One of the key characteristics of a university campus is the open discussion of ideas. Another is mutual respect for those offering their views. While University of Toronto professor Jordan Peterson certainly offers opinions, he does so while failing to respect everyone.
With the news that Peterson will be speaking on campus later this month, a debate about free speech is inevitable. Gaining his notoriety by refusing to address his students by their preferred pronouns, Peterson has since become a free speech advocate, railing against what he sees as government regulation of thought.
As journalists, we certainly value free speech. It is one of the most paramount rights in Canadian society. Everyone is entitled to speak their mind and have an opinion and this includes Peterson. However, just because someone has the right to an opinion, does not mean they have the right to a platform for their opinion.
Discrimination of any kind has no place at Western. By mis-gendering students and failing to acknowledge the legitimacy of trans and non-binary students, Peterson is being discriminatory.
Seven years ago, Ann Coulter came to Western to speak. During a question and answer session, she told a Muslim student to take a camel as a mode of transportation. She was being dismissive and discriminatory — her remarks gained notoriety.
What if the same thing happens during Peterson's talk?
Western should be a place where everyone is respected for who they are but giving a platform to someone who is openly discriminatory flies in the face of that.
The spirit of Peterson's freedom of speech arguments does make sense. The government should not dictate what people must say but rather ensure that hate speech is stopped. Targeting trans and non-binary students is not a requisite for this opinion.
Heck, we even have a little bit of admiration for his ability to be steadfast with his views. So often, people engage in self-thought policing, unafraid to be controversial or against the norm. If only Peterson's free speech arguments didn't come as a result of his discriminatory attitudes.
It's important that as many voices are heard when discussing contentious issues. It's crucial that on a university campus we have tough conversation about topics that are taboo. It's also essential that this happens without making people feel as though their true self is unacceptable.