U of T searching for new Dean of Arts & Science

David Cameron to leave position held since 2013

U of T searching for new Dean of Arts & Science

The university is seeking a new Dean of the Faculty of Arts & Science to replace the current dean, David Cameron, who will finish his term on June 30, 2019.

An advisory committee was struck on September 21 by President Meric Gertler to begin the search.

Cameron, a political scientist, first started in May 2013 as interim dean, and was reappointed in July 2016 for a three-year term.

He has previously held positions including Vice-President Institutional Relations, Chair of the Department of Political Science, and acting Vice-Dean of Undergraduate Education and Teaching in the Faculty of Arts & Science. Cameron has been a Department of Political Science faculty member since 1985.

“Academic leaders are scholars who agree to take on special responsibilities for a time and these academic appointments usually run for two five-year terms,” said Elizabeth Church, U of T spokesperson.

Details about the transition have not been provided and it is unclear whether or not the new faculty dean will continue Cameron’s projects, including the newly proposed Indigenous college.

During his time as dean, Cameron implemented a number of initiatives including the Milestones and Pathways programs, launched in 2016, which offer support for graduate students by providing skills needed for academic and non-academic careers, as well as three-year funding for graduate programs including new program-level fellowships.

Cameron has also been involved with the expansion of the Advancing Teaching & Learning in Arts & Science program, which provides funding and support for innovative learning in the classroom.

He was also a key figure during the protests over Professor Jordan Peterson in 2016. Cameron was one of two signatories on a letter sent to Peterson asking him to respect gender pronouns.

The advisory committee appointing the new dean includes Provost Cheryl Regehr, Acting Dean of the School of Graduate Studies Luc De Nil, Dean of the Rotman School of Management Tiff Macklem, and Dean of the Faculty of Medicine Trevor Young, among others.

The committee will be meeting later in the fall to discuss electoral procedures and nominations from potential candidates. Students can also contact the committee with any comments or concerns and nominate faculty for this position or any academic appointment.

Ford’s campus free speech policy is not just beneficial — it’s essential

Only through free speech and the willingness to face opposing views can the university remain an institution of innovation

Ford’s campus free speech policy is not just beneficial — it’s essential

Ontario Premier Doug Ford has recently released a directive to postsecondary institutions requiring free-speech policies to be designed, implemented, and enforced across all campuses before September 2019. The premier has threatened provincial funding cuts for institutions who fail to deliver.  

Though Ford may be proving more and more to be the ‘Canadian Donald Trump’ as the days go by, especially after invoking the notwithstanding clause to override a judicial decision, he may have a point.

Over the recent year, right before the start of the spring election cycle, Ontario universities have sparked controversies in relation to the invitation of contentious guest speakers. For instance, Faith Goldy’s scheduled appearance as a speaker at Wilfrid Laurier University ultimately resulted in its president, Deborah MacLatchy, releasing a statement rejecting the values and ideas the speaker brought forward while reiterating the importance of freedom of expression after an outcry from campus students.

At the same university, a teaching assistant, Lindsay Sheppard showed a clip from TVOntario’s The Agenda, in which U of T Professor Jordan Peterson denounced the use of gender-neutral pronouns. This led to a disciplinary meeting with her superiors, which she secretly recorded.

At its best, Ford’s policy initiative upholds free speech without any repercussions. At its worst, the disarmament of the university administrators’ ability to restrict free speech, or allow for its restriction, is the price to pay in order to uphold the value of free speech on campuses.

Free speech is necessary because it ensures that our never- perfect ideas are always open to criticism. We are imperfect beings with imperfect knowledge. In order to improve ourselves and truly learn, we need to face what is unfamiliar.

Universities, as academic institutions, need to be extensions of the value of free speech. Professors and students alike need to be willing and able to accept a challenge to their own beliefs and this mandate ensures just that. If done correctly, Ford’s mandate will make university a place open to even the most offensive ideas, exposing our values and education to the criticism and development they deserve and need. Only when we are willing to accept criticism can we be sure that we remain an institution of innovation.

There has been an increasing trend of news articles describing younger generations as overly sensitive and fragile. While this is likely a blatantly overgeneralized and uneducated view, the very fact that people are seeing younger generations in this light is something to be noted. It is difficult for businesses, policy makers, and the general public to take young people seriously if we allow this belief to float around as a result of videos and articles highlighting the reality that some young people on campuses do not want to listen to the views of others on the grounds that such views are offensive.

