conjunction with Ryerson students in December 2016. Capurri’s Twitter account and her offending posts were made inaccessible to the public shortly thereafter.
At least one Jewish student wants to know more.
“This suggests that the Ryerson administration notified her of the complaint and counselled her to make her social media accounts private,” wrote Ben Shachar, the former vice-president of York’s Israeli Students Association and a fellow at CAMERA, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, in a blog post for the group on Aug. 30.
“In lieu of any communication from the Ryerson administration, we can assume that their solution to this complaint was to simply sweep it under the rug,” Shachar added.
He said Ryerson has “made no further efforts to engage with students on this issue. Ryerson University must act immediately to correct this egregious oversight.”
Aidan Fishman, interim national director of B’nai Brith Canada’s League for Human Rights, said B’nai Brith met with Ryerson president Mohamed Lachemi last December to discuss several issues, including Capurri’s social media posts.
Fishman said B’nai Brith was told that her tweets were “totally unacceptable” and a violation of Ryerson’s policies on the use of social media and on discrimination and harassment.
‘Anti-Semitic faculty is a systemic problem.’
“My understanding is that they applied some form of internal discipline,” Fishman told The CJN.
Capurri’s tweets were “extremely offensive,” said Tehila Colman of Hillel at Ryerson University. “That a university faculty member would use the term ‘zio,’ an anti-Semitic epithet made popular by white supremacists and the Ku Klux Klan, is completely unacceptable.”
Judy Zelikovitz, vice-president of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, told The CJN that CIJA received “confirmation” from Lachemi that the matter “was taken very seriously and was dealt with as a human resources issue” by Ryerson.
But Shachar, who’s now at the University of Toronto, said he never asked for Capurri’s Twitter account to be made private.
“I sought for the university to take disciplinary action against her and to communicate these actions,” he told The CJN. “Regardless of her Twitter account going silent, anti-Semitic faculty is a systemic problem and requires a systemic solution, not just obscuring it.
“We don’t even know if the university instructed her to make her account private.”
In an email, Ryerson spokesperson Johanna VanderMaas said the university has followed up on the matter, but that human resources issues are kept confidential.
Efforts to contact Capurri were not successful.