WGSI Letter (1)
Letter from the WGSI regarding Jordan Peterson's proposed website...
Vice-President Kelly Hannah-Moffat, Vice-Provost Sioban Nelson Dean David Cameron Dean Glen Jones Carolyn Rabbat, Director, Critical Incidents, Safety and Health Awareness Bonnie McElhinney, New College Principal
Cc: Cynthia Messenger, UTFA president; J. Roy Gillis, UTFA Chair of Equity Committee; Ryan Culpepper, Chair CUPE 3902; Pri Sharma, President, ASSU; Christopher Ball, GSU Executive We are writing to express our deep concern about a proposed website being built under the direction of Prof Jordan Peterson for the purpose of identifying and ranking courses and professors that he advocates should be removed from the university. This website, if launched, presents a serious case of harassment, fostering unsafe work and study conditions for students, faculty, and staff. As two years ago WGSI under lockdown for 6 months due to online threats, and as concerns about incidents of anti-Black racism at U of T continue, we take the potential threat posed by this website as a serious occupational safety and harassment issue. We learned of this website through publicly available online videos. These videos describe the website as asking people to upload course descriptions, along with professor names, and then using AI software (called a “postmodern lexicon detector”) to rank them for “postmodern neo-Marxian” content, which he describes as a corruption that needs to removed from the university as part of “nonviolent warfare.” Prof Peterson, when describing this website, explicitly identifies Women and Gender Studies and what he calls “racial and ethnic studies” as his primary targets, and the larger context of his speeches describing “postmodern neomarxism” make apparent that he is using the term as a code word to describe scholarship on feminism, gender, sexuality, and anti-racism. The first announcement of this website that we know of was at the Students in Support for Free Speech conference held on June 28th. In July, he again discusses this project, and in his October video explains that he delayed launching it this fall because of events in Charlottesville and announces its launch for this January. This website, which is built by volunteers and invites others to upload course descriptions, cleverly distributes responsibility. Nonetheless, the larger context of the videos clearly indicates Prof Peterson’s leadership in this project, as well as its harassing purpose. Links to the videos, with times and transcriptions are attached to this letter. Prof. Pederson has built a large and international following in alt-right networks. The launch of this website, while first aimed at U of T, is also directed at this large audience. The harassment and security problems that this website encourages is therefore guaranteed to garner international attention to U of T. U of T is already in the news for events at Massey College, and this website is aimed at sparking an even larger storm on campus and in the media. Moreover, as we see in cases in the United States, alt-right harassment of professors and instructors is not confined to the local, but uses the internet to mobilize trolling cross-regionally.
It is particularly concerning that Peterson uses violence-tinged language to describe the courses he hopes to prevent people from taking, describing them as corrupt, reprehensible, malevolent, a plague, and even “bordering on murderous,” and describing his overall project as part of a war. At one point in his June speech concerning the website, he stated that making purportedly “postmodern neomarxist” arguments “ should immediately get you punched in the nose hard enough to knock you out.” These remarks are just from the three videos we know of where his forthcoming website is discussed. In public online remarks more broadly, Prof Peterson regularly describes women and gender studies and what he refers to as “racial and ethnic group studies” as pathological, a cancer, and in other strongly denigrating terms. The launch of this website must be put in this context in order to fully understand it as a platform that will generate harassment. We strongly request that action is taken by university leadership to proactively prevent this harassment before it begins. We are making this request to the leadership of the university, and asking that UTFA, CUPE, ASSU, and GSU - who represent potentially affected students, faculty, sessional instructors, and staff - proactively support this request. We are also including the Principal of New College, where many of the most targeted programs are housed, in this correspondence. Sincerely, Rinaldo Walcott, Chair, WGSI Michelle Murphy, Professor, History and WGSI
Addendum: Videos and Transcripts Posted October 3, 2017, October Patreon Q&A, Posted by Jordan B Peterson https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JwkzFKDJzwo [23:58 min] Q: I am wondering how the computer program that ranks university courses as worthwhile or nor not is coming along. “Well, It isn’t rating them as worthwhile, it is rating them as postmodern, neo marxism or not. And it is actually fully developed. I was going to launch it, and I didn’t design it, somebody
volunteered to design it and presented it to me, and it seems to work very well. I was going to launch it at end of August so that this year’s university students could benefit from it, but there was the Charlottesville event, and then I got busy, and also I wasn't feeling great, and so I just didn't hit the window of time properly, but I hope to be able to launch it for the January incoming class. Do a video about what is wrong with the university system, the many things that are wrong with the university system, and to launch the website at the same time. I also had people suggest to me that maybe it wasn't a good idea, that it would increase polarization. But I have thought about that for about a month and a half and I think that the benefit to the consumer, so that would be the informed student, outweighs any danger of polarization. Besides that something has to be done because the situation in the universities is really ridiculous.”