The only way we students can build trust with the rest of society is if we show that the university environment is about open and critical discussion-making instead of insecurity from views that might challenge ours. Our ideas and research should be based on discovery and reasoning not blind groupthink.

When universities contest with anti-free speech forces, there are often grave consequences. On a small scale, we get the disruption that erupted at the Peterson rally by the Sidney Smith Building in 2016, leaving the student body angry and divided. History — through the 1970 Kent State protest, the 1976 Soweto Uprising, and the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests — shows that an assault on free speech can be fatal for students.

So what do we do when this mandate comes into action? We discuss it, argue about it, and criticize it. Even this policy that promotes free speech deserves its fair share of criticism.

Indeed, Ford’s mandate may be imperfect in its integrity — including the question of who defines and enforces ‘good’ free speech policy. Despite certain imperfections, a free speech policy is not only beneficial it’s necessary.

The policy’s imperfections are not grounds for trashing the policy entirely, but instead are grounds for improvements with the fundamental idea of free speech in mind. Ultimately, nothing comes before the freedom of expression.

Abeir Liton is a second-year Human Geography and Political Science student at St. Michael’s College.

Napas Thein is a second-year Public Policy and Political Science student at New College.

Ford’s forcing of ‘free speech’ inhibits freedom

The PC government’s tying of postsecondary funding to free speech on campuses is an ironically coercive tactic that reflects antipathy toward critics of oppression

Ford’s forcing of ‘free speech’ inhibits freedom

On August 30, Premier Doug Ford delivered on his campaign promise to prioritize ‘freedom of speech’ on university and college campuses. A statement issued by the provincial government indicated that Ontario schools that receive any amount of provincial funding are required, by January 1, 2019, to develop and implement policies that would foster freedom of speech and the free exchange of ideas both on campuses and within student groups.

If compliance is discovered to be insufficient, schools could face funding cuts. On an individual level, the government also recommends that students who present themselves as barriers to freedom of speech should be subject to campus disciplinary measures.

The idea of a government compelling freedom through threats and coercion indisputably contains a certain irony. There is also an eerie hypocrisy about Ford suddenly heralding himself as the defender of freedom of speech, being that one of Ford’s first actions upon taking office was to require that school teachers teaching sex ed only use a syllabus from the ’90s, essentially omitting any information dealing with gender identity, sexual orientation, or consent.

A casual reader might be confused about Ford’s seeming oscillation on the concept of the free and open exchange of ideas. However, any person who has some insight on what freedom of speech means in a modern Canadian context will be less flummoxed.

Ford’s enactment of this policy follows a trajectory which can be traced back to the University of Toronto in late 2016. The issue of free speech became contentious shortly after a series of vindictive public pronouncements were uploaded to YouTube by Professor Jordan Peterson.

In some of them, the professor adamantly and furiously denigrates the racial sensitivity training that he and his colleagues were required to undergo. In others, he angrily refuses to use gender-neutral pronouns, such as they and them, on the grounds that he does not desire to be recruited into transgender ‘ideology.’

The uproar over free speech that followed was not aimed at Peterson’s concerningly public targeting of soon-to-be-protected marginalized groups, but instead was directed at various parties of students, trans people, and Black activists who expressed concern and anger over the professor’s statements.

The connection between Peterson and the free speech policy goes deeper. Just before it was announced, the two men publicly met at an Ontario Progressive Conservative Youth BBQ at Ford’s home and discussed the issue of free speech on campuses. It seems that Peterson, frustrated at the reactions to his public speeches, discerned a potent way to bar the expressions of those who disagree with him.

So rests the self-defeating foundation underlying this distorted iteration of freedom of speech: that one should be free to flout whatever speech one wants. And no matter how dangerous, harmful, or cruel the ideas contained within, any reactions are wholly unwarranted and should be discredited — preferably with legal measures, says the Ford government.

If, hypothetically, free speech were to be truly admired and respected, the freedom to respond, protest, or otherwise react to others’ ideas would be given equal priority. There can be no legitimate freedom of expression without the freedom to express criticism. The current idea of free speech seems to subsist with narrow focus and intent: to allow social conservatives to express controversial opinions without consequence.

