Informed respectful debate is central to academia

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The principles of academic freedom, expressed through thoughtful, informed and respectful investigation, are a central tenet of the values Queen’s holds, and which it strives to instill in our students.

Far too often universities, and university academics, have been attacked by increasingly polarized interest groups seeking to stifle thoughtful or respectful examinations of opposing ideas. Hate speech aside, failing to explore or confront ideas with which we disagree through disciplined and respectful dialogue, debate and argument, does society a disservice, weakens our intellectual integrity, and threatens the very core of what Queen’s, and any university, should be about.

Throughout my tenure as Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Queen’s has advanced the values of diversity and inclusion, and it remains a predominant focus of my own work. I believe that everyone within the university community should feel able to explore and debate diverse and even uncomfortable viewpoints if that occurs in a respectful academic environment.

Queen’s law professor Bruce Pardy has organized a presentation by University of Toronto psychology professor Jordan Peterson, to examine “the rising tide of compelled speech in Canada”. Already there are expressions of outrage that the event is taking place, and still others have condemned that outrage. Expressing one’s affront to an idea or position is completely acceptable in an academic environment, if supported by informed arguments and expressed respectfully; blanket calls for censorship however, are intellectually lazy and are anathema to scholarly pursuits.

Whatever one’s strongly-felt objections to particular points of view, their mere expression does not constitute a threat to physical safety; nor does that expression imply that the university itself accepts those views. To the contrary, if history has taught us anything, it is that attempts to shut down debate and limit speech serve no one well—even the groups calling for such silencing. They merely make it easier for the next group in power to silence others. A university cannot sustain its ancient mission of inquiry into the true, the good, and the beautiful under such circumstances, nor can it exercise its responsibility to pursue knowledge free of constraint.

Let’s be clear here: what is at issue is nothing less than our commitment to academic freedom. If the views expressed, however uncomfortable for some, are not a violation of Canadian law, related university policies or otherwise demonstrate an intention or effect of inciting hatred and violence, then as academics we should listen and present opposing ideas through informed and respectful dialogue.

92 thoughts on “Informed respectful debate is central to academia

  1. Robert McLellan

    I heartily endorse this position, and as a Queen’s graduate it makes me proud to see it from our institution. It is indeed leadership in action. Bravo!

    1. Wm Acteson

      I went to see several controversial speakers when I was a student, G. Gordon Liddy among them, and they were all good fodder for lively discussions. My uni’s administration did not have to write a letter such as Mr. Woolf’s. I thought that listening to opposing points of view and having open debate was a self-evident purpose for attending a university. The fact that a chancellor has to write a letter pointing this out is sad, but I am glad it is going to happen.

    2. Dan Arcand

      Hear, Hear. As evidenced in some media outlets and comment sections, there is much misunderstood about Dr Jordan Petersons very nuanced positions on biology and pronouns, and the free speech debate in general. There are many downright falsehoods being printed aswell. Where can we explore or challenge these ideas? What we have available to young people is not satisfying to them and not helpful to us. Algorithmically curated news. Repackaged reduction of big ideas through ideologically rigid frameworks. An obsession with the conservation of characters. Vice or Twitter will never serve our need to problem solve our differences. The University is the most logical place where we can lift the veil on confusing words, ad hominem attacks, or bad ideas in general. There is very little space right now to explore the big issues of our time without fear of censorship or reprisal. The university should be the place for rigorous debates, in depth presentation and honest criticism. Thank God for Queens. With this mantra I will gladly send my children to Queens where they stand to learn to be respectful, open minded and critical thinkers who can solve the problems of their times.

  2. Krista Flute

    Wolfe says in his argument “hate speech aside”. The problem is that hate speech as defined under the Criminal Code of Canada 318, 319 & 320 is exactly the issue in question of this Pardy and Peterson speech being presented at Queens. Peterson is known for both his Islamaphobic and his transphobic stances. In fact it’s his anti human Rights code stance (particularly in regards to gender) that has gained Peterson small acclaim in the ever growing alt right presence in Canada and the United States.

    Freedom of speech is a right, a platform is a privilege. Apparently Wolfe feels that this hate speech propagandist (Peterson) is deserving of an intellectual platform. As an Indigenous resident of Kingston I fear what sort of dangers this brings to the lives of marginalized students as well as marginalized residents (a population apparently unworthy of Wolfe’s notice) , especially Muslim people’s, Trans people’s and Gender non conforming people’s in our city. And with the element that crowd brings, to the rest of us then too. What will Wolfe allow next? “Reasonable” discussions of anti Blackness or anti Indigenous? If it’s OK to have “reasonable” discussions that are Transphobic and Islamaphobic, where does it stop?

    1. rotten777

      If you think Jordan Peterson is alt-right, you’re not listening. Spend a few hours listening to him speak. It’s not what you say it is and it’s not what you think it is.

    2. Lisa Knapp


      I think you should consider the possibility that you have simply been misinformed (perhaps purposely) with respect to what Jordan Peterson is all about. He has received tremendous support from several prominent representatives of the transgender community and other minority groups on YouTube who have spoken out in his defence. I came to realize very quickly that he is not the monster some SJW activists were trying to make him out to be but frankly one of the most caring, decent and honest men I’ve ever come across. Millions of others around the world have come to the same conclusion. I would suggest you should at least give him the benefit of the doubt and hear him out. To put it another way, have you ever been in a situation where someone said something nasty about you that wasn’t true? How did you like it?

      1. MickyC

        Frankly who cares if Mr Peterson has “received tremendous support from several prominent representatives of the transgender community and other minority groups”. One does not need the support of some self-stylised arbiters of a particular identity group in order to voice an opinion on any subject which may have a link, however tenuous, to that group. Otherwise we’d sit in silence.

    3. Klayton

      This comment is so absurd that it’s almost unbelievable.

