The Cultural Revolution hits a Canadian university: grad student teacher bullied for promoting free discussion in her class

November 22, 2017 • 9:30 am

Wilfred Laurier University is a public university in Waterloo, Ontario, and has just become the target of international opprobrium after its persecution of a graduate teaching assistant became public this week. The teaching assistant, 22 year old Lindsay Shepherd, is now one of my heroes for standing up for the principles of free speech and pushing back against the bullying of her professors and the University who want Suppressed Speech.  Here she is:

Lindsay Shepherd. Photo by David Bebee

What happened? Well, as reported by several sources, including the Globe and Mail, Shepherd, a graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in cultural analysis and social theory, was teaching a tutorial on language to first year students when the subject of personal pronouns arose. As you may have heard, this year Canada passed a federal law that added “gender identity and gender expression” to the Canadian Human Rights Act (“Bill C-16″).  It’s not completely clear whether this law criminalizes those who refuse to use a person’s chosen pronoun—”him”, “her”, “zir”, “it”, “they”, and so on—but the paper reports that this seems likely, at least in one province:

 The Ontario Human Rights Commission states clearly on its website that refusing to refer to a person by their preferred name and pronoun “will likely be discrimination when it takes place in a social area covered by the Code, including employment, housing and services like education.”

I think it’s a matter of civility to use whatever pronoun a student wants.  But should one be forced to do that? Isn’t that a violation of freedom of speech? Well, repeated refusal to use a preferred pronoun seems to me to be harassment, and that shouldn’t be tolerated. Others may differ, and at any rate this matter is not an open and shut case.

The most famous opponent of the forced use of preferred pronouns is Jordan Peterson, a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto. As I’ve said before, he’s all over the Internet, but I haven’t had time to examine his views carefully; and what I have seen suggests that he’s both very smart and somewhat unhinged. Be that as it may, he engaged in a debate about pronoun usage and transgender people on Steve Paikin’s  “The Agenda” show last October.  Here’s the 54-minute video in which Peterson debates other people, including another professor from UT, Nicholas Matte from the Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies. You needn’t watch the whole show (I did soon after it aired), but if you have time I’d recommend it:

Shepherd apparently showed her students a three-minute clip from this show, featuring Peterson vs. Matte, to demonstrate the controversy about pronoun use. She herself claims that she’s on Matte’s side, but wanted to inspire discussion in her class. That seems fair enough.

But several students (who, of course, remained anonymous) complained to the University, and Shepherd was called in for a private shaming and criticism session by faculty and University officials. Fortunately, she was savvy enough to record the whole 43-minute interrogation on her computer rather than taking notes. You can find the full recording and some of the transcript at The National Post, but below is a 10-minute excerpt that gives an idea of what was going on. Shepherd’s interrogators/shamers were her own supervisor, professor Nathan Rambukkana; another professor, Herbert Pimlott; and Adria Joel, Laurer University’s manager of Gendered Violence Prevention and Support. Do listen to this ten minutes. Here’s a brief summary from the G&M:

During the interrogation, Ms. Shepherd is told repeatedly that she is guilty of spreading transphobia – in violation of the university’s policy and also, most likely, of Ontario’s human-rights code. At one point her supervisor, Nathan Rambukkana, compares her actions to endorsing white supremacy. “This is like neutrally playing a speech by Hitler,” he tells her.

What did Ms. Shepherd do? She played a three-minute video clip from a TV program that had been broadcast on TVO. It featured a debate over transgender pronouns. The role of Hitler was played by Jordan Peterson, the notorious University of Toronto professor who has thrown the entire academic world into conniption fits with his alleged hate thoughts. Among other things, Prof. Peterson argues that Ontario’s human-rights code could compel people to use non-gendered artificial pronouns – a position that Ms. Shepherd’s superiors at WLU evidently share. [JAC: Shepherd apparently agrees with them, too!]

Ms. Shepherd attempted to explain that she doesn’t even agree with Prof. Peterson. She simply used the clip to help frame a class discussion – an explanation that her interrogators ignored. When she asked which students had complained and how many, she was told that information was confidential. When she pointed out that the pronoun controversy has already been widely aired in public, she was told that some ideas are too “problematic” to be introduced into the classroom. When she voiced her opinion that universities should be places for debate, she was told that she’s created a toxic environment for students. When she said she had remained neutral and not tried to impose her own views, her supervisor, Prof. Rambukkana, told her, “That’s kind of part of the problem.”

