Jordan Peterson and Bill C-16
Throughout my (long) university career I have had a number of important mentors. Beginning even in high school with Clinton Smith, into u/g with Jonathan Newman, masters with Martin Bunch and now my PhD with Steve Quilley (and a big high-five to Dan and other Steve). In each of their own ways, these men have helped me to expand my thinking and challenge previously held beliefs to make me a better scholar, and in some instances a better person. If their teaching methods had been hampered by rules and/or legislation, I wouldn’t have questioned some of the most important ideas that I held in my mind as ultimate truths. This is why I feel very strongly about the drama going on with Jordan Peterson.
To catch you up… Jordan Peterson disagrees with Bill C-16. Students and trans-activists are mad about it. Students and others are writing formal letters (first letter and second letter) against Dr. Peterson asking for an apology and to police language in the university.
I believe that the ultra-liberal voices of the trans community are doing a larger disservice to society by challenging freedom of speech and the integrity of the university. University professors, pre-tenure teachers, PhD students, and others should not have to walk on egg shells for any particular group. Even by speaking out publicly in this way, my husband is worried that I am putting a target on my back – that isn’t right. Academia is about asking questions, disagreeing, digging, and learning. Dr. Peterson didn’t do anything wrong — he didn’t say anything that could be considered hate speech or that should incite violence – he simply voiced an argument and participated in our democratic process of debating legislation.
For these reasons, I wrote the below e-mail to relevant parties in response to this issue:
Dear President Gertler, Vice-President Regehr, Ms. Hannah-Moffat, and executive members of CUPE 3902,
I’m writing to you in regards to the formal letters presented against Dr. Jordan Peterson by the UTMSU, LGBTOUT, and CUPE 3902. While I am not a student at the University of Toronto, I am a PhD Candidate at the University of Waterloo and have attended workshops with Dr. Peterson in the past. Also, I believe this is a disagreement that should concern all those interested in protecting freedom of inquiry in the university. The movement against Dr. Peterson is quite dangerous. While I may not agree with what Dr. Peterson has to say, I am appalled at the attempts to try and silence him.
In a very important way, I agree with Jordan Peterson’s accusers – the university should be a place that is inclusive and safe for all voices, and that includes the voice of Dr. Peterson. The university is not a sacred space where liberal sentiments must be upheld at all times, it is a place that is supposed to expand our minds and challenge our core beliefs so that we may enter the world as critical thinkers with innovative solutions to problems. The university is meant to train us to think differently than others, and by limiting freedom of speech and the ability to ask difficult questions, we are undermining the most wonderful things about the privilege of participating in higher education.
The official response of the University of Toronto will set a precedent for how other universities may respond to similar cases in the future. Thus, I am not writing to you in support of Jordan Peterson, but rather in support of freedom of speech, critical thinking, and the right for my mentors to continue teaching in ways that challenge preciously held beliefs.
I urge those in positions of relevance to show solidarity for those who feel weak while upholding the integrity of the university by standing behind Dr. Peterson’s right to voice an opinion and argument.
PhD Candidate | University of Waterloo