      You have clearly not done your due diligence as a so-called academic by examining the primary sources (i.e. Dr. Peterson’s content) and creating an informed opinion that would be suitable for an objection to his presence at the University. I do not speak for Dr. Peterson, but if I am interpreting his lectures and tweets correctly, he is not transphobic, Islamophobic, racist, or any other ideological label that you want to throw at him.

      Dr. Peterson is against legislation that would place the refusal to acknowledge gender identity in the same category as hate speech. The gender identities that he takes issue with are the made-up, ideological words (and they are made up) such as ze, zer, xim, etc. These words are ideological constructions, and it sets a dangerous precedent when legislators place the refusal to utter these words in the same category as holocaust denial. The restriction of language is what lead to the murderous, totalitarian regimes in the Soviet Union and China during the twentieth century. Your argument against Peterson is so reductionist that it refuses to acknowledge how the atrocities of the past began with restrictions on speech and expression.

      Freedom of speech and expression are not just about the freedom to criticize your leaders; they are fundamental human rights that are tools for thought. We cannot think if our language is restricted. If anything, your social justice ideology should advocate for freedom of expression because it was the tool that fueled the civil rights movement in the 1960s. If you cannot recognize that restrictions on speech are a bad idea, then you are truly lost.

      As for your argument that he is “known” for transphobic and Islamophobic views, let me ask you this: can you point to one piece of original content (not a secondary reporting) where Peterson says anything that can be interpreted as such? Where is the tangible evidence? The answer is no, you cannot. His issue is not with trans persons, but compelled speech. Trans pronouns just happened to be the straw that broke the camel’s back in regards to compelled speech issues. In fact, he has shown letters from trans persons that people such as yourself (i.e. those with “social justice” persuasions) do not want to be used as political pawns for your authoritarian principles.

      In regards to the alt-right comment; he is not alt-right. It’s as simple as that. I have witnessed him, on countless occasions, reach out to alt-right groups on Twitter and encourage de-radicalization by adopting personal responsibility. What would you rather have him do? Not speak with radicalized people and let their hate continue to grow in an ideological bubble? All you are doing by attempting to restrict him from speaking is fanning the flames of the true white supremacists who view your radical persuasions as a coordinated attempt on “white genocide.” Dr. Peterson is firmly against this method, which is why he encourages the alt-right to “tell a different” story and grow up by adopting personal responsibility.

      Notice how I managed to write this rebuttal without labeling you with ideological buzzwords? It’s because I’ve been listening to Dr. Peterson for months and he taught me that that is the wrong solution for dealing with people like you. Try this instead: listen to what he has to say and if you truly object to his opinions, then write a rebuttal without using the words of radical, leftist ideologues.

    4. Albert Thackrah

      Krista, I too must disagree with your characterization of Dr. Peterson as Islamophobic and Transphobic. To disagree with the dominant narrative about X is not to be “irrationally afraid” of X. I don’t think Peterson is irrationally afraid of anything, and therefore would not be accurately described as displaying any “phobias.”

      His major issue, as I see it, is (and as Hendrik states) more about the role of the state in compelling speech. Peterson would be equally opposed to compelled speech if the speech involved baseball or music. The focus of compelled speech in this case is no doubt secondary to his concern (not irrational fear) about the role of the state in compelling speech (of any kind). Your problem with Peterson is probably due to the fact that he is too libertarian for your taste. If your problem with him is that you believe in state-compelled speech and he does not, then I’m on his side (Muslims and transgender people aside).

    5. Greg Hooper

      Krista, I sympathize with your position. I disagree about Peterson though, because he represents exactly the kind of propagandist we need to hear from. We need to clearly understand what he is saying, and to trust our fellow citizens & students to examine his claims and think carefully about them. We need to recognize why his videos are so attractive to some segments of society, and we can’t do that without allowing him to speak directly to us. I feel confident that people will give him a fair hearing, and firmly reject his more extreme claims.

    6. James Smedley

      He’s not said anything transphobic or Islamophobic. If you think he has, find it, quote it back to him in the Q+A and put him on the spot. If you are right about the transphobia then people will see that and his reputation will suffer accordingly.

      I am a supporter of Peterson, but I support the truth much more. So if you’ve seen him say something transphobic or Islamophobic I would much appreciate being informed about it.

      Also, the his gaining acclaim among the alt-right is irrelevant and misleading. About 2% of his regular audience self ID as alt-right. Most are liberal (in the English sense), conservative, or progressive – roughly even split. The racist right don’t like Peterson because he doesn’t buy into their identity politics and group think, which is the same reason the racist left don’t like him.

    7. Brian McCallion

      Mr. Venter is correct that Prof. Peterson has never come close to running afoul, either in spirit or letter, of the provisions of the Criminal Code. Nor has he ever publicly said anything that was likely to lead to a breach of thew peace. (See s. 319 of the Code) I applaud Principal Woolf for being faithful to the principles of free expression. I am proud to have say that I am an alum of Queen’s Law. A “platform for free speech is a privilege”? Thats the first time I’ve heard that one.

    8. Matt Shane

      Krista Flute: Could you please quote the Islamaphobic and transphobic statements that you say Peterson has made?

      Saying “I don’t want to say ‘zir’ does not equate to transphobia. Nor does “I don’t believe in or agree with your cause”.

      So, with that said: please quote what you are referring to.

    9. Dror Harari

      Krista, your speech (as expressed in your comment) looks to be like hate speech. You are defaming an important Canadian intellectual, researcher and teacher. You are mis-characterizing his opinions and are trying to silence him (letting him freely speak only in his private bathroom is silencing him).

      Should your speech be de-platformed from this web site? Why should it be you that determine what is hate speech? Who gave you the power?

      Rather than throwing empty insults, it would do you better to listen carefully to what Dr. Peterson have to say, then think about it and express your objections in an articulate fashion. If you are right, Dr. Peterson would not be de-platformed but his views will get marginalized. If you are wrong, it is your views that will be marginalized and you’ll have to think about them again.

