Cambridge and the exclusion of Jordan Peterson

Apr 3, 2019 by

by Nigel Biggar, The Article:

The facts are these. Jordan Peterson is a fully paid-up and tenured professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, who, earlier in his career, taught at Harvard. In a letter of 19 February he was offered a visiting fellowship by Cambridge University’s Divinity Faculty, which had been formally approved by the Faculty’s Research Committee. The following month, on Monday 18 March, Peterson referred to the offer on his YouTube channel. Two days later, on Wednesday 20 March, news that the Faculty had cancelled the fellowship was first published on Twitter by the Cambridge University Students Union (CUSU) at 5.55am, followed shortly by the Faculty at 5.58am. The Faculty did not communicate the decision to Peterson himself until 9.01am, when it sent an email, which simply announced that “the Committee which offers visiting fellowships has reconsidered your application with care. After further deliberation the Faculty has decided to withdraw the offer of a visiting fellowship”. No explanation was offered.

Later that day, the Guardian reported a comment on the decision by a University spokesperson, saying that “[Cambridge] is an inclusive environment and we expect all our staff and visitors to uphold our principles. There is no place here for anyone who cannot”. On Monday 25 March, the University’s Vice-Chancellor, Stephen Toope, made a formal statement, explaining that “early last week, the Faculty became aware of a photograph of Professor Peterson posing with his arm around a man wearing a T-shirt that clearly bore the slogan ‘I’m a proud Islamophobe’. The casual endorsement by association of this message was thought to be antithetical to the work of a Faculty that prides itself in the advancement of inter-faith understanding”. And he added, “Robust debate can scarcely occur … when some members of the community are made to feel personally attacked, not for their ideas but for their very identity”.

These facts reveal two remarkable things. The first is that the Faculty communicated its decision to CUSU, and tweeted it abroad, before it wrote to Professor Peterson. What this suggests is that the Students Union was the source of pressure to rescind the offer, and that the Faculty was so eager to appease them that it was willing to behave in a grossly discourteous, indeed humiliating fashion to a Canadian colleague. It’s also worth noting that, while it confidently claimed that Peterson’s “work and views are not representative of the student body”, CUSU itself has little claim to be representative: like student unions throughout the country, it occupies the attention of only a small minority of students and commands the political loyalty of even fewer.

Read here

See also: Why is Cambridge afraid of Jordan Peterson, by Rod Dreher, The American Conservative (and other articles on this topic).

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