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Professor who refuses to use wrong pronouns coincidentally loses his first research grant ever

‘A convenient opportunity to make their displeasure known’

Jordan Peterson has a stunningly high “h-index,” a metric for measuring the quality of scientists beyond their publishing count. He taught at Harvard six years.

When he received his last five-year grant for work previously approved by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, a government agency, it was “the largest amount ever awarded to a psychologist,” the National Post reports.

But the veteran University of Toronto professor, who became a pariah last year for refusing to use gender-neutral pronouns such as “ze,” just coincidentally got his first rejection ever for a federal research grant:

“I think that it’s (the controversy) provided someone with a convenient opportunity to make their displeasure with what I’m doing known,” he told Postmedia in a recent phone interview. “I can’t shake the suspicion.”

It wasn’t just the rejection, he said – it was the clownishly low ratings his application received, meaning the council’s critique was not “credible.” A spokesperson for the council said that “past funding is not a guarantee of further funding.”

MORE: Transgender activists attack professor who won’t say ‘ze’

Peterson said he figured his grant funding would be in danger if he continued to speak out against transgender activism’s harm to the academy. In a series of videos last year, he spoke out against a bill that would make it a crime to “misgender” others.

In one video, he said:

The changes of the law scare me because they put into the legal substructure of the culture certain assumptions about basic human nature that, not only I believe to be untrue, but they’re also dangerous and ideologically motivated. …

I think some of the things that I might say in my lectures might be illegal [under the proposed law].

Peterson told the Post that the university warned him “to stop repeating these statements” because they threatened transgender people.

By denying the grant application, the government has actually hurt his grad students more than him because the money would have helped them pursue their Ph.D. degrees, Peterson said.

Peterson isn’t simply facing government-sponsored discrimination.

MORE: Don’t let the government criminalize your speech, professor says

A recent panel discussion about “free speech and political correctness” at Canada’s McMaster University fell apart when protesters announced they would disrupt the event, leading everyone but Peterson to drop out, George Leef writes for the Martin Center:

When Peterson attempted to speak, he was drowned out by protesters using air horns, cowbells, and a megaphone. Among their chants: “This is where we draw the line!” and “Trans rights are human rights!” …

If the protesters had waited until Peterson had finished his talk and then asked why he won’t adopt their gender-neutral, “inclusive” language ideas, a fruitful exchange would have occurred. Peterson would have had to explain his position and defend it against criticism. People in the audience who were undecided on the issue would have heard his reasons; some might have been persuaded while others not.

But if you engage a scholar in public discussion, you’d better be ready to present and defend your own case. Evidently, the protesters were not willing to do that.

As Leef says, Peterson is basically Canada’s version of American libertarian social scientist Charles Murray, and it’s not enough for college presidents like McMaster’s Patrick Deane to weakly criticize censorious activists after the fact:

Those who feel that shouting and rioting are acceptable means of registering disagreement aren’t likely to pay any attention to college presidents telling them to respect freedom of speech. …

They have been imbued with a primitive, “our side good, your side bad” mentality. That is what college leaders must tackle.

MORE: Middlebury College professors tried to shut down Charles Murray event

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Greg spent several years as a technology policy reporter and editor for Warren Communications News in Washington, D.C., and guest host on C-SPAN’s “The Communicators.” Previously he led media and public relations at Seattle’s Discovery Institute, a free-market think tank. Greg is developing a Web series about a college newspaper, COPY, whose pilot episode was a semifinalist in the TV category for the Scriptapalooza competition in 2012. He graduated in 2001 with a B.A. from Seattle Pacific University, where he co-founded the alternative newspaper PUNCH and served as a reporter, editor and columnist for The Falcon.

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