    10. Bastien Veyne

      Krysta Flute,
      from the controversy Jordan Peterson got in, I used to believe he was an alt-right activist. I went to see what was his stand while keeping in mind this idea, and then realized he was not. Actually from comments of actual alt-right activist, the alt-right doesn’t like him, because he rejects identity politics, racial nationalism and supremacy, and spends a lot of time warning people against the dangers of excessive group mentality and ideologies. He’s an individualist to some extent, he wants people to judge others on an individual base, before looking at groups of appartenance such as race, religion, social status, etc…

      Because his main message is: whatever your identity, don’t be dumb and be responsible. He’s a liberal, in the true sense of the word. The only thing he has to nuance that, is that he thinks a lot of human behaviors are instinctive and that not everything is a social construct (a lot of things are, but a lot aren’t).

      He may be sceptical of some things you hold as progressive, that does not make him xenophobic. In order to progress we have to dissociate “ideas” and “people”, and for Islam for example, it is not exempt from criticism, because no culture on earth, nor in the whole history of mankind, is pure. Criticizing cultures is how we got rid of slavery, aristocracy and many other things, I am perfectly okay criticizing my own culture, because I don’t take it as a personal attack or rejection.

      I have yet to see what makes you call him an islamophobe, but I doubt it targeted and rejected people instead of ideas, because of how strong his opinion is on identity politics. That he rejects Muslim people as a whole would make no sense.

      But even if Peterson was alt-right (which, again, he isn’t), silencing him would not do the trick. The actual alt-right is already being silenced, and that gives them a sense of intellectual elitism, some even go as far as thinking of themselves as martyrs. In short, that the system silences them may make them less loud, but that gives them more legitimacy in their eyes, and that makes their ideas attractive to new people.
      If you think Peterson is wrong, debunk him in the eyes of everyone with civility, you will not convince all the audience but at least some of them, while making his ideas less legitimate overall.

      And if Trans people are feeling insecure because of the criticism of bill c16, we have to help them become stronger in order to take it. Weakness is not a personality trait, it is a handicap we all share and should fight against. They have it harder than cis people, but they are like them, people who should aim towards greater strength and responsibility for their own good and the good of people they care for.

    11. Hugh Connor

      Jordan Peterson is known for neither his transphobic nor islamaphobic views. This is a mystifyingly widespread fiction that has no basis in anything he has ever been recorded as saying or doing, created by people who have set themselves against him because he speaks against the form of society they might prefer. I find the Principal’s message a refreshingly robust response to exactly this sort of lazy-minded mischaracterisation.

    12. John Jirsch

      Krista, I know many of those who follow Peterson have alt right sympathies. I would certainly not say the majority, but there are a disturbing number. Any number is disturbing really. Peterson bases his knowledge, theory, discussion etc. on the traditional and well established teachings as opposed to trendy ones. That is where his learnings and material come from.
      Republicans in the states hear him talk about the Bible and their eyes go wide. Homophobes and anti-LGBT hear him rail against legislated free speech in the form of mandated use of transgender pronouns and they get interested. He is anti fascist. He is anti extremist. These people are cherry picking his opinions because they are, like SO many people nowadays, intellectually lazy.
      I implore you, do not hate this man. He just has a problem smiling. He thinks too much.

    13. VinsVins

      If you think that “criticism” is the same thing as “hate speech”, then you have a BIG problem. In your comment, you just assume what you may probably want to prove — namely, that Peterson is “a hate speech propagandist” (which shows me how little you know about Peterson’s view, or how much you have misunderstood it).

    14. Dione

      Those are your opinions and they are not universally shared. I don’t find Peterson to be any of those things, nor do many others. Further, I listen to opposing views, even when I find them slightly exaggerated, and counter to my values (such as now) …because that is what civil and democratic societies do. We consider and allow diverse opinions and not just the ones we have for ourselves. I am relieved there are still rational Universities who believe in dialogue and the debate of ideas and who do not give in to increasingly sensitive feelings. That said I think it is still incumbent on those sharing ideas to do so in a respectful way.

    15. MJ

      Krista Flute, I highly recommend that you read Dr. Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life: An Anecdote to Chaos. I understand that you are thinking that you are fighting alt-righters who are anti-humanists (i.e. islamophobic and anti-gay rights), but if you really want to argue your opponents, one of the biggest tactics is to understand your opponent. What better way to understand your opponent than to read what they have to say? That way you can frame your arguments against it.

      Look for the points that Peterson makes in his book about hating transgenders and Islamic people. That way you’ll have evidence to show that he is indeed a hater. Really read it. In fact, get your highlighter ready and you’re legal pad on the other side. And start taking notes from his 12 Rules. There’s a start for you.



    16. Ariella Waltman

      This is your opinion, and because Canada is a democracy you have the right to express your opinion to shine a light on his views that you disagree with, and debunk them

    17. Sarah10

      It is certainly reasonable to want to have a discussion over why the English language needs to be changed to accomodate a very small group within an already very small group of people. You offer no examples of anything Peterson has said that falls within what you deem hate speech. Perhaps you’re hearing what you want to hear?
      Ever growing alt right presence in Canada? Perhaps you have veered so far to the left that the middle seems so far away from anything you stand for. You are certainly not “liberal” for wanting to shut down reasonable debate. There are tons of people who think most of what Peterson says is absolutely reasonable, including this liberal.

    18. Scott Jones

      Krista Flute, your reasons are EXACTLY WHY he should speak. Listen to what he has to say, then in a reasonable and intelligent way respond to what he has to say. If you do it well, your argument will gain strength and followers.

      Good Luck with the debate. I look forward to your response to what Peterson has to say.