Unsurprisingly, this idea is quickly discarded when the controversy is from the other side of the political spectrum, or when the disparaging is directed from the disenfranchised to the privileged. We can turn to the example of Palestinian-Egyptian-American Randa Jarrar, a Professor at California State University, Fresno, who came under fire this spring for her tweet about recently-deceased Barbara Bush: “Barbara Bush was a generous and smart and amazing racist who, along with her husband, raised a war criminal.”

Calls for her removal from her position at the university quickly followed en masse, and the university was quick to state that her words were “beyond free speech.” Outrage from the crowd that had ferociously defended Peterson was mysteriously absent.

Perhaps this selective outrage is not so mysterious when one places the current uproar about free speech within the trend of a movement deemed by its supporters as anti-political correctness. In today’s political climate, it is for the most part no longer appropriate to openly and unapologetically say disparaging things about marginalized groups.

The federal government has taken legal measures to attempt to deter persons or institutions who might discriminate or compel violence against disenfranchised groups. For instance, Bill C-16 added gender identity and expression to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination, while Motion 103 calls for the development of approaches to reducing systemic discrimination against Muslims in Canada.

The increasing inappropriateness of publicly proclaiming ones’ hatred or distrust of marginalized groups requires that these reactions go underground — disguising themselves in clever cloaks. One of these cloaks targets political correctness, which asserts that the increased impropriety of speaking disparagingly about marginalized groups is itself oppressive and in opposition to the principles of freedom. This is the factory wherein the disguise of ‘free speech’ is manufactured.

It is a clever ploy: when the anti-political correctness brigade frames their argument as fighting for freedom, it is difficult to disagree with them without being attacked as a person who opposes freedom. Ford’s motion will likely go unchallenged for these reasons. On the surface, the discourse of fostering academic freedom and the open exchange of ideas seems unequivocally good, and a thing that should be unanimously desired by all Ontarians. Only by reading the fine print and placing the motion within the current political climate do its true intentions surface.

Campuses in Ontario stand to lose autonomy when they are required to be ideologically aligned with the state. And as with Ford’s infamous sex ed snitch line, the methods of policing that come with this bill are ambiguous. That the institution of the state would intervene and decide what kinds of discourses are appropriate and inappropriate on campus is contrary, not conducive, to the freedom of expression.

Meera Ulysses is a second-year Equity Studies and Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations student at New College.

British journalist subject to online threats following interview with Jordan Peterson

Peterson says threats and criticism not the same, calls on Twitter followers to stop making threats

British journalist subject to online threats following interview with Jordan Peterson

 

U of T psychology professor Jordan Peterson has attracted controversy after appearing in an interview with Cathy Newman of UK news channel Channel 4 News, in which he debated gender equality, transgender rights, and free speech.

Since the interview was posted on January 16, Newman has been the subject of gender-based abuse and threats on social media, which has led Channel 4 to conduct a risk analysis by security experts.

When questioned about his refusal to use transgender pronouns, Peterson said, “I actually never got in trouble for not calling anyone anything,” and he added that he had instead refused to “follow the compelled speech dictates” of government.

The interview has received over 4 million online views since it aired, and it has garnered strong reactions against Newman on social media. A Channel 4 News spokesperson said that “immediate steps” have been taken to “ensure [Newman’s] safety and security.” The nature of the threats against her or specific measures taken, however, have not been specified.

Channel 4 editor Ben de Pear tweeted that he would “not hesitate to get the police involved if necessary.”

In an email to The Varsity, Peterson wrote that “Channel 4 should make the ‘threats’ public so that the public can judge their validity.”

“Criticism and threats are not the same thing, and as far as I know there has been no police involvement,” said Peterson.

On Twitter, Peterson has called on his followers to stop threatening Newman if they were doing so, saying, “Try to be civilized in your criticism. It was words. Words, people, words. Remember those?”

A Twitter search failed to unearth direct threats against Newman. Two Twitter comments reacting to the debate said “RIP Cathy Newman.” Around 10 tweets since January 16 have leveled slurs against the interviewer. One Twitter user collated comments on the YouTube video and found over 750 comments using misogynistic slurs.

During the interview, Newman also pressed Peterson on his views on the gender pay gap, noting that wage disparities made it seem to many women “that they’re still being dominated and excluded.”

“I didn’t deny [the gap] existed, I denied it existed because of gender,” said Peterson in his interview with Newman. “There is prejudice… But it accounts for a much smaller proportion of the variance in the pay gap than the radical feminists claim.”

