University of Toronto professor Jordan Peterson has decided to ditch plans for a new website to identify classes he described as “indoctrination cults,” following concerns raised by faculty that it would make them the targets of harassment.
The psychology professor, who has himself developed a cult-like following since his public refusal to use gender-neutral pronouns to address his students, has temporarily shelved plans to build a website that would use artificial intelligence to scour course curriculums for “post-modern neo-Marxist course content” in order to discourage students from taking those classes.
Peterson decided to nix the plan after about 35 percent of respondents to an online poll said the proposed website would do more harm than good, he said on Twitter on Monday.
Peterson, who has built up a substantial following among the alt-right by railing against “political correctness” and “post-modernism,” did not respond to interview requests from VICE News.
In a YouTube video from July, Peterson said he’d been working with a programmer to produce a website that would enable people to upload course descriptions and then determine “the degree to which the description is postmodern.”
“Then you can decide for yourself whether you want to take that and become a social justice warrior, if that is what you think your education should be about, or if you should avoid that like the plague that it truly is.”
Peterson said he would like to see enrollment in such classes drop by 75 percent in the next five years, and described his approach as “nonviolent warfare.”
His decision to put the website on pause follows a backlash from other faculty members at Canada’s largest university. Last week, members of the Faculty of Women and Gender Studies asked the university to take action to “proactively prevent this harassment before it begins,” expressing “deep concern” that such a site would create “unsafe work and study conditions.”
U of T confirmed to VICE News that university officials received the letter last week and were meeting with faculty.
“It terms of the proposed website, I can’t speculate on Professor Peterson’s plan in this regard,” said spokesperson Althea Blackburn-Evans in an email.
Instructors of the potentially targeted courses believe that their autonomy as educators may be under threat.
Peterson initially said his website would target women’s studies, ethnic studies and racial studies groups which “have to go and the faster they go, the better.” He called the subjects of sociology, anthropology and English literature “corrupt,” and referred to faculties of education “the worst offenders.”
The University of Toronto Faculty Association wrote in a statement that it was “alarmed” to learn of plans for a website that would “place under surveillance certain kinds of academic content.”
“Instructors of the potentially targeted courses believe that their autonomy as educators may be under threat,” said their statement. “The proposed website has created a climate of fear and intimidation.”
Since Peterson rose to fame for his opposition to a trans rights bill in Canada, he’s become a popular figure in the alt-right movement and now makes over $50,000 a month through crowdfunding.