    19. ConcernedMinority

      Krista – I’m so sorry that you’re facing this onslaught of ill-informed criticism. I want you to know that some people recognize the intellectual laziness and hypocrisy of all of your critics as they “just hear what they want to hear” and don’t think critically about anything Peterson says that proves them wrong. The information is out there and it’s not the responsibility of minorities who feel betrayed by our school encouraging unqualified propagandists to come speak here to show you that. I’d also encourage anyone who wants to talk about hate speech, Bill C-16, etc. To actually research the law that you are trying to use to your advantage because I assure you the law is not on your side, and that is not an “opinion”.

      I have never been more ashamed to be an alumnus of Queen’s, and I was here for the MRA “debate” that resulted in female students being assaulted, the racist party, the sexism issues in certain faculties, and so on.

      If the school wants to waste time and resources on the above rather than inviting someone who actually knows what they’re talking about/would actually engage in a debate/wouldn’t make minorities feel incapable of or unsafe voicing their opinions, then this isn’t the school I thought I chose to come to. Don’t fall behind other universities that have acknowledged the lack of intellectual utility in having Peterson on their campus. Don’t let yourself become a punchline on the wrong side of history.

      1. JustTheFacts

        If you are going to attack Dr. Peterson please provide details and facts. Frankly I would love to hear an objective response to Dr Peterson.

        You refer to Dr. Peterson as an “unqualified propagandist” but fail to back up your comments with specifics. Dr. Peterson and his audience welcomes opposing points view; we demand an informed debate and not just the “answers” from a minority.

        Make your case beyond Straw man arguments and weasel words. I promise I will listen and learn.

    20. Linda

      Please substantiate your comments that Dr. Peterson is Islamophobic and Transphobic?? I’ve been following his journey with the compelled speech (and I agree 100% with his views) and have never heard him state those views. He is not alt-right and if the alt-right chooses to agree with him that is their decision. You and your fellow alt-lefts need to listen to the discussions if you have any hope in being listened to in return.

    21. Ameen Younis

      I’m sick and tired of leftists using the plight of minorities to support their ridiculous arguments.

      I’m a Muslim and I absolutely love Jordan Peterson. You say, “I fear what sort of dangers this brings to the lives of marginalized students…especially Muslim people’s.” You have absolutely no evidence for this ridiculous yet common leftist claim. You’re just pulling the race card to disguise your intellectual laziness, as leftists do.

  3. Hendrik Venter

    Krista, I disagree. Prof. Peterson’s statements and publications do not violate the provisions you cited. He does not advocate genocide or hatred of any identifiable group. From what I have seen, he is mainly concerned about the chilling effect on free expression of legislation and government action. I don’t agree with all his opinions or tactics, but I fully support his right to speak at Queen’s. Those who disagree should engage him in debate, not silence him by denying him this forum.

    Well done Principal Woolf and Dean Flanagan for supporting this event.

    1. bigcitylib

      You will invite him and he will talk lunatic sexist piffle, as he has done on several occasions before as for example when Monsanto invited him, and you will feel cheapened and suckered as you realize your free speech instincts have led you to be preyed upon by a alt-right conman.

      1. Sarah10

        Perhaps you should let people decide for themselves how they will feel instead of telling them what they’re going to feel.

  4. Louis Gagnon

    Dear Princial Woolf,

    I want to convey my thanks and my unqualified support for your statement on free speech. You are showing great leadership in an area where many of your counterparts from other universities across our country and beyond have failed miserably. I sincerely believe that your words of wisdom should be immortalized in a formal statement (Queen’s Statement of Freedom of Speech?) so that they may inspire people from our community and beyond to keep an open mind and be prepared to engage in constructive dialogue with opposing views.

    Best regards,

    Louis Gagnon

  5. Jay

    I’m proud of Queens for taking this well-reasoned point of view. Students can use their own free will to attend the speech by Prof. Peterson or not. We need to encourage debate – someone like Prof. Peterson, who is well-read and well-published, is someone we should shine a light on, not try to pretend he doesn’t exist. When I was a student at Queen’s, we discussed and debated speakers/topics far more controversial than those of Prof. Peterson – and us students were all better off for it.

    University is a place for discussion. Bravo, Queen’s.

  6. Steven Chants

    12 RULES FOR A HEALTHY SOCIETY (Inspired by Jordan Peterson’s YouTube Lectures.)

    1) Free speech for all citizens is the key foundational right of Western culture. To speak freely one must be able to risk being offensive to others with opposing views. We reject “forced speech” (i.e. mandatory use of gender-neutral pronouns, etc) by governments against the will of citizens who do not agree with the validity of these words. We regard legislated forced speech as the verbal equivalent of rape.

    2) We reject the radical Alt-Right notions advocating for racial purity, fascism, and anti-semitism.

    3) We reject the radical Alt-Left notions of cultural marxism based “identity politics” as a viable means of achieving social justice. Identity politics perpetuates an “us vs. them” mentality which aims to create polarization, division, animosity and ultimately hatred in society. We, therefore, deem the doctrines of identity politics to be a form of left-wing “hate speech” and advocate that it being called out as such. Accordingly, we reject narratives of “Privilege”, “Intersectionality”, “Patriarchy” etc. We note here that identity politics has proven to be a murderous ideology repeatedly throughout the twentieth century. (Witness Stalinist Russia and Maoist China among others with tens of millions dead.)

    4) We support “equality of opportunity” for all citizens. We do not support quota-based “equality of outcome”. (i.e. “equity”) This position is based on the rationale that the key institutions in our private and public sectors must be based on hierarchies of competence (not power) in order to function properly. These hierarchies must be free of government interference.

    5) We reject suggestions that masculinity is in any way “toxic” and seek to promote educational policies to encourage boys to cultivate and celebrate their masculinity for the benefit of society. We reject notions of rampant “rape culture” on university campuses and the underlying implication that all young men are inherently inclined to commit sexual assault.

    6) We reject “Third Wave Feminism” because of its union with identity politics. We unequivocally do support equal opportunity, rights, and responsibilities for both men and women in society.