“Agreeable people get paid less,” said Peterson. “Women are more agreeable than men.”

“So why not get them to ask for a pay rise?” asked Newman. Peterson replied that he had successfully provided assertiveness training to female professionals in his clinical practice “many, many times.”

When Newman asked why Peterson’s right to free speech trumped the rights of transgender people not to be offended, Peterson responded, “You’re certainly willing to risk offending me in the pursuit of truth. Why should you have the right to do that?”

He added that, as a journalist, she was “digging a bit… that’s what you should do.”

Peterson appeared in the interview as part of an international tour to promote his new self-help book, 12 Rules for Life.

 

U of T’s biggest stories of 2017

The Varsity looks back at the defining headlines of last year

U of T’s biggest stories of 2017

JENNA MOON/THE VARSITY

Toronto and U of T organized against Trump after his inauguration

Following Donald Trump’s election as President of the United States, protests broke out in Toronto and around the world in opposition.

Trump’s actions have had a direct effect on members of the U of T community. One of his first major acts was an executive order on immigration, which limited the country’s intake of refugees, as well as visitors and immigrants from certain majority-Muslim countries.

Joudy Sarraj, last year’s Trinity College Female Head of Non-Resident Affairs, told The Varsity that she would have been impacted had she not had dual Canadian-Syrian citizenship. In the wake of this executive order, a protest took place on University Avenue in front of the US Consulate, attended by a number of U of T students.

Eliminating staff positions at the UTSU was a promise the Demand Better slate ran on. TOM YUN/THE VARSITY

UTSU: Demand Better dominated, two staff members laid off, Hudson lawsuit settled

The Demand Better slate, led by Mathias Memmel, won the majority of executive positions and board seats in the March 2017 UTSU elections. The slate ran on a platform focused on fixing the union after years of mismanagement. Within the fall 2017 semester, two executives, Vice-President University Affairs Carina Zhang and Vice-President Campus Life Stuart Norton, resigned for personal reasons, and they have since been replaced.

Demand Better executives also fulfilled their campaign promise of cutting back salary expenses, laying off two full-time staff members who oversaw clubs and health plans. This stirred controversy in the student body; opponents claimed that clubs and student services would be negatively affected, though the UTSU argued that they would not be.

The UTSU also settled a two-year lawsuit with Sandra Hudson, the union’s former Executive Director, who they alleged committed civil fraud. The UTSU was seeking $277,726.40, which was initially given to Hudson as part of a compensation package when her contract was terminated, and an additional $200,000 in damages.

Details of the settlement are undisclosed but have drawn the ire of several board members and Vice-President External Anne Boucher.

Trinity students have clashed with their college administration over two alleged assaults and a ban on alcohol-licensed events. STEVEN LEE/THE VARSITY

Trinity student alleged assault, TCM vote of no confidence against administrators

In September, Trinity College student Bardia Monavari, Co-Head of College, alleged that he was verbally and physically assaulted by Campus Police following a residence party. Monavari placed the blame on college administrators Adam Hogan and Christine Cerullo, who he said refused to intervene when they saw the alleged assault.

Soon after, the Trinity College Meeting, Trinity’s direct democracy student government, passed a near-unanimous vote of no confidence in the Office of the Dean of Students. The motion signalled the disappointment of students in Trinity’s response to Monavari’s alleged assault, as well as the alleged mishandling of Tamsyn Riddle’s sexual assault case. Riddle filed a human rights application against both Trinity College and U of T. Since the vote, Provost Mayo Moran has banned alcohol at college events, and the Office of the Dean of Students and the college heads have been using an external facilitator in mediation meetings.

Thousands of college students in Ontario were out of school during the five-week faculty strike. PHOTO BY CONNOR MALBEUF, COURTESY OF THE GAZETTE

College strike affected U of T’s partner schools, campus unions secured strike mandates

Faculty at colleges in Ontario went on strike for close to a month, following failed negotiations with the College Employer Council over job security and academic freedom in classrooms. This affected UTSC and UTM students enrolled in joint programs with Centennial College and Sheridan College, respectively. After faculty rejected a tentative agreement, the strike ended when the provincial government enacted back-to-work legislation. This forced faculty to return and for any other unresolved issues to be decided in binding arbitration.

