Cambridge has made itself a 'laughing stock' over handling of Jordan Peterson visiting fellowship - church minister

Jordan Peterson seen here being interviewed by Channel 4's Cathy Newman.Channel 4/YouTube

"The prophecy of George Orwell" is being fulfilled at Cambridge University after it withdrew the offer of a visiting fellowship to Dr Jordan Peterson over a photograph, Free Church minister David Robertson has said. 

Dr Peterson, a University of Toronto professor who gained notoriety in Canada for refusing to use preferred gender pronouns, had his offer of a visiting fellowship rescinded by Cambridge University last week. 

He had planned to use the fellowship to prepare for a lecture series on Exodus following the huge popularity of his talks on Genesis, which have been viewed millions of times on YouTube. 

The offer of a visiting fellowship to Dr Peterson drew complaints from some academics and students before the Faculty of Divinity confirmed that it had been withdrawn.  The faculty offered no reason at the time as to why this decision had been made.  

But after days of speculation, Vice-Chancellor Professor Stephen J Toope said the offer had been withdrawn after the university became aware of a photograph of Dr Peterson with his arm around a man wearing a T-shirt that said "I'm a proud Islamophobe".

"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," said Prof Toope.

"As a consequence of this, the Faculty's Research Committee reviewed its original decision to award a visiting fellowship and concluded that the offer should be rescinded." 

The decision to rescind the offer was welcomed by the Cambridge University Students' Union (CUSU), which said in a statement: "We are relieved to hear that Jordan Peterson's request for a visiting fellowship to Cambridge's Faculty of Divinity has been rescinded following further review.

"It is a political act to associate the University with an academic's work through offers which legitimise figures such as Peterson."

They added that his work and views "are not representative of the student body and as such we do not see his visit as a valuable contribution to the University, but one that works in opposition to the principles of the University".

In a letter to Prof Toope, however, Rev Robertson said that the Vice-Chancellor's statement "made a mockery of the English language, defied logic and fulfilled the prophecy of George Orwell concerning Newspeak".

"You have made the University of Cambridge a laughing stock," he said. 

He also criticised CUSU for its "profoundly irrational, totalitarian and disturbingly anti-education" stance. 

"It is depressing to consider that this Orwellian irrational statement came from students of one of our top universities," he wrote.

"Is inviting someone to lecture always a 'political act'? Is it really the case that the only people who are permitted to lecture at Cambridge are those whose political views are 'representative of the student body'?

"Is it not depressing to you as a Chancellor that you have students who think that they can learn nothing from those who disagree with them?"

Rev Robertson accused Cambridge University of "enacting a new blasphemy law" that excludes those with different principles "all in the name of inclusion and tolerance".

In his own response, Dr Peterson accused the university of siding with the "diversity-inclusivity-equity mob". 

"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)," he said.

"I think they handled publicizing the rescindment in a manner that could hardly have been more narcissistic, self-congratulatory and devious."

A petition demanding that his visiting fellowship be reinstated has been started on