You can hear this below.What a bunch of sanctimonious twits and bullies those three interrogators are! I’m so proud of Shepherd for standing up for herself in the face of these head-thumpers, even though she was brought to tears several times.

Here are the two professors who went after her:

Wilfrid Laurier University professors Nathan Rambukkana, left, and Herbert Pimlott, right. From National Post.

And here’s Adria Joel:

Now had Shepherd not recorded this session, and then decided to release it to the news, she undoubtedly would have been sanctioned, or even removed from teaching that class. But her interrogation was so nasty, so insensitive, so oblivious to the purposes of free discussion in a college education, that its release proved completely embarrassing for the university. There was a public uproar, and President and Vice-Chancellor Deborah MacLatchy was forced to issue a public apology to Shepherd. Fine, but the apology was hedged, for it includes this (my emphasis):

Through the media, we have now had the opportunity to hear the full recording of the meeting that took place at Wilfrid Laurier University.

After listening to this recording, an apology is in order. The conversation I heard does not reflect the values and practices to which Laurier aspires. I am sorry it occurred in the way that it did and I regret the impact it had on Lindsay Shepherd. I will convey my apology to her directly. Professor Rambukkana has also chosen to apologize to Lindsay Shepherd about the way the meeting was conducted.

I remain troubled by the way faculty, staff and students involved in this situation have been targeted with extreme vitriol. Supports are in place at the university to support them through this situation.

She’s troubled not just by how Shepherd was treated, but by the way “the faculty, staff, and students involved in this situation” were “targeted with extreme vitriol”. Well, they should have been! So long as they were criticized for their sniveling cowardice and snowflake-ness, as well for bullying Shepherd, and not threatened personally, vitriol is the appropriate response. What MacLatchy is trying to do is apologize to everybody so she doesn’t have to take a stand. Her cowardice is also reflected in what she’s doing to “fix” the situation:

The university has engaged an independent party to assess the facts of the matter including a review of related processes going forward. The review is intended to support improvement in our processes. The university is committed to ensuring that the vitally important role of Teaching Assistant supports an enriched learning environment for all students.

Let me be clear by stating that Laurier is committed to the abiding principles of freedom of speech and freedom of expression.

Yeah, right! They surely weren’t espousing those principles in the meeting with Shepherd. MacLatchy has also convened a “task force” to “delve into these issues.” Seriously? Why can’t she just adopt the University of Chicago’s free speech principles and be done with it?

Professor Rambukkana has also issued an apology to Shepherd, and it’s more or less the craven, insincere document you’d expect. All of a sudden he’s backed off hectoring of his own student and has completely rethought his principles—in only a few days. What really happened is that he’s simply embarrassed at being the butt of public anger.

I suppose all this has ended well, though I’m not keen on President MacLatchy’s blanket apology to everyone. What we see here, though, is what happens all the time in American and Canadian universities; we simply don’t know about it because it isn’t recorded. This is what happens in Title IX inquiries, where accusations and accusers remain anonymous and those accused aren’t allowed to confront the accusers or even have a lawyer. While the U.S. is succumbing to a lunatic, right-wing President, our universities are succumbing to a Regressive Leftism that gives lip service to free speech but suppresses it when such speech becomes ideologically inconvenient.

I’ll give the last word to Ms. Shepherd, and I wish her well. We have here a brave young woman who stands up for her principles under enormous pressure, and I hope she achieves great things. She seems to know more about what education is about than either of the bullying professors or the University President herself.

h/t: Merilee, Diana

198 thoughts on “The Cultural Revolution hits a Canadian university: grad student teacher bullied for promoting free discussion in her class

  1. Although Jerry doesn’t mention it, it seems that Shepherd recorded the meeting surreptitiously. You can’t do that in some United States, but can in others. But obviously this was a smart choice here: without the recording she’d be in a very different place. And I suspect that had the players known they were being recorded, a very different meeting would have taken place.

    1. I wonder if she feigned typing, because otherwise what reason would she have to sit there with her computer open. That would have made them suspicious.

      I don’t even know HOW to record on my laptop.

