Editor’s note: This article has been translated from Dutch.

We, students and staff of the University of Amsterdam, appeal to Room for Discussion (RfD) to adjust the design of their upcoming interview with the Canadian psychologist Jordan B. Peterson. Peterson’s invitation is unbelievable and clashes with RfD’s self-proclaimed mission, namely: bridging the gap between the academic world and the general public by using a ‘journalistic, scientifically sound approach’. If Peterson already has a platform at our university, he must at least be accompanied by an expert discussion partner. We are happy to help RfD in finding a suitable candidate.

In 2016, Jordan B. Peterson’s fame grew to an unprecedented level. Not groundbreaking research, but Peterson’s opposition to a change in the law underlies his current fame. In 2016, the professor spoke out against an amendment to the Canadian Penal Code and Canadian human rights law. The amendment, known as Bill C-16, added discrimination on the basis of gender identity to forms of discrimination already contained in Canadian human rights law. Peterson based his hostile standpoint on a fundamental misinterpretation of the change of law: he mistook Bill C-16 as a restriction on his freedom of expression. Peterson claimed that the amendment forced him to name trans and genderqueer students with their desired personal pronoun,

Internet personality

Like many other fake news, Peterson’s reading of Bill C-16 spread like wildfire on social media. Especially through videos on YouTube, the Canadian grew into a worldwide internet personality. Very popular were video compilations in which the professor is confronted by indignant students: the number of views of these videos is in the millions. In these compilations, trans and genderqueer students are often dismissed of the uninformed, militant rejection of the anti-discrimination law, set aside as ‘unreasonable’ and ’emotional’, while Peterson is placed on the pedestal of the ‘academic, rational mind’.

Right-wing media soon saw bread in Peterson and gave him a platform to talk about his general view of modern society. His conservative, patriarchal, anti-feminist, ‘politically incorrect’ statements were received with great enthusiasm by a rapidly growing crowd of admirers. These Peterson fans form a broad and separate relationship between right-wing conservative, ‘politically incorrect’, predominantly white, young men disappointed in society. His large number of followers provides Peterson with both academic legitimacy and financial gain; the professor earns $ 80,000 monthly through crowdfunding alone.


It is worrying that Peterson can derive academic legitimacy from his status as internet personality. Peterson spreads countless views that are both shocking examples of pseudoscience and outright harmful: from conspiracy theories about ‘postmodern neo-Marxists’ who ‘infiltrate’ universities into denial of climate change. Peterson consistently shows that he has no idea of ​​issues that lie outside his own field. But even within his own expertise, that of clinical psychology, the professor can not be taken seriously. He regularly uses absurd, essentialist, sexist statements about human nature. Illustrative are Peterson’s views on ‘forced monogamy’ (enforced monogamy), ‘social stimulation and cultural imprinting of monogamous relationships’. According to the Canadian, monogamy is the ideal remedy for combating men’s violence against women – as if domestic violence within a monogamous marriage never existed.

Why should a reputable scientific institute such as the UvA, which has a reputation in the area of ​​research into climate change, offer a prominent platform to a notorious climate denier, who derives his fame entirely from a right-wing conservative ideology instead of integere? scientific practice?

Alt facts

For people in whom fundamental academic norms and values ​​are of paramount importance, the following is crystal clear: RfD simply invited Peterson because he is popular and ‘controversial’, not because of his expertise. This invitation damages the scientific standard that we try to meet in our daily academic practice. The arrival of Peterson is pure entertainment and anything but innocent. It is entertainment that fits seamlessly into a contemporary, international dynamic in which science and expertise are put into perspective as ‘just an opinion’. What goes on as ‘fact’ nowadays depends more and more on the noisiness and populism with which the ‘fact’ is presented. In times of alternative facts (alt facts) have gained a renewed interest in rigorous scholarship and critical thinking, core values ​​of the university. These values ​​must be cherished, not undermined.

