Jordan Peterson: Cambridge University pulls fellowship for controversial philosopher who called women 'crazy harpy sisters'

Canadian academic had been expected to join later this year

Andrew Buncombe
Wednesday 20 March 2019 17:07 GMT
Jordan Peterson leaves Cathy Newman speechless in debate on transgender rights

A controversial Canadian academic who once called on women to stand up against their “crazy, harpy sisters”, has had the offer of a fellowship rescinded by the University of Cambridge.

Jordan Peterson, 56, who has starkly divided global opinion with his views on topics such as masculinity, political correctness and the gender pay gap, had expected to take up a fellowship with the Faculty of Divinity.

However on Wednesday, the department said the offer had “been rescinded after a further review”.

Peterson, a clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, started to earn global headlines in 2016 when he spoke out against so-called campus culture wars where he claimed “social justice warrior, left-wing radical political activists” were running rampant.

That year, he posted a series of lectures on YouTube, titling them the “Professor against political correctness”. He was also a prominent and outspoken opponent of Bill C-16, a bill passed by the Canadian parliament that was designed to stop discrimination on the grounds of gender identity or expression.

In his first lecture, Peterson, the author of several books including Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief and 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, said he would not use the preferred gender pronouns of students and faculty, as it would impact his own freedom of speech.

“There’s a difference between saying something you can’t say and saying that there are things that you have to say,” he told a public debate on the topic.

“I regard these made-up pronouns, all of them as neologisms of a radical PC authoritarianism. I’m not going to be a mouthpiece for language I detest.”

On Wednesday, a spokesperson for the University of Cambridge confirmed the offer had been revoked but refused to provide any further explanation.

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“We can confirm that Jordan Peterson requested a visiting fellowship, and an initial offer has been rescinded after a further review,” said a spokesperson.

In the UK, Mr Peterson is perhaps best known for a energetic interview with Cathy Newman of Channel 4 News in January of last year. During the half-hour interview, Ms Newman asked Mr Peterson “it doesn’t bother you that your audience is predominantly male. Isn’t that a bit divisive?”.

He replied: “No, I don’t think so. I mean, it’s no more divisive than the fact that YouTube is primarily male and Tumblr is primarily female.”

Supporters of the Canadian academic claimed the British journalist had sought to put words into his mouth.

She received such a torrent of online abuse and threats, the channel said it had been forced to hire security specialists.

Ben de Pear, the editor of Channel 4 News, wrote on Twitter at the time: “Our Channel 4 News on-screen journalists expect to be held to account for their journalism but the level of vicious misogynistic abuse, nastiness, and threat to Cathy Newman is an unacceptable response to a robust and engaging debate with Jordan Peterson.”

He added: “Such is the scale of threat, we are having to get security specialists in to carry out an analysis. I will not hesitate to get the police involved if necessary. What a terrible indictment of the times we live in.”

Mr Peterson did not immediately respond to enquiries on Wednesday. Cambridge University Students Union told the student publication Varsity, it was “relieved” Mr Peterson’s fellowship offer had been withdrawn.

“It is a political act to associate the University with an academic’s work through offers which legitimise figures such as Peterson,” it said.

“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.”

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