    7) We reject social constructivism over biology. Notably, we reject the notion that there are more than two genders, that gender exists on a spectrum, or that gender is a social construct. Likewise, we reject the notion that there are no biological differences in the neurology of the brain between men and women . This statement does not imply that either gender is superior to the other.

    8) We recognize that transgender people exist and respect their rights and responsibilities within society. We seek legislation which will make it illegal to transition a child prior to the age of eighteen. This statement is based on the rationale that children are too susceptible to suggestion, social fads or the desires of activist adult authority figures while lacking the life experience and maturity necessary to make such a critical decision themselves. We reject any suggestion that this statement makes us “transphobic”.

    9) We believe that rights and social responsibility must be accepted by all individuals in equal measure for society to succeed. This includes both majority and minority groups without exception.

    10) We believe that the traditional nuclear family is the cornerstone of all healthy societies. We reject the notion that marriage is an “outdated patriarchal institution”. We believe that men and women should strive to cultivate successful marriages working as equal partners towards the common goal of supporting each other’s physical and mental health. We believe that such unions are the optimal arrangement for raising children to achieve their full potential. We accept the right of homosexuals to legally marry for those who do not seek an opposite-sex life partner.

    11) We call for the following changes at public universities:

    – All universities must be legally required to adopt the so-called “Chicago Principles” on free speech as a pre-requisite to receiving continued public taxpayer funding.
    – Severe funding penalties for those universities which fail to protect free speech on campus.
    – Immediate cessation of all programs at universities where the discipline advocates for identity politics based political indoctrination.
    – Elimination of mandatory funding for student unions by the forced collection of student union dues.
    – Elimination of “safe spaces”, “trigger warnings” and resources set aside specifically for the benefit of single group(s) of students based on racial, gender or ethnic background.

    12) We support the belief that all citizens should have the right to a fair trial and that anyone accused of a crime must be deemed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

    1. Devon Ull

      JBP is interesting, he defends free speech. But, I want to disagree with one of your propositions above because it is anti-science. Above you reject that gender is a spectrum. That is probably wrong, and you may be unaware of the biology associated with differentiation of the brain’s sexually dimorphic nucleus.
      Neurobiology Trivia: During first trimester, the sexually dimorphic nucleus (SDN) of the medial preoptic hypothalamus undergoes differentiation when testosterone {or converted estrogen} crosses the blood brain barrier, it acts on the SDN to change the pattern of dendritic connectivity to a masculine-pursue-reproduction pattern. Peripheral alpha-feto protein sequesters circulating estrogen in female embryos to prevent SDN differentiation (SDN default is female pattern). This developmental biology ensures a match between brain organization and XX / XY genitalia to foster heterosexual reproduction. Experimentally, manipulation of this biology in animals can be used to create female XX animals that behave with adult male reproductive pursuit traits; or to create male XY animals that behave with adult female receptive traits. Theoretically, in humans, an overproduction of estrogen in female embryos or an underproduction of testosterone in male embryos would produce corresponding mismatches between brain & genitalia. By this mechanism, a person’s libido and adult sexual behavior will correlate with the degree of dendritic arborization of the SDN and thus we may consider that sexual preference simply exists on a spectrum corresponding to SDN organization. This is relevant because any ideology (left or right) that attempts to deny the biological basis of human behavior is irrational and counterproductive in our technological society in which we all depend upon science daily.

      PS. A corollary hypothesis is postulated that the default non-arborized SDN organization would serve to produce receptive adult reproductive behavior, and possibly also a maternal behavior characterized by equal nurturing/protective behavior to promote survival of both male/female infants.

  7. Will Lawson

    I’m very proud of my alma mater today.

    Conflating islamaphobia or transphobia with criminal hate speech is a totalitarian way of shutting down differing views. I’m very happy to live in a society that allows us to openly question tenets of religious or civic life, and am dismayed by the ferocity and recklessness used when throwing around terms like “islamaphobic” or “transphobic”.

    Religious doctrine should be questioned without fear of antiquated blasphemy provisions (now meted out by accusation of islamaphobia). And our ability to question being compelled to use certain words/pronouns should be celebrated as a mark of a free society.

    Thank you Prof Wolfe for standing up to the oppressive bullies, and advocating for much-needed diversity of thought on campuses today.

  8. Dolores Greatamsky

    Krista, you claim Peterson is “-phobic”, so you should at least have the decency to provide any evidence supporting those assertions. Otherwise it’s just hearsay at best and slander at worst.

  9. Christopher Baker

    I agree wholeheartedly with Daniel Woolf’s astute interpretation of Canadian values and Queens mission statement. Dr. Peterson does not endorse or in any way reflect the behaviors he is commonly accused of representing by misguided and misinformed citizens of this or any other country. Perhaps his detractors would benefit from viewing his recent relaxed and in depth interview on “Under The Skin” Kindness vs Power with Russell Brand, in my opinion one of the most insightful interviews conducted with Dr. Peterson thus far.

  10. Dan

    When it comes to schooling, it’s never a bad decision to err on the side of free speech.

    I will never send my kids to any college that has a post modern leaning.

  11. Tom Hartley

    Ultimately the audience determines exactly what qualities as respectful speech, but increasingly all sorts of institutions and governing bodies are attempting to implement regulations regarding language use in specific settings. It is something we all need to talk about.

    Keep up the borderline inflammatory speech J.P.!