Posted July 3, 2017: July Patreon Q and A, by Jordan B Peterson https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1EmrMTRj5jc [47:58 min] As you can tell I can hardly say enough things that aren’t good about postmodern neo-Marxists...Everything else they have done is not only intellectually bankrupt but morally reprehensible, and I think they are corrupting our culture, they are hurting young people, and they are hurting them as well by getting them to pay for being hurt, which is really quite a malevolent enterprise, so I have absolutely no regrets about going after the postmodern neo-Marxists as hard as I possible can and I am certainly not done doing so. [48:46] So, one of the thing that is going to happen, for example, in the next month or so, I have been working with a programmer who has volunteered his services and has already produced this, he has produced a website that enables people to enter text that will then classify the text as postmodern or non-postmodern and so you will be able to enter a course descriptions from universities - the course description, the professor’s name, the discipline, and the university. It will tell you the degree to which the description is postmodern and 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, and so my goal, if I had to set a personal goal, and this is the sort of thing maybe that you guys are helping me do with my continued support on Patreon, is that I would like to knock enrollment in the postmodern disciplines down by 75% over the next five years. I think that I am thinking about it from the perspective of nonviolent warfare, it is that serious to me and that this would be equivalent to cutting off the supply chain. It is like the postmodernists need a continual influx of young impressionable minds in order to continue their propagandistic and society devouring efforts and I am going to do absolutely everything I can to cut that supply chain off at the source, hopefully, and reduce their enrollment to the zero that would match their citation rate for their publications.
Posted July 9, 2017, Prof Peterson’s speech, “Postmodern NeoMarxism: Diagnosis and Cure) at Students in Support of Free Speech, Canadian Freedom Summit on June 28, 2017 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s4c-jOdPTN8 [9:51 min] So the next thing is what to do about it? I thought about a lot of things about what might be done about it apart from just talking about it, which seems to be reasonably effective, but I thought for a while that it would be useful for the political systems, the people who are running the political systems, to get them to consider to do something like cutting the funding of universities by 25% and letting them over the remains. And hopefully what that would mean that the pseudo disciplines such as as women's studies, that never had a methodology which was credible to being with, and I would put in this classification all the ethnic and racial studies groups that are popping up on campuses like mad under the guise of true disciplines of which they are not in any sense of the imagination,or any sense of the word, but also increasingly the social sciences and the general humanities that have been corrupted quite terribly by the postmodern doctrines, well I thought well maybe it would be good if I could see if the funding could be cut for them, because there is no reason that the public at large should be funding a fifth column whose aim is to disrupt the fundamental structures of western civilization with tax money that is devoted to supporting people while they are doing that. [clapping] ….[12:27] but then I thought, no, you cannot have political interference with the universities, you think, what happens is that if you arm the politicians with what you can and cannot teach, even with regards to funding, then that goes seriously sideways very rapidly and you don’t end up with the result that you wanted, you end up with some other results, because you know how it is, when you allow one organization to interfere with the autonomous function of another it isn’t the people that you want to do the regulating who do the regulating, and the things that end up getting regulated aren’t the things that you want to stop. So that is not a good idea, [13:02] So, I think I have a better idea. And I think the better idea is that the postmodernist should be starved at the source, and I don’t use that terminology lightly. I think that what needs to happen is that freshman and second year university students, and students coming into university from highschool, need to be educated about the postmodern cult and they need to be encouraged to not take the courses, to just drop the courses, to just stay the hell away from them, and the humanities enrollments have been declining precipitously since the 1960s, and a big part of it is, you know,why in the world would you go as a half confused high school student into university and get whatever shreds of culture that you are still clinging to to keep your poor head above water in this sea of chaos that threatens to surround you taken away by your professors, so you are stripped bare of anything but a vague sense that maybe you are a horrible racist unconsciously in some manner that can’t detect and then be left with nothing but that for your 100,000 dollar investment and your bloody student loan. So people are smart enough to not to continue to enroll in that sort of thing over time and the humanities have been being decimated since the 1960s as a consequence, but it is time for that process to accelerate.
