The recent nomination of Milo Yiannopolous and Professor Jordan Peterson for the position of Rector has sparked enormous controversy in Glasgow. I recently interviewed Professor J.B. Peterson on behalf of The Glasgow Guardian, the University’s student newspaper, to discuss student concerns and learn more about his aims. To read that interview, please click here. The candidate, who would uptake the position currently held by Edward Snowden, is responsible for voicing the concerns of University of Glasgow students at the front lines of bureaucratic engagement. But Peterson’s past assertions that he would not support the use of gender-neutral pronouns unless asked in the “right way” has caused an uproar, with cries of transphobia echoing in many corners of campus, and a petition which has garnered over 3,500 signatures calling for the revocation of Yiannopolous’ and Peterson’s names from consideration has made the rounds on social media in recent days. Critically, Peterson’s view as it stands is in opposition to Appendix E of the University’s Equality and Diversity Policy’s Manual (see section E4.6, specifically).
In the interview, Peterson took up verbal arms in defence of his opinions and made every effort alongside this to point out his positive impacts on the community in question. He indicated a vested interest in applying these ideologies to help the LGBTQ+ community, but his views are contradictory to those held within that community and by many in his field. At one juncture in the interview, I addressed the fact that the University of Glasgow’s Psychology Society — a group of students, both undergraduate and postgraduate — had publicly decried his nomination in a statement on social media. He refuted my use of the word “peers”, explaining that, as students, they were not yet his peers and stated that he did not appreciate the insinuation that he had been brought before a jury of his peers and judged.
But at the University of Glasgow, the first thing I learned (even before coming to campus or accepting my unconditional offer) was that postgraduate students and their Professors are frequently on first-name basis. When I interviewed informally with Professor Mary Ellis Gibson, who has since left the University for greener pastures, she indicated this and explained that productive conversations are encouraged on the basis of even ground in this regard — a sentiment which has been echoed by every faculty member I have interacted with thus far in my experience at this institution.
Similar takedowns of my questions on the basis of semantics were something of a tennis match to watch, and as a fan of writing, I enjoyed the attention given to deconstructing my questions. But more oft than not, this deconstruction purely deflected attention from his eventual replies, and critically, Peterson missed the mark — it wasn’t my personal bias he was noting. It was the bias of the student body in its entirety —
I will admit the bias in my heart but believe that, as a writer and student journalist, I asked the questions which were most commonly voiced within the student body as this is my responsibility to that student body in this role, and my editors can attest to this shared goal at The Glasgow Guardian.
I will not apologise for the directness of my questions on those terms and offer Prof. Peterson a strong digital handshake for the opportunity to expand my breadth of knowledge. While Peterson certainly reacted with expected vitriol to my questions, I wish to express on this more personal plain that I am grateful for his concession to participate in the interview, as it was an excellent learning opportunity for me and is appreciated by the student body.
However, I believe after interviewing him that there are irreconcilable differences between his personal and academic ideologies and University of Glasgow culture and policy which would prevent him from effectively representing student interests.
In the wake of this interview, I would like to publicly go on record in support of my LGBTQ+ family, friends, peers, and mentors: of your happiness, your rights, and your ability to live your life — and study — in whichever way you choose. Many of you have touched my life in more ways than I can detail, and no one should have the ability to dictate the ways you peacefully express your identity — particularly in an academic context.
The University of Glasgow has long been a progressive hub for ideas, interactions, and conversations which otherwise would be difficult to have. I appreciate that I am challenged daily at this school in all the ways an education should challenge me — through exposure to new ideas, ideas which make me uncomfortable, ideas which I agree or disagree with. But there is a fundamental difference between challenging ideologies and engaging with differing opinions and a clear and admitted opposition with University policy which would, effectively, stand in the way of the candidate-in-question’s ability to represent one of the student body’s most critical minorities.
For my lovely editors, Selena Jackson with Kate Snowdon’s interview with Milo Yiannopolous, please click here. Be aware, of course, that that interview contains content some may find offensive.
Please continue to support student journalism efforts across the world — these are the voices of tomorrow’s free press, and we require both criticism and praise from which to learn about ourselves, our demographic, and our world.