  12. Paul Cassidy

    Krista, I’ve listened to many many of Prof Peterson’s videos expressing his views.
    There is a lot I disagree with but his interests are not in condemning groups. He believes in individuals (their rights and responsibilities) over group identity, so he isn’t focused on Transgender people AS A GROUP or Muslims AS A GROUP. The Transgender issue only came up because of COMPELLED SPEECH. He won’t be compelled to say anything to ANYONE. And if you want to know why, he is strongly anti-fascism, Marxism, and enforced ideologies. And he’s sees compelled speech as step #1 on a slippery slope. Disagree if you like, but it’s not exactly the rationale of a hateful man. And that’s not exactly an unreasonable view, is it?
    It just so happened it (Bill C-16) was then applied to Transgender pronouns. It’s compelled pronouns he’s against, not Transgender people. Gasp!
    He’s interested in free speech and individual rights and responsibilities. He is against identity politics. So it is i ironic that YOU bring out the identity politics as the club to beat him.
    Also, ironically, you need to hear him talk so you actually hear what he says. You won’t agree with a lot of it but it’s not about hate. It’s about individual responsibility versus identity politics. And he makes you think. Gasp!

  13. sarina singh

    Anyone suggesting Dr. Peterson engages in or supports hate speech against any community is mistaken. Watch his videos, he is constantly warning people against extreme ideological positions on both the right and left. His concerns is and rightly should FREE SPEECH… infact we should all cherish this value because it is fast slipping away. Dr. Peterson is a remarkable human being who has devoted to his life to teaching people to make smart and responsible choices for the betterment of society and themselves. He is no hater as he is portrayed by some to be.

  14. John Cunningham

    Mr. Peterson has hundreds of hours of online video- I can’t claim to have more scratched the surface of this archive, but what I have watched could only be reasonably classified as alt-centre.
    He rejects the alt left stance of many Canadians through reason, logic and a profound understanding of research and statistics.
    I have not seen any instances where Mr Peterson has promoted hatred, he simply articulates his points and dismantles the false arguments of those who disagree with a level of skill and equanimity that exemplary.
    Leftist ideologs attacking with half truths, inaccurate studies and invalid statistics will continue to paint Mr Peterson as an extremist, but I encourage anyone to watch his YouTube videos and judge for yourself. Even if you are an extreme leftist, if you honestly and openly view his material, although you may not agree, but you will not find hatred, only well formed opinions.
    Great job supporting a reasoned presenter and your students’ right to hear a well formed opinion.

  15. Bryan Pfahl

    I hope that Principal Woolf will receive the appropriate accolades for this concise doctrine, a treatise on the proper values and culture of the university, the traditional intent of all institutions of higher learning. How can this even be questioned?

    However, I’m continually nonplussed by such comments as have been made here by Ms. Flute. There’s an odd disguise of intellectually constructed argument and ersatz morality, but a demonstration of almost complete ignorance of Dr. Peterson’s lectures, views, character, body of work, or direction. All appearances are that of a willfully blind determination to paradoxically sequester the ideas and values by which one is able to post ad hoc such ill-informed comments: “Allowing all of this freedom to speak about compelled speech is a threat to free speech and is a challenge to our compelled speech laws”…Sigh.

    No, I don’t believe the next step will be to allow “reasonable discussions of anti-blackness”, but the greater danger is in the censorship of what you don’t want to hear or you are unable to properly debate.

  16. Tyler

    Way to go Woolfy! This is exactly the stance I hope for in a university. Glad to see you & Queen’s are leading the stand for academic freedom and free speech on campuses.

  17. Michael McLaren

    There is nothing academic about Peterson’s arguments. To invite Peterson to speak on legal matters is paramount to inviting my chemistry professor to speak on matters of film analysis.
    I am extremely disappointed an invitation was extended to career provocateur (at least, his current and far more lucrative career, judging by information available about his crowdfunding efforts) whose appearance does nothing for the academic enrichment of the Queen’s community, and everything for the “Queen’s image,” in the eyes of a very specific demographic of potential donors.

    1. thisisatest

      Considering law and politics are core parts of our democratic society, raising your opinions and concerns regardless of your job is a crucial part of a functioning society, its the same mechanism that allows you to attend the talk and respectfully provide your position.

      The reality is that policy making is a multifaceted problem that requires and interdisciplinary approach to evaluation. Some of that includes evaluating the impacts that it might have on our psychology. Seeing as regulation of speech is a key tactic of oppressive political regimes and Dr Petersons research has to do with the psychology of belief and political authoritarianism he seems very qualified to speak. In the same way that George Orwell would be an appropriate speaker (despite just being a novelist) based on his critiques of what he coined as “Newspeak” in his book 1984.

    2. Fred Legace

      Considering that the Law Society of Upper Canada is engaging in compelled speech with the thought of lawyers and firms being required to make public statements that affirm a position they may not indeed hold personally. Regardless of right or wrong, that is compelled speech. Perhaps the invitation of Dr. Peterson is exactly what the faculty of law requires.

      1. Lisa Bildy

        Fred – Some lawyers are pushing back against the Law Society’s compelled speech requirement (aka loyalty pledge). See

        Congratulations to Queen’s for standing up for freedom of speech. It is the absolute bedrock of a civilized, democratic society, and we relinquish it at our peril.

    3. Depth Finder

      Peterson backs up his claims with provable facts, something his opponents never do. To attack his expertise as having no relevance in law is ridiculous, given the psychological nature of the laws of which he discusses. Further, Robbie Robertson was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Laws from Queen’s. Expertise hasn’t been what Queen’s is about since social justice took over there, a situation that Peterson intends to reverse and gets much support for. The skewed thinking of Peterson’s protesters is symptomatic of this problem, with many coming from the flailing and failing humanities departments, whose degrees now are intellectually worthless, however egotistically self-described by their holders. Literally, Peterson is trying to bring back debate and reason – isn’t that a cornerstone of law? Or are we that far gone already?

  18. Mike Gladkowski

    Having attended many of Dr. Peterson’s lectures and discussion groups, I can share that not only are allegations of hate speech (islamophobia, misogyny, etc) on his part untrue and unfounded, his lectures actively reduce the risk of an individual succumbing to polarization.

