News / Toronto

U of T faculty speak out against hate speech, threats on campus

Over 250 University of Toronto faculty members have signed a letter to the administration, condemning hate speech and threats to trans and black students.

Professor Deborah Cowen said a response from the faculty was

Contributed

Professor Deborah Cowen said a response from the faculty was "crucial."

Over 250 faculty members at the University of Toronto have signed a letter condemning hate speech and threats directed against black and trans students.

The letter is the latest in the saga of psychology professor Jordan Peterson, whose comments about transgender students have raised the ire of the university community.

Geography and planning professor Deborah Cowen is one of the professors who signed the letter. She said faculty have been trying to figure out a way to respond since the situation “erupted” earlier this fall.

Peterson has defended his comments as free speech, but in the wake of the controversy, several transgender and black students have reported receiving crude and violent messages on social media.

Cowen said some of her trans students have stopped attending classes out of a concern for safety.

These events have made campus feel unsafe and unwelcoming for some of the most creative and important members of our community,” she said.

Cowen added she deeply values academic freedom and freedom of speech, but said it shouldn’t be used as a cover for “hate speech.”

U of T spokesperson Althea Blackburn-Evans said the administration has not yet received the letter.

"But I can say that we don't tolerate racism or discrimination in any form on our campuses," she said, adding that this is well reflected in sever longstanding U of T policies.

The administration sent a mass email to students and staff last week condemning threats against the trans community. The university said it is working with police to monitor the situation.

Reached by phone, Peterson told Metro he “unreservedly condemn[s]” those making the threats, but said he will not apologize or retract his comments, including statements critical of efforts to amend the Human Rights Code to include protections for gender identity.

Professor Dina Georgis, undergraduate coordinator at the University of Toronto’s Women and Gender Studies Institute, said the university needs totake more of an interest, to care, not to wait for the next thing that happens and then they have to worry about their optics.”