An Indiegogo campaign started by The Rebel Media, a conservative news and opinion website, has raised over $170,000 in support of U of T psychology professor Jordan Peterson after his funding proposal was denied for the first time in his career.
The decision was made by a currently-anonymous review committee from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), the postsecondary-based federal research funding agency. The names of this year’s committee members will be released on the SSHRC’s website once the review process is complete.
On Twitter, Peterson said his previous proposal to the same agency “received more funding than any other in the history of the U Toronto Psych Dept.”
This time, however, Peterson said his proposal received “an exceedingly low rating.”
According to an article in the National Post, Peterson is certain the recent controversy surrounding him is tied to the rejection of his proposal. Last fall, Peterson criticized Bill C-16, which adds “gender identity and gender expression to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination,” and voiced his concerns about non-binary pronouns and political correctness. He received a mixture of local and international support and criticism, including three rallies on campus and two warning letters from the university.
“Committees assess only the information contained in the application,” said Julia Gualtieri, Media Relations Adviser of SSHRC. “Dr. Peterson’s research proposal was reviewed by a committee of discipline-based, academic peers through an independent review process designed to ensure the highest standards of excellence and impartiality.”
SSHRC committee members are selected based on their “academic knowledge and standing in the discipline.” They further consider “gender, language, region and university size to ensure the committee is broadly reflective of Canadian academia.”
“In this particular case, the adjudication committee was comprised of Canadian academics in the relevant discipline,” Gualtieri said, referring to Peterson’s application. “SSHRC staff are responsible for facilitating the review process only and do not participate in the decision making.”
Peterson requested a total of $399,625 from SSHRC for five years of research. In a Rebel Media video, Peterson states that most of the research money was allotted to the “salary and tuition” of Peterson’s student researchers, with the rest going to research subjects, travel expenses for conferences, and computer equipment.
In the same video, Peterson explains he requested funding to continue researching how to improve the measurement and prediction of personality. Peterson’s team also plans on “assessing the relationship between personality and political belief: liberal, conservative, and now, politically correct,” noting that “it’s the first time the latter has been investigated scientifically.” The team also wants to improve “online interventions” like the Self Authoring Suite, which has “helped thousands of students get better grades and stay in school.”
Ezra Levant, founder and self-described “Rebel Commander” of The Rebel Media, spearheaded an Indiegogo campaign to raise the first year’s worth of funding, $73,325, for Peterson’s research team within a 30-day period. The Indiegogo project reached its goal in one day. The next goal was to raise an additional $82,325 to support the second year of research, which the campaign has also reached.
“That’s a very strong message in support of Prof. Peterson — and frankly, a rebuke of the government bureaucrats who denied him his grant,” Levant told The Varsity.
“The government’s reasons for rejecting Prof. Peterson’s grant request are secret,” Levant said. “But it is suspicions [sic] that the first time in his career his grant application has been rejected happens to coincide with his battle against political correctness.”
In the Rebel Media video, Peterson said he was contacted by other researchers whose works were “curtailed for what appear to be political reasons.”
Gualtieri said all committee members “must sign the Conflict of Interest and Confidentiality Agreement and must declare any conflicts of interests.” Members with a conflict of interest must leave the meeting room when discussing the applications in question and cannot make decisions about those applications.
“As part of the process, the competition for funding in question designated a committee of three independent observers who ensured that the merit review process was followed,” said Gualtieri. “All these stringent measures were employed for the most recent adjudication process, as with all SSHRC’s adjudication processes.”
Peterson declined to comment to The Varsity.