Roundtable: Queen’s failed to protect students from Peterson

By giving a platform to Jordan Peterson, Principal Daniel Woolf and the University have failed to protect marginalized students on this campus.

I’m not particularly interested in arguing against men like Peterson; they fundamentally misunderstand what transgender, mentally ill and marginalized students experience. They willingly have blinders on that don’t allow them to see past their privilege. I don’t know how I can teach them to care about people besides themselves.

I don’t expect them to care, but I do expect the University to care. Daniel Woolf failed his students when the letter he wrote in response to backlash against Peterson advocated for Peterson’s lecture. Woolf believes – incorrectly – that this is a matter of academic and speech freedom; rather, it’s rooted in validating and uplifting trans and non-binary students.

Refusing to give a platform to someone who misrepresents the law  isn’t violating anyone’s academic freedom. Peterson’s views on Bill C-16 are merely a jumping off point for him to express his transphobic views; they aren’t an accurate portrayal of what Bill C-16 actually calls for.

I also don’t think cancelling the lecture would violate anyone’s right to free speech. Freedom of speech guarantees that you can’t get arrested for saying something the government doesn’t agree with. What freedom of speech doesn’t guarantee you is a platform or an audience. It certainly would be ironic if cancelling a lecture on so-called “compelled speech” was really a violation of freedom of speech laws – good thing it isn’t.  

The law doesn’t say that the University must provide a platform for Peterson to air his views.

The University has a responsibility to protect its students. When they say they’ll continue to work towards a culture of respect, diversity and inclusion, this involves validating trans and non-binary students’ identities. Allowing Peterson to spread his transphobic views actively works against this mission of the University.

By refusing to speak out against Peterson’s lecture, the University has failed to protect its students from someone who would willfully and gleefully attack their very existence. There is no legal reason why the University must host Peterson. Queen’s is hosting him at the expense of trans, non-binary and other marginalized students’ safety on this campus.

This decision is just another one against the University administration’s supposed commitment to diversity and inclusion on campus. In this instance, Daniel Woolf has once again failed to protect his marginalized students.

Vishmayaa is a fourth-year English major.

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