Graphic by Kyle Putt
We have reached a point when the unceasing panic of the first few weeks begins to subside, and the campus events are on full blast. There are countless speakers brought to campus throughout the semester. Still, one patron continuously brings questionable speakers to prey on students: Bucknell Program for American Leadership and Citizenship (BPALC).
The program has rather admirable goals to “explore fundamental ideas in the pursuit of truth through the liberal arts, to develop thoughtful and informed civic leaders, along with scholarship that supports the best traditions of academic freedom in America,” and many of their events have supported their honorable intentions; however, their decision to bring Jordan Peterson on October 19 is a complete devastation and disgrace for the University.
If you are not familiar, Peterson is a psychology professor at the University of Toronto turned YouTube philosopher turned “mystical father figure” to a male-dominated fan-base. Seemingly from thin air, he has emerged as an influential thought leader after publishing his self-help book “12 Rules for Life”. Since then, he has received endless attention from social media and theory discussions, but only as a result of his radical ideas about gender.
According to an interview with The New York Times, Peterson wholeheartedly believes that “The masculine spirit is under assault,” and that its destruction is entirely “obvious.” Peterson appeals to the white men who feel that white privilege is under attack. As a die-hard conservative, he has blamed the “assault” of masculinity solely on identity politics and all politics that glimmer as liberal. He argues, “that we [his white male audience] allow our shame and our guilt to be used as tools to manipulate us into accepting a future that we do not want to have,” particularly a future that empowers women as they are “undesirable” in leadership roles.
Peterson weaponizes certain grievances about “progressiveness” to promote a world where women and minorities are not meant to be uplifted and supported but are expected to be submissive to the “masculine spirit.”
So, who gave permission for such a problematic and potentially harmful speaker to come to campus? While the administration would be an easy outlet for outrage, BPALC is purposefully isolated from University affiliation. Instead, the program, which is paying Peterson, is funded by the Open Discourse Coalition.
Located near the University’s downtown offices, the non-profit organization is a dumping ground for wealthy alumni to support programs and events that ensure “openness to a variety of intellectual viewpoints.” The alumni who fund this organization explain that “free speech at our university is disappearing and civility is jeopardized by increasingly militant and mean-spirited discourse,” which provides a cover to bring speakers like Peterson to campus. The desire to open students’ “intellectual viewpoints” and preserve freedom of speech is crucial for our campus, but there is a line between invoking intellectual curiosity and promoting harmful, sexist dialogue.
If the Open Discourse Coalition is willing to cross that line, then so be it. Obviously, the alumni have an agenda that is being played out through this non-profit and impacting students’ learning and campus culture. As the organization is sectioned off, there is no way to revoke Peterson’s compensation; however, the University does decide to give him the stage. The University permits the Open Discourse Coalition to rent out a campus space for events. Assuming that the University knows what the space is being used for, permission to house Peterson reveals a level of acceptance by the University for Peterson to spew his babbling.
The University should not have provided the space for a speaker of Peterson’s nature, regardless of who the patron was (in this case, the Open Discourse Coalition). This compliance, instead, reaffirms detrimental ideologies that should have no space on campus.