An open letter has been sent to the senior administration at U of T calling for the termination of psychology professor Jordan Peterson’s appointment. The letter, which claims that Peterson’s actions provide grounds for termination according to university policy, is signed by hundreds of members from the U of T and the broader postsecondary community.
The letter is addressed to Faculty of Arts & Science Dean David Cameron and Vice-President and Provost Cheryl Regehr, and cc’s Acting Chair of the Department of Psychology Nicholas Rule. Its signees include individuals and groups from a wide variety of postsecondary institutions across Canada and the US. Among the many U of T signees is the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU).
Peterson’s proposed website, which was meant to identify “postmodern” and “neo-Marxist” university faculty members, courses, and disciplines, is targeted in the letter. Peterson recently announced the project has been put on hold, though the letter states that “the mere fact that such an aggressive and damaging initiative was proposed by a tenured University of Toronto professor is unacceptable.”
The letter also lists what it refers to as Peterson’s “previous efforts at agitation,” including his refusal to use preferred gender pronouns, “inflammatory denunciations of so-called ‘crazy women,’” and what it alleges as his “evident connections” to white supremacist and misogynistic groups. The letter references a BBC article about the cancellation of a free speech event where Peterson and former Rebel Media writer Faith Goldy were to speak following the Charlottesville protests.
Three university policies are cited by the signees as evidence that Peterson’s termination is justified. The first is the Statement on Prohibited Discrimination and Discriminatory Harassment, which reads, “The University aspires to achieve an environment free of prohibited discrimination and harassment and to ensure respect for the core values of freedom of speech, academic freedom and freedom of research.” The letter alleges that Peterson’s conduct “constitutes an obstacle” to that aspiration.
Also noted is the Code of Behaviour on Academic Matters, which states that “seeking to disadvantage others by disruptive behaviour is unacceptable.” The third policy referenced is the Policy and Procedures on Academic Appointments, which states that grounds for termination include “gross misconduct.”
The letter asserts that part of the university’s role is to “publicly condemn transphobic, homophobic, misogynistic, and racist discourses.” The administration, states the letter, “has already publicly acknowledged the danger posed to both faculty and students by Peterson’s behaviour” in the letter sent to him by the Dean and Vice-Provost in October 2016. Signees believe that by urging Peterson to comply with “the law, the Ontario Human Rights Code, and University Policy” in the 2016 letter, the administration acknowledged “that his position as professor would be at risk if he did not change his [behaviour].”
The open letter comes shortly after the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) National General Meeting, where UTSU Vice-President Equity Chimwemwe Alao proposed an emergency motion asking the CFS and its member locals to “publicly condemn Peterson and show solidarity” with those he targets, including the U of T Women and Gender Studies Institute. Those present voted unanimously in favour of the motion.
Peterson did not respond to The Varsity‘s requests for comment.