I decided earlier today to write to the Faculty of Divinity to ask why Dr. Jordan Peterson’s offer of a visiting fellowship was rescinded. Below is my letter as sent to the head of the Faculty Board, which also briefly outlines why Peterson would be an interesting speaker to have at the University. The letter runs as follows:
I was very concerned to read that the Faculty of Divinity has rescinded an offer of a visiting fellowship made to Dr Jordan Peterson in Michaelmas Term 2018 and would like to enquire into the reason for this decision.
It need hardly be pointed out, but the University of Cambridge has always been driven by the forces of intellectual curiosity and students’ desire to learn. Dr Peterson embodies the public academic: he is known in wider culture and has made his work and views accessible to a large audience; he has much to say on specific topics of current academic and popular interest which makes him one of the most vocal academics in many important social debates; and he inspires fierce discussion, especially amongst students. Not only does Dr Peterson meet and surpass all the requirements for a visiting fellowship listed on the Faculty’s website, but he would invigorate the wider University with spirited debate, which seems to be increasingly missing outside the supervision room, in a way that no other contemporary academic could. Though it is not always obvious, there are a vast number of students that would be interested in attending these lectures and hearing his views, whether they agree with him or not. Dr Peterson is exactly what many students have been looking for: an academic that generates fervent interest in the fields he speaks about and thus inspires students to learn and formulate their own arguments, whether in agreement or dissent. This seems to make Dr Peterson the perfect candidate for a visiting fellowship.
With all this in mind, I would like to ask the Faculty two questions. Firstly, why was the initial offer of a visiting fellowship made? Secondly, why was it rescinded?
I suspect that the Faculty may have trouble answering these two questions coherently without referring to minor administrative issues or technicalities that could easily be resolved (if it were inclined to resolve them). If this is the case, my view is that the Faculty should be making every effort to allow Dr Peterson to lecture and not give up so easily in the face of small-print. I hope my suspicions are incorrect, and that I receive a convincing reason as to why this unique opportunity to inspire students has been wasted by a University that purports to be a centre of learning and education.