Photo of York's Vari hall. Courtesy: Wikipedia, CC BY 3.0

Screenshots of an email exchange between a mathematics and statistics professor and a student at Toronto’s York University have gone viral, prompting school officials to release a statement denouncing the interaction.

The emails, which were shared on Twitter Thursday, show an unnamed student requesting a midterm deferral, or for the weight of the upcoming test to be transferred to the final exam, after learning all internet and cellular communications will be cut off “indefinitely” in Myanmar, where the student is based.

“There is no deferral,” the professor replied. “It’s transferred to the final exam. Last chance, bad sign. Even the internet came down with COVID-19?”

The student explains the communications blackout is due to the violent military coup taking place in the country and that at least 200 protestors have been shot so far.

“The regime decided to shut off all communications,” the student says, later requesting confirmation that they “shouldn’t worry” if they miss the test. 

“Of course you should,” the professor replies.

“The next time you miss something, it’s over. By the way, your remarks (both related to this course and to your home country) made me wonder how you understand reality. People don’t get shot just for protesting.”

The professor then says “loading everything onto the final exam” will make it “tough to pass the course.”


In a Thursday evening statement, York said it is “committed to upholding and promoting the values of respect, equity, diversity, and inclusion across our campuses and in our communication,” and that the “recent communication between a Department of Mathematics & Statistics instructor and a student that does not reflect those values.”

The university says “appropriate actions” were “immediately initiated” upon learning of the exchange but does not mention what that entails, citing confidentiality.

“We would like to assure all concerned that senior staff from the Faculty were able to directly make contact with the student last night, and clearly expressed support for their difficult circumstance and well-being, and further, assured them that necessary accommodations would be granted,” York says.

While it’s not clear if the professor was terminated or put on leave, the university confirmed to CBC the screenshots posted to social media prompted the school’s statement and investigation.