[16:00] But then I got a real interesting email from a guy, I won’t tell you his name yet, but who is a computer programmer, and he put together an AI system to parse apart the postmodern lexicon automatically and he set up a website now where students can feed in course descriptions of any sort and it will spit out whether or not they are postmodern. And so the point is to get the program up to the point where it can automatically distinguish between postmodern and non postmodern content, and then students will be able to cut and paste a course description and paste it into the analysis box on this website along with the professor’s name, and the course’s name, and the discipline and the university and so we should be able to produce a listing of every university and every course where people are willing to participate in analyzing across North America and set up a list of courses and professors and disciplines that should be avoided. And so maybe we can starve them out at their source, and that’s what should happen. [applause] So it has to be bottom up as far as I can tell for this to come to an end and it should come to end because the postmodern neo-marxist doctrine is nothing but a cult except that it is the sort of cult that does not have enough economic sense to run itself out of profit so not only is it a cult, it is a failed cult, and so it is a cult that has to be subsidized by the public purse in or to exist at all, so that is a pretty damn pathetic cult because normally if you are a decent cult leader you can at least figure out a way to pick the pockets of your victims in a manner that enriches you so, that can’t even manage to get that right, which accounts for their pronounced anti-capitalist bias because they haven’t been able to transform their ideological doctrine into some way of making themselves spontaneously rich. ... [19:13] and the marxists insistence that the only true human motivation is power…...although people always excuse that by saying that’s not real communism which is the sort of statement that should immediately get you punched in the nose hard enough to knock you out, as far as I am concerned. [applause] [21:26] part of the sleight of hand is that they say, oh it’s not about economic power it is about oppression and oppressors on a broader sense and that is where we got the transformation into identity politics, which is just the Marxist oppressor oppressed doctrine under a new guise and I think it’s really tremendously reprehensible for people to be conducting intellectually in a manner that insists that the most important element of any student or any person for that matter is whatever racial, gender, and sex identity happens to be flavor of the month and I think that the problem with that fundamentally, is first of all that those category stems are extraordinarily loose and they are indefinitely multipliable and you know, because to take any given individual there’s probably, well it is the postmodern problem, there we go, it is the postmodern, that there is almost an infinite number of ways to categorize any given individual, so how the hell do you figure out which group they belong to and that’s actually a major problem . Like if you are 1/8th black what does that make you exactly, are you black are you white, are you oppressed, are you oppressor, are you, are you, let’s see, one half as oppressed as someone who is a quarter black, does it work out arithmetically that way? Hey, I am dead serious about this, man, if we are going to play this sort of game that’s exactly the question that has to be asked, right, and then how do you, how do you multiply up your oppressed identities, and then again who
decides, who gets to decide exactly which identity you should manifest, and then how do we rank order those identities, and how do we equate between them, and what measurement techniques do we use to determine who’s oppressed and who isn’t, and how do we access equality and on what dimensions are we going to assess equality, and who’s going to enforce it and who’s going to make the decisions? It’s like, oh well, we’ll figure that out as we go along, it’s like, yeah, we certainly will and the results won’t be pretty I can tell you that, because the problem is actually unsolvable, all it’ll mean is that those, those categories will be made at the whim of the people who are making the categories, and since, as we know the only thing they believe in power is power, that the only thing they believe in is power is that we can be absolutely sure that they will have absolutely no hesitancy whatsoever to use power in the seeking of their aims and I think that the other reason that all of the postmodern neo-marxist ever