Where RfD has mentioned the event around Peterson ‘A Society in Crisis’, we think it is more appropriate to speak of a systemic crisis . This is the autumn of ten years since the economic crisis began and its end is still not in sight. People from the working class are forced to pay the bill for banks and multinationals. Geopolitical tensions are increasing and ruling elites react apathetically to the runaway climate change. We see Peterson – with his unscientific approach, his self-enrichment and his controversial star status – as a symptom of this crisis, not as the answer to it.

Really critical debate

We would therefore like to see an extra guest being invited to the ‘Society in Crisis’ event, in order to counteract Peterson’s conservative, patriarchal, antifeminist, anti-climate-scientific, ‘politically incorrect’ worldview. Only then could a real, critical debate take place. Since Peterson has indicated several times not to shun the debate, we assume that space can be made for this.

Folia has asked Room for Discussion for a response to this letter. Read here their response.

The open letter is an initiative of the network Worried Amsterdammers who is concerned about the emergence of the extreme right and normalization of his ideas.

Dr. Donya Alinejad
Dr. Miriyam Aouragh
PhD Josien Arts
Dr. Rowan Arundel
Dr. Sruti Bala
PhD Selçuk Balamir
Dr. Marija Bartl
Prof. dr. Dr. Niko Besnier
Esther de Boer, Student Assistant
Dr. Sarah Bracke
Dr. Liberty Chee
PhD Marci Cottingham
PhD Robert J. Davidson
Dr. Ursula Daxecker
Sherilyn Deen, Junior Lecturer Sociology at UvA
PhD Daniel DeRock
Dr. Jeff Diamanti
PhD Clément Dréano
Drs. Brian Droop
Leonie Dronkert, Junior Researcher at VUmc
PhD Mirjam Fischer
Dr. Joyce Goggin
Dr. Erella Grassiani
Dr. Julian Gruin
Dr. Lucy Hall, lecturer
PhD Eline Hansen
Dr. Joke Hermes
PhD Bram Hogendoorn
PhD Roos Hopman
PhD Peyman Jafari
PhD Mirthe Jiwa
PhD Mariska Jung
Dr. Artemy Kalinovsky
Prof. dr. ir. Jeroen de Kloet
Dr. Javier Koole
Yoren Lausberg, Jr. Lecturer at the Sociology Department
PhD Justine Laurent
PhD Candida Leone
Dr. Mieke Lopes Cardozo
Prof. dr. Dr. Chantal Mak
Dr. Eef Masson
Dr Vivienne Matthies-Boon
Prof. dr. Dr. Amade M’charek
Dr. Julie McBrien
Dr. Esther Miedema
PhD Peter Miller
Eva Mos, Junior Lecturer Sociology at UvA
PhD Gabriel Otero
Dr. Merijn Oudenampsen
Dr. Toni Pape
Prof. dr. Esther Peeren
Dr Jasper van de Pol
PhD Phie van Rompu
Dr. Enzo Rossi
David Rypel
PhD Inez Blanca van der Scheer
PhD Heleen Schols
Dr. Patricia Schor
Dr. Itamar Shachar
PhD Fenna Smits
Dr. Rachel Spronk
Dr. Abbey Steele
Dr. Stephanie Steinmetz
Dr. Luisa Steur
PhD Dragana Stojmenovska
Dino Suhonic
Dr. Jan Teurlings
PhD Marina Tulin
PhD Diliara Valeeva
Prof. dr. Dr Olav Velthuis
Noa Visser, teaching assistant
PhD Laura Vonk
Dr. Julienne Weegels
PhD Natalie Welfens
Prof. dr. Dr. Saskia E. Wieringa
PhD Lisanne Wichgers
Dr. Timothy Yaczo

Student groups

Amsterdam United
ASVA student union
Diversity Forum
Humanities Rally
Red UvA
RED Amsterdam, young in the SP
Sophie Visser – member Student Disability Platform
Susanne Salari – member Student Disability Platform
Sociological Mokum
University of Color

NB Laura Burgers has withdrawn her support for this statement.

via Folia

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