Meanwhile, labour unions at U of T began preparing for negotiations as their tentative agreements with the university expire. Sessional lecturers, under CUPE Local 3902 Unit 3, voted 91 per cent in favour of a strike mandate. The main topics included wage increases and improvements in benefits, but talks stalled on the issue of job security. The union reached an agreement shortly after, which was later ratified. Unit 1, which represents teaching assistants, also voted overwhelmingly for a strike mandate. Their main point is increasing wage rates, but no statements have been released yet about the ongoing status of negotiations.

STEVEN LEE/THE VARSITY

Jordan Peterson remained a source of controversy

U of T psychology professor Jordan Peterson gained international attention in September 2016 after publishing his YouTube series criticizing political correctness. The news gave way to many rallies, both in support and in opposition of the controversial professor and the right to free speech.

Throughout 2017, Peterson remained a source of controversy. In February, a right-leaning conference where Peterson and Ezra Levant, founder of The Rebel Media, were scheduled to speak was interrupted by protesters and resulted in crowd control police taking to the campus.

Later in the year, Peterson had his funding request denied for the first time by a federal agency, proposed creating an online university to counter traditional institutions, and doxxed two student activists.

In November, Peterson proposed creating a website targeting “postmodern, neo-Marxist” professors, which he eventually abandoned. Later in the same month, hundreds of individuals and organizations across Canada signed an open letter to U of T calling for Peterson’s termination.

Peterson’s ridicule of leftist viewpoints runs contrary to the spirit of academia

Marginalizing certain groups in the name of ‘free speech’ is rife with hypocrisy

Peterson’s ridicule of leftist viewpoints runs contrary to the spirit of academia

If you ask Professor Jordan Peterson’s supporters what they find so appealing about him, many will probably cite his supposed quest for freedom of speech. Indeed, Peterson has championed himself as a fighter for free expression, constantly battling against “political correctness” on university campuses. Given his most recent antics, however, we might question Peterson’s actual commitment to academic freedom.

Firstly, Peterson and his supporters have repeatedly tried to shut down anyone who has dared to criticize or question him by labelling them as “neo-Marxists” or as “social justice warriors,” discrediting their positions without engaging in debate. He has done this to everyone, including those protesting events he is scheduled to speak at, and even journalists at The Varsity who have tried to interview him. The anger Peterson has directed towards his opponents has gone so far as to take the form of harassment, as we saw recently when he exposed the Facebook profiles of two student activists to his massive Twitter following, prompting his supporters to harass them with anti-Semitic and sexist language.

Peterson has also called for several studies to be completely removed from universities, particularly programs related to equity. Peterson apparently believes that “a huge chunk of the humanities and the social sciences have turned into an indoctrination cult.”

One of my majors is Women and Gender Studies (WGS), a program that is hardly an “indoctrination cult” but rather a wide-ranging program that teaches us to examine the world through a more critical and informed lens. It’s hypocritical of Peterson to claim to champion academic freedom whilst calling for certain departments to be shut down.

Sadly, this is not the first time the WGS department has been threatened. Just two years ago, online trolls threatened violence against Women and Gender Studies students and professors, as well as feminists in general. I remember being in my first-year WGS160 course with Campus Police stationed in the lecture hall. The threats — which luckily did not escalate into actual violence — did not make me afraid; if anything I was more determined to study the subject.

WGS, along with other equity programs, are meant to represent those who are marginalized, and examines their perspectives in a world that does not believe those perspectives are worthy. Since most of the people studying these topics are often already marginalized, these types of threats can feel especially severe.

Moreover, Peterson also came forward with the idea of creating a website that uses an algorithm to determine if user-submitted course materials or professors align with so-called “postmodern neo-Marxist” ideology. Though Peterson has since decided to abandon this idea, it still gives us a great deal of insight into his views. We already know that Peterson and many of his supporters harbour hostility towards students and academics in fields related to equity, and given what happened to the students he doxxed, it’s easy to see how the website could have been used to target people and courses associated with such subjects.

Peterson’s use of phrases such as “neo-Marxist” and “social justice warrior” are also questionable. Though apparently common in his vocabulary, these terms are also frequently used as dog-whistles to target anyone who holds views in the spirit of creating a more equitable world. Not only is it silly to assume that everyone in the WGS department is a Marxist or a neo-Marxist, but Peterson twists those labels out of context, using them to mean essentially anyone with left-wing views. The term “social justice warrior” is frequently used online to belittle those interested in equity by dismissing them as oversensitive or irrational.