    This is exactly what is causing increasing anxiety among students and scholars, and the general public – that any opinion or discussion whatsoever, can be branded as ‘hate speech’ via subjective criteria and misinformed error, and perhaps subsequently criminalized. This is not fear mongering or hyperbole – that is exactly what appears to be beginning. In some cases allegations are so absurd they start to resemble a Monty Python skit.

    Sincere respect and gratitude to QueensU and the staff for supporting this event. In my experience Dr. Peterson’s lectures and discussions are improving the clarity of thought and soundness of mind of those listening.

    1. Sarah10

      “This is not fear mongering or hyperbole – that is exactly what appears to be beginning.”
      I couldn’t agree more. I’m happy more people are curious to hear what Dr. Peterson is actually saying rather than relying on what seems to be a concerted effort to paint a particular narrative. One has to wonder why so much effort is being made to quiet someone who isn’t alt anything but rather bases his arguments on sound logic, an extensive knowledge of history and of course psychology.
      Truly bizarre times we’re living in to have to justify someone like that simply wanting to have reasoned discussion.

  19. Matt Powell

    Principal Woolf: as an alumnus (Sci ’97) I very much appreciate your reassurances here about Queen’s. When I was a student there, I did not think about these things. I wish I had, but perhaps that’s youth for you. In retrospect I must say I am very grateful that the faculty at that time honoured these principles since, as a young person coming into the school with only basic thinking skills, I did not have the tools to know one way or the other. Now I think I do, thanks in no small part to Queen’s, its people, and your support. Good luck!

  20. Struan Hellier

    The worrying thing is that Krista Flute is not far from being right, but only in the limited sense that there are influential people trying to redefine reasonable debate as hate speech and that JBP has fought against this. It is imperative that these people fail in their aims, but we mustn’t underestimate the dangerous and insidious power of Krista’s argument.

    Well done Principal Woolf, though it is sad that these things even have to be said.

  21. Brian Smeenk

    While I am not a Queens grad, I echo the sentiments expressed by others that the Principal’s statement should make everyone associated with Queens proud. Nobody has done a better job of expressing the importance of informed debate and freedom of expression in a university environment. Would that all university leaders in North America were so wise and erudite.

    And as Krista and her friends will learn if they actually go to hear Professor Peterson with an open mind, rather than engaging in mob-like name calling such as has occurred elsewhere, they will find a similarly respectful (to all) and informed debater, whose primary concern (or one of them) is the lack of free expression and its antithesis: forced expression.

  22. Matt

    “Informed respectful debate is central to academia” – it’s shameful that such a statement could be construed as controversial. A sincere thank you, Mr. Woolf, for standing up for a value that is critical to the very idea of the university. Without it, we are truly lost.

  23. Tim

    Great work. However, I hope this isn’t too little too late. The Alt-Left has made huge advances in the last 6 years in silencing diversity of thought at universities. Nonetheless, keep on keepin’ on.

    1. Depth Finder

      If by “huge advances” you mean they’ve pulled more fire alarms and write fake email threats, I am in total agreement. It would be most wise of Queen’s to secretly film the fire alarms and to put the effort in to trace the emails. The Alt-Left has no qualms with making Noble Lies – they are actually being trained to do so, perhaps even right at Queen’s. And it’s no wonder they find their way into positions of power in the media, where propaganda is more easily spread and truth more readily skewed and silenced. Compelled speech is now forcing people to lie that they believe other people’s fantasies, or they face prison.

  24. Jed Bates

    Such a brave stance from the same Principle who publicly chastised the Rector for being critical of Israel in 2011. Bravo!

  25. Lorne Carmichael (emeritus)

    In light of the recent open letter opposing Jordan Peterson’s visit, let me add my name to the many who support open dialogue and free expression on the widest possible variety of topics.

    I was very pleased to see the vigour with which Principal Woolf was willing to defend the principles of free speech and academic freedom at Queen’s. These are good things, and good things are worth fighting for. The moment cannot be lost.

    It is idiotic to think that someone could be harmed by hearing what this man has to say. A great many already claim to have been profoundly helped. Let the man speak.

  26. Jay

    So proud of Golden Gaels for inviting Dr. Peterson and standing up to the misinformation out there regarding his position on just about anything. It’s sad a Dean would need to make a statement like this, it should be a given that this is what a University is all about. The open exchange of open ideas, But least Queen’s is taking the high and moral road here.

    Well done, you’ve made us all proud.

  27. pierrev

    Hats off, Principle Woolf.

    Its high time academic institutions stand up for the core principles of academic learning, instead of cow-towing to those few who believe that expressing an entitled sense of outrage, equates to making an actual contribution to solving complex social issues. Or worse, believe that their outrage alone is sufficient cause to shut down further discussion.

    Its a travesty to all things academic.

    This stance should not only be applauded, it deserves a standing ovation.

  28. Hal

    Bravo Dr. Woolf and Queens University for taking the stance that you have. I have never studied at Queens but my view of the university has just risen dramatically.

  29. Zoe

    You had me until the last paragraph. Libel aside, laws forbidding speech are wrong and anyone can claim speech is a sort likely to incite violence, as a pretext to ban it, which is one reason why the US Supreme Court got rid of that exception long ago. There is no law against emotion be it love, hate, depression whatever. Nor should there be any law against words written or spoken expressing emotion. If there were then Trump could have locked up half the USA by now for their hateful comments toward him. Harvey Weinstein’s could have sued millions. People who are forbidden from expressing negative emotion in words do not cease to feel that emotion – they bottle it up – and thus are far more likely to explode one day than those who are permitted to express it in words. So no. Your last paragraph’s exceptions are dead wrong.

