Cambridge University Vice-Chancellor Stephen Toope said on Sunday that a two-month fellowship offer to Jordan Peterson was withdrawn “as a consequence” of the institution becoming aware of an image in which the psychology professor is pictured with a man wearing an “I’m a proud Islamophobe” shirt last month.
“The faculty became aware of a photograph of Professor Peterson posing with his arm around a man wearing a T-shirt that clearly bore the slogan ‘I’m a proud Islamophobe’”, Toope stated.
The Faculty of Divinity found out about the photo last week, which was perceived to be in direct opposition to its work, Toope said.
“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 inter-faith understanding. Some difficult decisions will always be necessary to ensure that our universities remain places of robust, often challenging and even uncomfortable dialogue, while balancing academic freedom with respect for members of our community”, Professor Toope continued.
Reacting to Toope’s reasoning, Peterson shared an article, entitled “Why is Cambridge Afraid of Jordan Peterson?”, with his own comment on what might be behind the drastic decision:
I think hate is more likely than fear. Fear makes you freeze or run. Hate fills you with the desire to eradicate and destroy https://t.co/IXDUkHW8ji— Dr Jordan B Peterson (@jordanbpeterson) 26 марта 2019 г.
Toope’s statement has angered social media users, who took to Twitter to support the Toronto professor and blast the decision as ridiculous:
Jordan gets photographed with thousands of fans every month when he's on tour. He's supposed to check each one for possible wrongthink messages? Ridiculous.— Geoffrey Miller (@primalpoly) 25 марта 2019 г.
Imagine being responsible for what everyone who stands next to you wears. He probably didn’t even see it.— Terry Newman (@TLNewmanMTL) 25 марта 2019 г.
I’m not surprised though. This is exactly how thinking in certain parts of the humanities seems to work now — guilt by association.
Plus the t-shirt itself was a mockery of the vague, often misused term "Islamophobia". It was admittedly crude, but it no way displayed any anti-Muslim animus.— Thomas Clements (@tclementsuk) 25 марта 2019 г.
Presumably Cambridge will never invite Jeremy Corbyn to anything as he’s been photographed with a whole load of homophobes, anti semites, racists and terrorists. Endorsement by association, now that’s a slippery slope.— Stefan Cross QC (@StefanCross1) 25 марта 2019 г.
The only reason they cancelled was because they couldn’t compete with his intellect. This is supposed to be our prime seat of learning— John (@John24591847) 25 марта 2019 г.
That's the weakest of weak excuses.— Brookspirit🏴🇬🇧 (@Brookspirit1) 25 марта 2019 г.
Once news of the rescindment was made public last week, Peterson came up with a lengthy response, in which he brutally blasted the university for the move.
“I think the Faculty of Divinity made a serious error of judgement in rescinding their offer to me (and I’m speaking about those unnamed persons who made that specific decision). I think they handled publicizing the rescindment in a manner that could hardly have been more narcissistic, self-congratulatory and devious. […] 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”, he wrote.
These past two weeks haven’t been the best for Peterson: the photo at the epicentre of the Peterson-Cambridge rift taken in Auckland on 21 February prompted a New Zealand bookstore to pull his book, “12 Rules for Life”, from the shelves after an internal email had been sent to staff:
So they banned Jordan Peterson's book… but… uh… pic.twitter.com/V9tfxpRrog— Tim Pool (@Timcast) 21 марта 2019 г.
The “disturbing” content mentioned in the email likely alluded to the photo, which circulated online in the aftermath of the deadly mass shooting in Christchurch mosques.
Peterson, a YouTube darling, is the author of a series of lectures called “Professor against political correctness”, where he contends that “there’s a difference between saying something you can’t say and saying that there are things that you have to say”.