Even the idea of Peterson’s proposed website contradict his supposed obsession with free expression in the academic world. Imagine if someone created a similar website with a list of, say, professors who promote transphobic and misogynistic views — like refusing to use they/them pronouns and suggesting men cannot control “crazy women” because they aren’t allowed to use physical aggression. Peterson and his supporters would likely be upset by this or feel they are being unfairly targeted due to their viewpoints — despite those viewpoints actually being based in discriminatory logic.

Over the past months, Peterson has demonstrated he is not a champion of academic freedom. In the past year, he has spent his time making a spectacle of himself and raised quite a bit of money through Patreon.

Two years ago, Jordan Peterson was a well-respected psychology professor, and not nearly as famous as he is now. Today, he has developed a new reputation as a provocateur, attacking what he sees as political correctness, the campus left, and so-called “social justice warriors.” And instead of at least engaging in debates about the ideas and departments he finds so abhorrent, he is content to simply say they need to go. Instead of speaking to those who protest him, or accepting that they also have the right to free speech, he posts their personal social media profiles to his Twitter and lets his supporters attack them.

As students, we should not consider Peterson’s tactics as something to strive toward in our academic lives. Instead, we should learn to respect each other and engage in healthy debate, as opposed to resorting to attack.

Adina Heisler is a third-year student at University College studying Women and Gender Studies and English. She is The Varsity’s Student Life Columnist.

Wilful blindness to Peterson’s antics verges on impunity

The erratic professor has incited harassment, threatened students, and vilified faculty — all while the university stands idle

Wilful blindness to Peterson’s antics verges on impunity

Twitter brings out the worst in us. This is especially true of Jordan Peterson, who took to the social media platform on October 26 to air his latest grievances in notably unorthodox fashion.

The U of T psychology professor was lamenting the postponement of a panel he was scheduled to partake in at Ryerson University titled “The Stifling of Free Speech on University Campuses,” featuring notable figures like Gad Saad, Oren Amitay, and former Rebel Media reporter Faith Goldy. The panel was cancelled due to safety concerns, according to Ryerson, followed by organized protests by student and non-student activists alike.

Among the protesters were two activists, George Brown student Marco La Grotta and U of T graduate Christeen Elizabeth, who became the targets of online harassment after Peterson tweeted URL links to their personal Facebook profiles in retaliation for the panel’s cancellation. “Communists,” who “celebrated the shutdown of our Ryerson talk,” he captioned the tweets.

Some of his Twitter followers, a horde of over 245,000, quickly assumed mob mentality. “She is utterly insane, fck that dumb btch,” wrote one, replying to Peterson’s tweet. “The s*** truth Seekers have to deal with,” wrote another. The few users who questioned Peterson’s decision to link to the activists’ profiles were quickly dismissed as ‘concern trolls.’ Peterson’s tweets have received a total of 108 retweets as of press time.

As a result of this sudden exposure, both Elizabeth and La Grotta opened their Facebook inboxes to discover extensive hate mail and violent threats. “Im coming after your kids you bitch,” wrote one user to Elizabeth. “You deserve the bread line and the gulag,” wrote another. Following numerous messages and anti-semitic depictions sent his way, La Grotta temporarily deactivated his Facebook account.

Below: messages sent to La Grotta and Elizabeth’s Facebook inboxes following Peterson’s tweets.

The Varsity first reported on the incident two weeks ago.

Exposing the Facebook profiles of two student activists is, especially for a tenured professor earning a six-figure salary, a sad display of bullying and anti-intellectual behaviour. But it’s not the professor’s first endorsement of online harassment. More recently, Peterson announced his plans to launch a website that would allow students to identify left-leaning faculty members and “postmodern” course material, what U of T’s faculty association says has “created a climate of fear and intimidation” at the university.

Meanwhile, Peterson’s increasingly erratic behaviour has gone almost entirely overlooked by the university itself. Peterson has demonstrated a deteriorating ability to interact maturely with many of those he is paid to interact with — a pattern that should give any employer cause for concern in any profession — and yet time and time again, the university has cowered to him, leaving students and other faculty to bear the brunt of his antics.