do is talk about powers is because they want to justify their use of power to get exactly what they want, when they want it. There’s nothing but power, it’s like, alright if there is nothing but power that means we’re at war over power and if that is the claim that you make then you can justify the use of power because there isn’t anything else to turn to, there’s no logic, there’s no dialogue, there is no consensus, there’s no discussion between well-meaning people, there’s nothing but divisions between power groups and identity groups, and a Hobbesian state of war between all of us. Well, when I won’t look at people aiming at that then my proclivity as a psychoanalyst is to think that that’s exactly what they want, to divide us all up by race and ethnicity and sexual identity and sexual preference and sexual expression and gender identity, and all these multiplying forces of group identities seems to be nothing but an invitation to chaos and that’s exactly what I see looming, and it needs to come to a stop, and it needs to come to a stop as fast as possible, and one way of doing that is to stop the universities from continuing to indoctrinate young people who really at least at the beginning don’t know any better into playing into these absolutely insane and bordering on murderous intellectual games, and so. [applause] [25:00] So then, I am going to set up this website and maybe some other ones like it and I’m going to do a series of videos for young university students and for high school students and I’m going to tell them that perhaps they don’t need to go to university to be indoctrinated, and perhaps they could go to university to learn and if they want to know the difference between an educator and someone who is merely interested in indoctrination and the next generation of pathetic whining radicals then they can use the website to distinguish between people who are credible and people who aren’t and maybe we can drop the damn enrollment in those horrible courses by 75% over the next three years and just stop it in its tracks.[applause] So anyways that is part of the plan, and, and I think it is something that is actually implementable, these things can turn around fast and one of the ways they’ll turn around is that if people just stop taking the courses and so what people need to do in order to know that they should stop taking the courses is to know that these, is to know what it is that these courses are aiming at so that needs to be explained then they need to know what language the people who teach these courses are using in order to fulfill those aims, then they need to know who to identify the courses, then they need to know that it is in their best interest both, I would say, spiritually and economically to avoid those courses and those disciplines like the plague and then maybe we can get the disciplines that have become entirely corrupt and the ones that started that way to
put themselves back together before they run themselves out of existence completely, and I might as well name a few of the disciplines that i think are particularly reprehensible to begin with. Obviously I am painting this with a very broad brush and I am not making the claim that every single person who engages in activity within all of these disciplines has been corrupted beyond comprehension by the postmodernist neo-marxist but it is close enough first pass approximation.
[27:06 min] So, as I said already, women's studies, and all the ethnic studies and racial studies, studies groups, man, those things have to go and the faster they go the better. [applause] They should never be put….It would have been better if they had never been part of the university to begin with as far as I can tell. Sociology, that’s corrupt. Anthropology, that’s corrupt. English literature, that’s corrupt. Maybe the worse offenders are the faculties of education, and I would say look……..[30:50] and I learned that law has actually become corrupt as well as a discipline and its not so much, I know a lot of lawyers, and I’ve worked a lot but most have been more the corporate and business law of things and so but all the human rights law, all the law that doesn’t seem to be attached in some sense to business concerns has also become corrupt and social justice oriented beyond belief. [33:00]The closing is, it is a war of ideas and an education problem and what we are going to try to do is to educate students well enough while they are making their course decisions so that they can stop being indoctrinated by people who should have known better than to do that to begin with, and so that is the plan for the next couple of years and hopefully it will be effective, so thank you very much