UW-Madison student gov reps slam speech by conservative prof

After claiming that Peterson's true purpose is to defend the right to "force unwanted labels and identities on whomever he wants to," the committee said "progressive activism" faces far greater threats on campus than conservative viewpoints.

A University of Wisconsin-Madison student government committee declined to call for a protest of last week's speech by Jordan Peterson, instead blasting the conservative Canadian professor in an op-ed.

A University of Wisconsin-Madison student government committee ruffled some conservative feathers with a recent statement criticizing a recent appearance by Jordan Peterson.

In an op-ed for The Daily Cardinal last week, the Legislative Affairs Committee (LAC) explained that its members had decided “not protest an invited conservative speaker, Jordan Peterson” this past Thursday, but still wanted to criticize the conservative Canadian professor as a threat to “progressive activism” on campus.

“Despite this decision, we will continue to be vigilant in our defense of student power,” the committee vowed. “We resolve to defend student voices and hold our university’s rich tradition of progressive activism sacred.”

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“To Peterson,” the LAC asserted, “liberty does not start with the freedom to be who you are, with the protection of those often and tragically targeted by violence, abuse, and prejudice, but rather with the freedom for him to force unwanted labels and identities on whomever he wants to, as though others’ lives and the personal truths they come to college to accept and let shine are secondary to the convenience of his willful ignorance.”

Conceding that “the students of UW-Madison have honored him with the opportunity to speak at our place of learning,” the committee expressed hope that Peterson would use the occasion to eschew his typical condemnation of the “‘Neo-Marxist’ indoctrination” on college campuses and instead take a stand on behalf of liberal students who feel their rights are being “trampled” by funding cuts and policies imposing punishments on disruptive protesters.

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“One would hope that [Peterson] would refuse to indulge in the tired propaganda of smearing colleges as hotbeds of ‘Neo-Marxist’ indoctrination, a word used by people like him to describe things that have nothing to do with Marx and everything to do with respecting minorities’ rights to live without a society that shames them,” the LAC wrote.

“One would hope he would apologize for tarring the needs of trans people as great concessions that attack the foundation of society, apologize for being an unwitting accessory to a campaign that attacks our beloved institution, or that he would recognize the robust conservative community on campus that invited him, or be aware that the campus climate survey showed conservative students as feeling more comfortable and safe than LGBT students, and not mouth tired and absurd lies about how UW-Madison is a place where the right is oppressed or silenced,” the op-ed continued.

Asserting that its members “understand and respect the rights of students to speak freely and to invite speakers to offer new perspectives, even conservative perspectives,” the LAC also criticized the school’s Young Americans for Liberty chapter for inviting Peterson in the first place.

“One would have hoped that [YAL] would have respected the transgender community and never brought Peterson here to begin with,” the LAC remarked, “or that they would never choose a man who claims ‘Frozen’ is feminist political propaganda as a mouthpiece to represent their ideals.”

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Tyler Brandt, the president of the UW-Madison YAL chapter, told Campus Reform that he strongly disagrees with the op-ed.

In response to the op-ed’s contention that Peterson “hides behind the banner of free speech,” Brandt said that “This is a complete mischaracterization of Peterson's beliefs and I doubt they even took the time to watch his videos to hear why he thinks it’s wrong to code socially-constructed gender into human rights law.”

Brandt also objected to the op-ed’s characterization of Peterson’s opposition to a Canadian law mandating the use of gender-neutral pronouns, saying Peterson’s stance is not about the freedom to offend others, but about protecting individuals from government interference with free speech.

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“One of the most stupid and blatantly contradictory things about this article is the claim that Peterson was against Bill C-16 because he wanted to 'force unwanted labels and identities on whomever he wants to,'” Brandt declared.

“The main reason Peterson was against this was because it forces and compels speech with the threat of legal penalty,” he explained. “The thing that Peterson doesn't want it to compel other people to adopt labels they don't want to use.”

Katherine Kerwin, a member of the Legislative Affairs Committee, confirmed to Campus Reform that members of the committee voted to write the op-ed after deciding not to suggest a protest against the event.

Kerwin noted that the op-ed was a collaborative effort, and did not offer any additional comment on the LAC’s position.

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