Faculty members at the Women and Gender Studies Institute (WGSI) as well as the University of Toronto Faculty Association (UTFA) have expressed concern over a proposed website by U of T psychology professor Jordan Peterson “for the purpose of identifying and ranking courses and professors that he advocates should be removed from the university” such as women and gender studies as well as “ethnic and racial studies.”
The proposed web site — introduced by Peterson during his Q&A videos on his YouTube channel and in his speech at the Canadian Freedom Summit hosted by Students in Support of Free Speech back in June — would supposedly allow students to upload course descriptions and professor names, and then those descriptions would be fed into an artificial intelligence system “to parse apart the postmodern lexicon automatically.”
While the website would start off with U of T, Peterson has said that he wants to expand it to analyze courses across North America.
Peterson said in a Q&A video uploaded on October 3 that he hopes to launch the web site in time for the start of the January semester.
At the Canadian Freedom Summit, Peterson identified courses and programs he sees as “corrupt,” including English literature, sociology, anthropology, education, and law.
“Women’s studies, and all the ethnic studies and racial studies, studies groups, man, those things have to go and the faster they go the better,” said Peterson.
A letter from faculty members at the WGSI states that “the harassment and security problems that this website encourages is therefore guaranteed to garner international attention to U of T. U of T is already in the news for events at Massey College, and this website is aimed at sparking an even larger storm on campus and in the media.”
In a statement posted on UTFA’s web site, faculty members say that “instructors of the potentially targeted courses believe that their autonomy as educators may be under threat.” The UFTA executive has asked to meet with the Provost’s office to discuss the matter, which they say is a threat to the academic mission of the university.
It further argues that Peterson uses “violence-tinged language” in his speeches describing the website. They reference his Canadian Freedom Summit speech, where “he stated that making purportedly ‘postmodern neomarxist’ arguments ‘should immediately get you punched in the nose hard enough to knock you out.’”
“We strongly request that action is taken by university leadership to proactively prevent this harassment before it begins,” reads the WGSI letter, signed by Rinaldo Walcott, Director of the WGSI, and Michelle Murphy, a professor at WGSI and in the Department of History
U of T’s Director of Media Relations Althea Blackburn-Evans told The Varsity that the administration will be meeting with faculty members to hear their concerns.
In response to the media coverage of backlash against his proposed website, Peterson tweeted, “The postmodern radicals don’t want students to know what philosophy drives their agenda.”
Here’s my take on this. The postmodern radicals don’t want students to know what philosophy drives their agenda https://t.co/xrt72rE2ZJ
— Jordan B Peterson (@jordanbpeterson) November 11, 2017
Peterson has built an international following over the course of the past year. He first gained attention in September 2016 when his YouTube lecture series, “Professor against political correctness,” sparked debate on campus and gained international attention.
The Varsity has reached out to Peterson, who is currently on sabbatical and not teaching classes.