A lecturer at Wilfred Laurier University is facing an investigation after she showed a clip in class of University of Toronto Professor Jordan Peterson speaking on the issue of transgender politics.
Lindsey Shepherd, a graduate student and teaching assistant at Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario, is facing an investigation over her decision to show her class a television debate on laws acknowledging the unique gender pronouns of transgender persons. In the clip, Peterson takes on two panelists who defend legal punishments for those who refuse to comply with unique gender pronouns.
Shepherd told Canadian news outlets that she was chastised by her superiors at Wilfrid Laurier for refusing to condemn Peterson’s remarks in the clip. She claims that the administrators that chastised her compared her decision to present the clip without taking a stance against Peterson was akin to remaining neutral on historical figures like Adolph Hitler.
Shepherd claims that she showed the video to illustrate a point about the impact of language on society. She argued that societal views on gender have been shaped by the English language in a significant way. “This was an opportunity for the university to be like ‘it’s true, we should be able to have a debate, we’re sorry it became an issue and we’re happy to foster debate in the university environment,”‘ Shepherd said. “Instead, they’re being weird about it.”
Despite Shepherd’s claims, Laurier claims that they protect academic freedom for instructors. “Laurier is committed to fostering a learning environment that is open and challenging, protects academic freedom and freedom of expression, as well as being welcoming, supportive and respectful of human rights,” Laurier’s statement read.
Noa Mendelsohn Aviv, acting executive director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, argued that bigots have co-opted “freedom of expression” on campuses to advance their causes even though historically speech rights have been used to win freedoms for the oppressed.
“There are plenty of bigots, white supremacists, neo-nazis who have claimed ‘freedom of expression’ for themselves and have made it difficult for people who value equality to say that ‘this is an important tool for democracy that we also hold dear,” she said. “Anybody who knows anything about the history of the struggle for freedom knows that those freedoms have been won through … debate, through the expression of unpopular opinion.”
Peterson rose to public awareness in September 2016 over his condemnation of Canadian Bill C-16 which would have made it illegal to refuse to acknowledge the unique pronouns of transgender individuals.