  30. ThinGrayLine

    Very well said, would it be for anyone or for Jordan Peterson, freedom of expression must prevail. While I’ve already expressed support on twitter regarding this statement, I really felt the need to comment here after seeing the vile open letter defaming Jordan Peterson, signed by faculty members, that was sent to you this morning. It’s filled with blatant lies that can be easily debunked. Peterson is none of the things mentioned in that letter and has never incited violence or hatred, quite the contrary. Personally, I really appreciate Peterson for the thoughtful questions he often raises and the thought process he carefully presents. He teaches “How to think”. If anyone doesn’t like the conclusion he comes to regarding certain matters, presenting counter arguments and engaging in courteous debates is the way to go. I don’t know who are the signatories of that letter but they are in serious need of education, if not, professional mental care. Listen to him, watch his videos and read his books. None of the libels in the letter can be attributed to him by a rational person. Thank you for upholding, at Queen’s, a learning environment open to exchange of ideas, as any university should obviously do. Students and Canadians altogether will benefit greatly from this and I hope your statement will inspire other universities to follow your lead.

    With great respect,


  31. Captian Obvious

    It’s great to see a principal who actually has principals. Jordan Peterson is not a bigot for stating policed language is wrong. He at NO POINT has ever said anything bigotted. Those who believe otherwise have either never listened to what he had said or are doing what most snowflakes do when met with things they don’t like… calling them hateful terms in hope other ignorant sheep will listen to them and try and silence the person.

    The backlash for someone like Jordan Peterson who has NEVER said anything you bigoted… proves that social justice snowflakes have poisoned Queen’s just like they have all other Universities and proves exactly what Jordan Peterson is talking about.

  32. Rob

    Well said. Thanks for taking a position clearly, unequivocally and strongly enough in support of free expression that I am not left embarrassed to say I’m a Queen’s graduate. Your response here is far better than the wishy-washy and often downright repressive statements so commonly seen from the heads of other Universities recently.

  33. Alexander Cherry

    I am so happy as a first-year student to see Queens is one of the few educational settings that did back down on the rights of Everyone to speak at a post-secondary school. behave of myself, and many others at this school, Thank you, Daniel Woolf, for standing for everyone’s right to speak their academic thoughts and views; as it is one of the most important core value at not only a university but for a liberal democracy. Amazing Article!

  34. Nerd

    In response to the openletter against Jordan Peterson. Free speech should be everywhere and minorities should not be given special areas to remove themselves from that free speech. Voicing your view in public opens the topic for debate, or so you would hope people have learned from using Facebook, but there they have the right not to publish rhetoric that does not fit their opinion. Pandering does not educate or improve the situation. Facing issues, fostering mature actions/reactions, and accepting not everyone sees the world as you do puts us on the road to mature responsible intelligent adulthood.

  35. Hyman Rosen

    You can go read PZ Myers’s blog, Pharyngula, for a thorough debunking of why Jordan Peterson is stupidly wrong and incoherent about many of the things he says. (Myers is a university professor of biology, so he can expertly debunk just-so fables about lobsters, for example.) While that doesn’t mean that a heckler’s veto should be allowed to silence Peterson, if people use their freedom of speech to promote stupidly wrong and incoherent speakers, it devalues freedom of speech, much the same way that mass shootings devalue the right to bear arms.

    1. G Clark

      So you are saying that a ‘thorough debunking’ is the same as dismantling a ridiculous straw-man?

      Yes, PZ Meyers, Peterson argues that humans are exactly like lobsters. EXACTLY like them in every way! Bravo to PZ Meyers for debunking Peterson’s fallacious, hate-inducing and Crustaceo-phobic vitriol.

  36. CKLY

    Could not be more proud as an alumnus to have a principal that’s willing to stand up against the tyranny of those who seek to suppress freedom of expression

  37. Daniel Grant

    Recently, I sent the following email to the PM: “Dear Mr. Trudeau: At my Alma Mater, active & respectful listening has gone… & so has yours. By your very behaviour & actions, your mandating, instead of trusting Canadians & our free will, you are creating a society where violent reaction aimed at a person speaking the truth, is really their own reaction at not being able to speak theirs. You are attempting to make what you think is fair, into a playground where merit & ability is superseded by “fairness” rules, thus mediocrity. The behaviour of those students is the very issue that kickstarted Dr. Peterson’s movement. It was not about pronouns it was about government control, the loss of free will & the subjugation of merit & creativity.” What has happened to Queens? The very essence of your speech has been lost on your students. We both attended there concurrently, what kind of ideology are you promoting?

  38. Buzz Grant

    Yeah Daniel! Well said. Jordan Peterson is a refreshing, informed & articulate person badly needed in this time of identity labelling and intimidation by “mainstream” media and uninformed people.

  39. Michael Thiele

    I graduated from Queen’s Law in 1995. The law school brutally oppressed the expression of any thought that wasn’t consistent with the left wing agenda of the day. You did not dare argue or raise your head because a meeting with the Dean would eventually lead to involuntary departure if you didn’t see the error of your ways quickly enough. I have too many actual examples of how this nonsense turned my legal “education” into a joke including a professor who refused to teach certain legal tools because of the political correctness of the time. So imagine my extreme surprise and pleasure to read Dr. Woolf’s blog and see that it was actually the law school (with the support of the Dean no less) that brought Dr. Peterson to Queen’s. That Queen’s (especially the law school) now supports “free speech” was not always the case–I know that first hand. To current students, cherish your right to think about everything, express yourself and debate openly and passionately. Guard against those who would take these rights from you and don’t assume that what you have will always be there.

  40. Union Alarm

    Freedom of speech is the key to progress in any and every institution. I think the students should be given a platform where they can voice their concerns and have them be heard.

  41. Grant Shrimpton

    I’m am from half way around the world and felt quite emotional watching the Prof Peterson video at your University. The seige mentality raging outside the hall added gravity and evidence to the content being discussed inside. Prof Peterson attempted to speak in New Zealand with similar negative knee jerk reactions. One chain of book stores banned his 12 Rules best selling book.
    I commend you for having the courage to stand up for detailed intellectual discourse. There is nothing more important.


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