A secretly recorded audio clip reveals the interrogation of a Wilfrid Laurier University teaching assistant who came under fire last week for playing a debate video that featured scholar Jordan Peterson.
Lindsay 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.
This week, leaked audio from the investigation into her classroom conduct was published online. The National Post reports Shepherd’s supervising professor Nathan Rambukkana, professor Herbert Pimlott, and Adria Joel, manager of Gendered Violence Prevention and Support at Laurier, can be heard in the clip berating Shepherd for her decision to present the Peterson debate video without condemning Peterson’s perspective.
Rambukkana: Do you see how this is something that is not intellectually neutral, that is kind of “up for debate,” I mean this is the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Shepherd: But it is up for debate.
Rambukkana: You’re perfectly welcome to your own opinion, but when you’re bringing it into the context of the classroom that can become problematic, and that can become something that is, that creates an unsafe learning environment for students.
Shepherd: But when they leave the university they’re going to be exposed to these ideas, so I don’t see how I’m doing a disservice to the class by exposing them to ideas that are really out there. And I’m sorry I’m crying, I’m stressed out because this to me is so wrong, so wrong.
Rambukkana goes on to accuse Shepherd of violating Canadian Bill C-16, which prohibits discrimination based upon gender identity or expression. According to the National Post, playing the debate clip is not a violation of C-16.
“So the thing about this is, if you’re presenting something like this, you have to think about the kind of teaching climate that you’re creating,” Rambukkana continued. “And this is actually, these arguments are counter to the Canadian Human Rights Code. Even since … C-16, ever since this passed, it is discriminatory to be targeting someone due to their gender identity or gender expression.”
Raambukkana went on to accuse Shepherd of violating the Gendered and Sexual Violence Policy. In their article, the National Post claims that it is quite possible that Shepherd broke this policy as it is quite broad. Wilfrid Laurier University defines a violation of the policy as an “act or actions that reinforce gender inequalities resulting in physical, sexual, emotional, economic or mental harm.”
Rambukkana: Do you understand how what happened was contrary to, sorry Adria, what was the policy?
Joel: Gendered and Sexual Violence.
Rambukkana: — Gendered and Sexual Violence Policy. Do you understand how —
Shepherd: Sorry, what did I violate in that policy?
Joel: Um, so, gender-based violence, transphobia, in that policy. Causing harm, um, to trans students by, uh, bringing their identity as invalid. Their pronouns as invalid — potentially invalid.
Shepherd: So I caused harm?
Joel: — which is, under the Ontario Human Rights Code a protected thing so something that Laurier holds as a value.
Shepherd: Ok, so by proxy me showing a YouTube video I’m transphobic and I caused harm and violence? So be it. I can’t do anything to control that.
Rambukkana: Ok, so that’s not something that you have an issue with? The fact that that happened? Are you sorry that it happened?
Shepherd: I know in my heart, and I expressed to the class, that I’m not transphobic and if any of them — again, I don’t know what they said — but I don’t think I gave away any kind of political position of mine. I remained very neutral, and uh—
Rambukkana: —that’s kind of the problem.