The trouble began in September 2016 when Peterson first stepped into the ring with campus activists following his statements on Bill C-16 and his refusal to use gender-neutral pronouns. Ever since, Peterson has found himself in numerous public yelling matches with students protesting his events or rallies.

While not necessarily the fault of Peterson alone, the exchanges have been anything but productive, serving only to foster animosity between the professor and swaths of the student body. Peterson has become so engulfed in ideological warfare that it’s unclear whether he could detach that from the necessary fairness required of a professional academic.

This inundation extends to Peterson’s interaction with student media as well. In October 2016, a staff writer at The Varsity reached out to Peterson for comment on a news story they were writing. The writer took all the necessary steps in assuring the due diligence of a reporter: they provided Peterson with the premise of their story, a sincere set of questions, and a deadline for when to respond.

Peterson, who normally declines to provide comment for The Varsity’s reporting, responded by threatening the writer, telling them they were “playing with serious fire” and that “reality [would] arrange itself so [they would] have serious cause to regret it” if they didn’t “play it straight and careful.”

It’s instances like these that make us question Peterson’s capacity for moral judgment, and how someone displaying such a lack thereof could be employed at a university where students and faculty are expected to work amicably with one another.

Peterson’s recent actions have only made us question this more. In July, he shared an article from InfoWars on Twitter, a publication known for actively spreading falsehoods and baseless conspiracy theories. In October, he railed on what he referred to as “female insanity,” arguing that men can’t control “crazy women” because men are not allowed to physically fight them. All the while, Peterson has been profiting greatly off his antics: in exchange for lectures and panel discussions on political correctness run amok, Peterson earns tens of thousands of dollars from Patreon subscriptions on a monthly basis. He offers video recordings of his lectures to his subscribers and promotes ‘anti-PC’ sticker-sets for the real keeners among them.

In an academic setting, it is detrimental to the pursuit of truth and understanding to embrace fake news, to use terms like ‘crazy’ and ‘insanity’ without an inkling of actual medical diagnosis, and to exploit divisive political issues in order to turn a profit. Moreover, it is antithetical to a safe and productive learning environment to threaten students and faculty, and to expose their personal information online when you disagree with them.

It is evident, too, that the university is unsure of how to handle this problem, and it’s not hard to see why. When the administration fails to intervene in Peterson-related controversies, they are scolded by his opposers on account of complacency. When the administration makes an effort to chide Peterson, as they did so delicately last year through an open letter asking him to respect students’ personal pronouns, Peterson cries oppression.

As a result, the administration has become like the parent at daycare who doesn’t know how to discipline their petulant child. When The Varsity asked the media relations office if the university believed Peterson’s actions toward the two students were appropriate behaviour for a professor, they declined to answer directly, replying that “universities are places where people can express opinions that are controversial and sometimes unsettling.”

This response was disappointing, to say the least. Peterson’s latest actions are not a matter of free speech. Of course free speech and free expression are imperative to a properly functioning liberal democracy. Of course these principles are paramount to a healthy learning experience in a university setting. But Peterson’s latest actions are a matter of harassment, and if the administration cannot distinguish this matter from a matter of free speech then students and faculty alike should be gravely concerned.

The administration must recognize that Peterson’s latest actions extend beyond the realm of ideological debate and into the realm of ideological aggression and, in turn, it must reconsider the values it holds in teachers. It must ask if it is appropriate for its employees to threaten students and incite harassment onto dissenters. It must ask if it is prudent to indulge a professor who has exchanged nuanced, intellectual thought for the inflamed rhetoric he knows will tickle the fancy of his rabid fanbase.

Should Peterson be made aware of this editorial, he will inevitably dismiss it as the rhetoric of the ‘neo-Marxist postmodernists’ that oppose him — overreacting, triggered leftists that need to sort themselves out. Many of his followers will mindlessly agree.

So, given the futility of confronting Peterson directly, our attention turns instead to the administration, whose role it is to reflect on the core values of the institution it leads, and to judge whether Peterson’s recent behaviour has a place at this university. Because in our opinion, it doesn’t.

                                                                                                                                            

Faculty members pen statement condemning Peterson’s proposed website targeting “postmodern, neo-Marxist” profs

Members of the Women and Gender Studies Institute and U of T Faculty Association say website would create unsafe work environment

Faculty members pen statement condemning Peterson’s proposed website targeting “postmodern, neo-Marxist” profs

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.

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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.”

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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.