A controversial Toronto psychology professor is lambasting a prestigious British university after it opted to rescind a visiting fellowship on the basis of his work.
Jordan Peterson published a blog post in the wake of the move by Cambridge University, criticizing the school for its decision to withdraw the opportunity for a two-month scholarly visit to the elite campus.
Prof. Peterson, an outspoken critic of political correctness and many campus movements broadly affiliated with the political left, accused the school of bowing to pressure from students and failing to notify him directly of the decision to retract the fellowship.
Cambridge spokeswoman Tamsin Starr denied both allegations laid out in the blog post, saying Cambridge e-mailed the professor prior to sending out a tweet announcing the withdrawal of the offer and asserting the decision was made as a result of an academic review rather than student backlash.
“It was rescinded after a further review,” Ms. Starr said. She did not respond to a detailed list of questions, including whether such reviews are standard procedure and what specific findings triggered the withdrawal.
Prof. Peterson’s blog post let loose scathing words for the school’s Faculty of Divinity, which arranged for the fellowship and where the University of Toronto professor said he hoped to gain further material for a planned set of lectures on stories from the Bible.
“I think the Faculty of Divinity made a serious error of judgment in rescinding their offer to me,” he wrote in his post. “I think they handled publicizing the rescindment in a manner that could hardly have been more narcissistic, self-congratulatory and devious. … I wish them the continued decline in relevance over the next few decades that they deeply and profoundly and diligently work toward and deserve.”
Prof. Peterson said the idea for a visiting fellowship came about after he lectured at the school and met with divinity faculty members last year.
In a brief tweet announcing the retraction, Cambridge indicated Prof. Peterson requested the fellowship that was due to start in October. Prof. Peterson’s post referred to this assertion as a “half-truth,” saying it had been discussed with faculty members before he submitted his formal request.
Word that the offer had been rescinded was greeted with relief by the Cambridge University students’ union, which began tweeting about the invitation in the days before it was withdrawn.
“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,” the union said in a Facebook post, later clarifying that the union takes exception to what it describes as his “history of actively espousing discriminatory views towards minority groups” rather than his positions on “academic freedom.”
Prof. Peterson has been a vocal critic of, among other things, the use of gender-neutral pronouns among those identifying as transgender. His notorious refusal to use them helped catapult him to global fame.
Prof. Peterson’s blog post took shots at the union’s response, finding fault with its literary style as well as its substance. He said the response received during his 2018 visit to the campus suggested there were people at the university interested in his perspectives.
“It seems to me that the packed Cambridge Union auditorium, the intelligent questioning associated with the lecture, and the overwhelming number of views the subsequently posted video accrued, indicates that there (sic) a number of Cambridge students are very interested in what I have to say, and might well regard my visit ”as a valuable contribution to the university,“ he said.