Another Speaker Shut Down by College Students

Add Jordan Peterson to the list of professors shut down as visiting speakers by angry university students.

Since last fall, Peterson, a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, has enraged many people by refusing to use the growing vocabulary of pronouns preferred by transgender people. On Friday night at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Peterson was set to serve on a four-person panel to discuss the use of these pronouns, but three of the people dropped off the panel and a student mob shut down the event featuring Peterson alone. “It’s like being pecked to death by a bunch of ducks,” Peterson said later.

On Saturday night, Peterson spoke without incident at the University of Western Ontario. At McMaster, Peterson sent people to guard the fire alarms, which are often activated to stop lectures that displease students.

Margaret Wente wrote in the National Post, “They argue that the very idea of two genders is a restrictive system that cruelly discriminates against many. They demand the right to construct their own reality as they see fit. Some want to be known (singularly) as “they.” Others think “they” isn’t the right fit either and prefer to choose from an ever-expanding list of made-up pronouns such as “xu,” “hir,” “ze,” and so on. Conrad Black, the founder of the National Post, wrote on the pronouns issue:

 “Every legally competent individual has a perfect and absolute right to declare their sex, but not to create a new legal status and legally require the use of a new vocabulary for those in flux between the only two sexes we have, mercilessly binary though their finite number may be. The individuals in that condition may change their registered sex each day if they wish, but not treat anyone who declines to address them in terms that debunk the gender-binary world as guilty of a hate crime, punishable by imposable fines.”

Peterson has posted 500 videos on YouTube, many or most of them criticizing Bill C-16, legislation to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act by adding gender identity and gender expression to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination. Peterson said, “If what I put up on YouTube objecting to an unpassed piece of legislation is enough to cost me my career, then I can tell you that the university’s days are done.”

At Western Ontario, the university forced the group sponsoring Peterson to pay the $1200 security fee. Marc Mercer, president of the Society for Academic Freedom and Scholarship, says Western Ontario is responsible for providing security during University of Toronto professor Jordan Peterson’s sold-out Saturday lecture.

“If there are security fees to be paid for a campus group that is sponsoring an event, (they) should be assumed by the university as part of the mission to promote discussion and dialogue,” said Mercer, a London-born philosophy professor at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax.


  • John Leo

    John Leo is the editor of Minding the Campus, dedicated to chronicling imbalances within higher education and restoring intellectual pluralism to our American universities. His popular column, "On Society," ran in U.S.News & World Report for 17 years.

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One thought on “Another Speaker Shut Down by College Students”

  1. I believe people have the right to protest matters important to them, but when taken in the context of being college students, one notices a major dilemma here. Higher education is supposed to provide students a “neutral space” to expose them to ideologies and beliefs, whether good or bad, so they may intellectually recognize the purpose and process of these beliefs. It’s supposed to demonstrate an educated students ability to distinguish their own feelings and beliefs on a matter with their ability to analytically understand the issue at hand.

    Yet higher education has frequently capitulated to students who seek “safe spaces” and are frightened by the notion that there may be those who don’t believe what they do. They’re in denial about the fact that when it comes to ideology, a dualistic “good vs bad” doesn’t necessarily work especially when you have to compare the ethical, experential, and moral bases from where the perception of good or bad comes from in the first place. They just don’t want to listen to anything they don’t like, and for supposed scholars, this is a terrible trait.

    Sure, feel free to shout down the intolerant. If somebody went up on stage and started spouting intolerant nonsense, any honest scholar would have a duty to shut them down because what they’re espousing isn’t a differing opinion, it’s an ideology built around suppressing your right to your own opinions and beliefs. But for matters of debate, like pronouns, going off the deep end simply because the speaker doesn’t think it’s necessary to invent more pronouns is just absurd.

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