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Cambridge defends decision to rescind offer of Visiting Fellowship made to Dr Jordan Peterson

29 March 2019

It came after a photograph emerged of Professor Peterson posing with a man wearing a T-shirt with the slogan ‘I’m a proud Islamophobe’


Dr B. Peterson, professor of psychology and clinical psychologist at the University of Toronto

Dr B. Peterson, professor of psychology and clinical psychologist at the University of Toronto

THE Faculty of Divinity at the University of Cambridge has rescinded an offer of a Visiting Fellowship made to Dr Jordan B. Peterson, a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto.

The Vice-Chancellor of the university, Professor Stephen J. Toope, issued a statement on Monday, five days after the Faculty of Divinity announced that the offer had been rescinded.

He confirmed that the decision to rescind it had been taken after the faculty became aware of a photograph of Professor Peterson posing with his arm around a man wearing a T-shirt with the slogan “I’m a proud Islamophobe.” The photograph was taken in New Zealand last month. The T-shirt slogan is followed by a list that includes “Praying for violence”, “Rape” and “Paeodophilia”, and concludes “The freedom to hate Islam but not the individual”.

“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 interfaith understanding,” Professor Toope said.

“As a consequence of this, the faculty’s research committee reviewed its original decision to award a Visiting Fellowship and concluded that the offer should be rescinded. . .

“As a university community, we place a paramount value on the free and lawful expression of ideas and viewpoints. As scholars, we believe that discussion across boundaries and across preconceptions is a necessary condition for the resolution of even the most intractable conflicts. At the same time, we are a community that values respect for all others, even those with whom we disagree fundamentally.

“For a university, anything that detracts from the free expression of ideas is just not acceptable. Robust debate can scarcely occur, for example, when some members of the community are made to feel personally attacked, not for their ideas but for their very identity.”

A statement from the Cambridge University Students’ Union said that it was “a political act to associate the University with an academic’s work through offers which legitimise figures such as Professor Peterson.

“His work and views are not representative of the student body and, as such, we do not see his visit as a valuable contribution to the University, but one that works in opposition to the principles of the University.”

In a statement issued last week, Professor Peterson noted the popularity of his online lectures on Genesis, which had received “about 10 million hits. . . I don’t think there is another modern religious/psychological phenomenon or happening that is genuinely comparable.”

He was planning to produce a series of lectures on the Exodus stories later this year. “I thought that making myself more knowledgeable about relevant biblical matters by working with the experts there would be of substantive benefit to the public audience who would eventually receive the resultant lectures.”

He accused the Divinity Faculty of having decided that “kowtowing to an ill-informed, ignorant and ideologically-addled mob trumped participating in an extensive online experiment in mass Christian and psychological education. . .

“I think that it is no bloody wonder that the faith is declining (and with it, the values of the West, as it fragments) with cowards and mountebanks of the sort who manifested themselves today at the helm.”

Professor Peterson spoke at the Cambridge Union last year. The Cambridge Centre for the Study of Platonism, part of the Divinity Faculty, also presented a conversation in which he discussed “the transcendent” with Sir Roger Scruton, introduced by Professor Douglas Hedley, a member of the Divinity Faculty.

His book 12 Rules for Life: An antidote to chaos was a bestseller in several countries (Comment, 2 November; Books, 9 November). Among his theses is the “chaos” engendered by “the crushing force of sexual selection”. He writes about “the terror young men feel towards attractive women, who are nature itself, ever ready to reject them, intimately, at the deepest possible level. Nothing inspires self-consciousness, undermines courage, and fosters feelings of nihilism and hatred more than that — except, perhaps, the too-tight embrace of too-caring mom.”

He rose to prominence in 2016, after criticising a Canadian law that gave gender expression and gender identity protection under the Human Rights Act and Criminal Code.

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