A University of Toronto (UofT) psychology professor is facing heat after a YouTube video of him criticizing gender-based anti-harassment legislation was posted to his social media this week.
As originally reported by the The Varsity, professor Jordan Peterson uploaded the first part of a series of videos railing against political correctness on his YouTube channel Tuesday
The video, titled "Professor against political correctness: Part I: Fear and the Law," features Peterson arguing against "political correctness" and its effect on law. In particular, he takes issue with Bill C-16, the parliamentary bill meant to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code to criminalize harassment based on gender identity. He states he doesn't believe there is "any evidence" to support the validity of non-binary gender identity.
Peterson, whose courses mainly focus on the interactions between society and government, argues in the video that the law is a growing example of a society mimicking the growth of past "totalitarian and authoritarian political states."
"The University of Toronto is not a particularly politically correct institution," Peterson told VICE in an interview Thursday, noting that he has also been upset by the university's attempts to make the staff undergo anti-racism training. "I have not received any complaints from the university or students about my views."
Besides his concerns with gender-identity, Peterson also expressed an overall disdain for political correctness to VICE. In regards to representation of minorities, Peterson argued that it is "not true" that white men are the most dominant force on campus—instead pointing toward a "culturally-diverse" student population and a "disproportionate" number of female to male students on university campuses.
Peterson told VICE Thursday that he had never actually interacted with a student who asked to be addressed by their preferred pronouns, but refused to confirm or deny whether he would actually comply with a request if asked by a future student to do so. Instead, Peterson said the issue is "complex" and "cannot be simplified" to a yes or no answer.
"It would depend on how they asked me," he told VICE. "If I could detect that there was a chip on their shoulder, or that they were [asking me] with political motives, then I would probably say no...If I could have a conversation like the one we're having now, I could probably meet them on an equal level."
However, UofT physics professor A.W. Peet, who identifies as non-binary, took issue with Peterson's views. Peet, who prefers the pronouns they/them/their, notes that the gravity of the situation is not about them in particular, but rather about how other non-binary and gender-queer students may feel when attending Peterson's class, or simply going to a university in which "a professor harbours those views."
"If someone is going to claim that non-binary people don't exist, I take issue with that," Peet told VICE. "It's not even about how I feel, it's about the larger issue of saying, 'Hello, yes, I am a real person.'"
Peet, who wrote a formal letter expressing their concerns to the university late Wednesday night, says that their hope is Peterson "broadens [his] horizons" and that the university takes formal action on the matter.
"Really, my only message is: "We exist." I defy your political opinions by just existing, by being here," Peet told VICE.
UofT media spokesperson Althea Blackburn-Evans told VICE that while no complaints have been made about Peterson as of yet, the university would be willing to look into a matter of harassment if one were filed.
"Universities are a place where people can express beliefs that can be unwelcome or uncomfortable to some people," Blackburn-Evans said. "But we're also an institution with a [set of guidelines,] one of which is protection from harassment or discrimination [on gender identity.]"
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