The Faculty of Divinity rescinded an offer of a visiting fellowship to controversial figure Jordan Peterson in MarchGAGE SKIDMORE/FLICKR

The Faculty of Divinity has called for an end to the online abuse directed at staff and students in the wake of the Jordan Peterson controversy.

A statement from Ian McFarland, Regius Professor of Divinity, was tweeted out last Friday by the University and says that “the Faculty deplore in the strongest terms online abuse against any academics or students”, describing the attacks as “totally unacceptable.” The call comes after news broke that the Faculty had, in Michaelmas, offered Peterson a visiting fellowship before rescinding the offer in March.

McFarland said in the statement: “On behalf of the Faculty of Divinity, I wish to make clear that the decision to rescind the offer of a visiting fellowship to Jordan Peterson was taken entirely within the Faculty. I appreciate that the decision was controversial, but the decision stands.”

Peterson, a self-described “professor against political correctness” and professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, gained notoriety in 2016 after opposing a bill which sought to make discrimination on the basis of gender identity illegal under the Canadian Human Rights Act.

On 18th March Peterson announced that he would be undertaking the fellowship later this year during a livestream on his YouTube channel. Two days later the Faculty issued a brief statement saying that the offer had been “rescinded after a further review.”


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It took the university a further five days to issue any statement outlining the reasoning behind the Faculty’s decision, a lengthy delay in information which led to confusion over the sequence of events which prompted the withdrawal of the offer. A number of national media outlets ran stories which claimed that the decision was a result of backlash from staff and students against the initial offer.

However, Vice-Chancellor Stephen Toope contradicted this in a statement released on 25th March clarifying that the Faculty of Divinity had “reviewed its original decision to award a visiting fellowship and concluded that the offer should be rescinded” after becoming aware of a photograph of Peterson with his arm around a man wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the slogan “I’m a proud Islamophobe.”

Intervention by the university as a result of abuse directed at its members is not without precedent. In October 2018 it condemned the online abuse of students following national media coverage of a proposed amendment to a CUSU Council motion which encouraged the commemoration of “those whose lives have been affected by war across the University of Cambridge” rather than British war veterans alone on Remembrance Day.

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