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Public Health Students for the Termination of Jordan Peterson

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In late 2017, an open letter signed by hundreds of undergraduate students was submitted to the University of Toronto senior administration, calling for the termination of Professor Jordan Peterson. This letter effectively describes the problems with Prof. Peterson’s treatment of students and faculty at our university and beyond. It explains how Prof. Peterson gained public attention when he proposed plans for a website that would encourage the boycott of so-called “neo-Marxist” courses, such as those relating to gender studies, sociology, anthropology, and cultural studies (1). Peterson believes that “a huge chunk of the humanities and the social sciences have turned into an indoctrination cult (2).” He has also gained negative publicity for refusing to use peoples’ preferred pronouns and for lamenting the fact that it is not socially acceptable for men to use physical violence against “crazy women (2)”.

As public health students, we have concerns about the health implications of his actions, as they disproportionately affect marginalized communities. Here at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, we are taught about how socio-economic factors often disproportionately affect traditionally marginalized groups, and as public health students, we are concerned about the mental health implications of fear-based intimidation tactics towards these groups. Numerous peer-reviewed studies have found that women, racial minorities, and the LGTBQ community in particular experience greater adverse effects from bullying and harassment than those who do not identify as being a part of these groups (4) (5) (6) (7).

We believe that while Prof. Peterson is entitled to his views, it is inappropriate that he uses his position of authority as a University of Toronto professor to publicly validate them. We believe that it is the role of the University administration to curtail his affiliation with the school, in accordance with their own guidelines to protect their students and staff from harassment and intimidation. These guidelines include the University Governing Council’s Code of Behaviour on Academic Matters (paragraph B), which states that “seeking to disadvantage others by disruptive behaviour is unacceptable (8).”

Professor Peterson is using a guise of free speech to attempt to silence discourse surrounding gender, race, and privilege. These types of discourse are at the core of our learning at the School of Public Health, and are essential to understanding everything from social determinants of health to outbreaks and epidemiology. To deny gender variance, gender-based oppression, or oppression based on ethnicity or race denies years of medical and academic research. The School of Public Health employs rigourous scientific methodologies to examine health issues arising out of the aforementioned disciplines; it is an insult to public health students, many of us physicians and scientists already, to be accused of poor academic rigour and lack of understanding of social issues. It is even more alarming that this criticism comes from a professor at our own university.

In light of these numerous concerns, we ask our fellow classmates at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health to sign this petition to demand that the university remove Prof. Peterson from his faculty position.

Kate Greenaway, B.Sc, MD CCFP, MPH Candidate

Megan Scarth, B.ASc, MPH Candidate

[1] Southey T. Is Jordan Peterson the stupid man’s smart person? Macleans [Internet]. 2017 Nov 17 [cited 2018 Jan 10]. Available from:

[2] Adina H. Peterson’s ridicule of leftist viewpoints runs contrary to the spirit of academia. The Varsity [Internet]. 2017 Nov 10 [cited 2018 Jan 10]. Available from:

[4] Gruber JE, Fineran S. Comparing the Impact of Bullying and Sexual Harassment Victimization on the Mental and Physical Health of Adolescents. Sex Roles 2008;59(1-2):1-13

[5] Antecol H, Cobb-Clark DA. Identity and racial harassment. J.Econ.Behav.Organ. 2008;66(3-4):529-557

[6] Okechukwu CA, Souza K, Davis KD, de Castro AB. Discrimination, harassment, abuse, and bullying in the workplace: Contribution of workplace injustice to occupational health disparities. Am.J.Ind.Med. 2014;57(5):573-586

[7] Basford TE, Offerman LR, Behrend TS. Do You See What I See? Perceptions of Gender Microaggressions in the Workplace. Psychology of Women Quarterly. 2013;38{3):340-359

[8] Code of Behaviour on Academic Matters, [Internet]. 2016 July 1 [cited 2018 Jan 10]. Available from:, p.2.

This petition has been endorsed by the Public Health Students’ Association at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health.

Photo source: Steven Lee/The Varsity

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