Amsterdam lecturers face death threats after criticising Canadian guest speaker

The University of Amsterdam

A number of lecturers at the University of Amsterdam received death threats after they called on the university's board to take a stand against Jordan Peterson, a controversial Canadian cultural critic, speaking at the university, NOS reports.

Discussion platform Room for Discussion invited Peterson to speak at a University of Amsterdam campus in the center of the city on Wednesday afternoon. The Canadian is known for his unambiguous criticism of political correctness and feminism. Opponents accuse him of propagating chauvinism, among other things.

The announcement of Peterson's speech caused quite the commotion. About a hundred university employees and a few student groups started a petition asking for an extra speaker in the discussion, in order to get a better balance. That request was ignored by the organization. 

A number of lecturers published an open letter in the Folia University magazine, calling on the Executive Board of the university to speak out against Peterson. "It is important that the University of Amsterdam is officially in arms against attempts to dehumanize members of our community", the lecturers said.

Five or six of them then received a threatening email. One posted it on Twitter. "You lot should all be TORTURED TO DEATH!!! You filthy left wing scumbags. You sick bag of deplorables. You are not worthy of the air you're breathing. I hope for ISIS to behead you. And there will be much rejoicing. We know where your house lives", the email reads.

The lecturer said on Twitter that she reported the email to the police, and received a response email in which the police said that "despite the threatening tone, no punishable threats were expressed in this mail".

A spokesperson for the police later told NOS that their response email was premature. "It is up to the public prosecutor to determine that. What we said in the letter is not correct." According to the spokesperson, the lecturer was contacted and advised to file charges. 

The University of Amsterdam called the threats "totally unacceptable", responding to the lecturer on Twitter. "We condemn such threats in the strongest terms. We regret that you and others have received this message and that the debate apparently leads to such polarization. At the same time we stand for free speech and diversity in our views."

Due to the controversy surrounding Peterson's speech, the University decided to only allow students and employees of the university to attend. The speech could be followed on Facebook via livestream and happened without incident.