        1. That is, you do it unobserved (by such noble, courageous academics) prior to such a meeting, and then close the lid (and hid it in your bag – unless searched and confiscated by Big Academic Brother?), and it still works?

          What is it with these exquisitely offended students? If they walked into a restaurant/bar and saw such a televised debate (fat chance, vis-à-vis sports), would they sue the restaurant/bar?

        2. Never mind using a laptop – just engage record on your Smartphone and slip it into your pocket.

          Observers can even be left to assume that you are muting the phone to avoid having the meeting interrupted when in fact you are tapping the record button.

      1. I’m no lawyer but I think you can do it in the U.S. if in a public place, such as a classroom. Even attorney client privilege does not hold if in a public place.

        1. I don’t think that is correct, alas. You can record public meetings etc, but conversations are different in a few states.
          Worth noting: you can always record public officials acting in their capacity ie cops.

          1. Correct, but police might order you to stop recording and treat you like anyone else disobeying their command if you don’t comply.

            1. My attitude there is clear. The cop is breaking the law. I would stop recording after getting his name, and have him disciplined. Just getting the incident on his record, for next time, is a good thing.

        2. The US is split between one-party and two-party consent jurisdictions. Even in two-party consent states, it is usually not unlawful to record a non-consenting participant under circumstances where there is no reasonable expectation of privacy (e.g., in public spaces where others are present). Consult your local laws before recording!

          1. Without warrant from a court, “two-party consent” laws – where every party to a phone call or conversations must agree to the the recording, are in place in California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Washington. Hawaii has a one party consent law but it not in a private setting where it must be “two-party consent”.

            The Feds and the rest of the states are (without a warrant from a court) “one-party consent”, meaning only one person in a phone call or conversation, whether in public or private, needs to consent.

      2. Last year before the election I put my platform of low-hanging fruit on the web. One point was to allow single party consent recording (another was to make police body cameras ubiquitous).

      3. One-party consent is not an unalloyed good. The person who knows the conversation is being recorded can obviously steer it in directions detrimental to the other party. It may be necessary sometimes, but doesn’t really seem sporting, does it?

        1. No, but it isn’t often sporting to bully someone either. I’ve had to use it in the workplace when being harrassed.

  2. While I hardly trust Republicans do anything, it’s worth mentioning that if they wanted to poke a hole in regressive academia in a way that wasn’t an all-out assault on higher education, they could press for more administrative transparency as a condition of receiving federal funds.

    1. Yes, I could see them trying that. Particularly since the republicans are about as Transparent as a black wall. They do everything under the table… Even massive tax cuts for the rich.

      1. I fully admit it’s pie in the sky thinking, although I honestly don’t expect Dems would ever do any such thing either. But opening up private university correspondence to the public would be the best way to root out regressive fascism without damaging all higher education.

        1. I understand what you are getting at but it’s the wrong way to get there. Having the federal government withhold or threaten to withhold funds to force policy change by schools has a certain stink about it. And by the way, the republicans are the first in line to scream government interference.

          1. Except I didn’t say they should force them to make policy changes. I said they should make administrative correspondence public. Are you just reading what you want to read?

            If you think university admins need to be able to discuss certain things behind closed doors then make that argument. But it also means they’re free to drag TAs behind those same doors to bully and cajole them and we’re only ever going to hear about it when they’re clever enough to record the thing.

            1. You are spitting hairs without concentrating on my argument. You said the fed should withhold funds to get them to become transparent.. You can call that whatever you want. My point is – Withholding funds is not the way to do it. Do you understand that principal without jumping on what is policy change and what is something else?

              Try focusing on what I said about federal intrusion. That is my issue with your suggestion.

          2. “And by the way, the republicans are the first in line to scream government interference.”

            Yes, Republicans want to privatize as much as possible, so that we might be subjected to private tyranny (as Adam Smith described them) Masters of Mankind.

    2. Or require all universities that receive federal funds to adopt and enforce the University of Chicago’s free speech principles that Prof. Coyne references.

      1. I think we should pump our brakes a bit before requiring private universities to adopt speech regulations as a condition of the receipt of any federal funds. As much as I approve of the U of C speech guidelines and would like to see them disseminated broadly, you could be setting us on a slippery slope.

        1. I see the risk of excessive government intervention, but I hope people can distinguish between limitations on power (e.g. “Thou shalt not censor.”) and increases in power (“Though shalt ensure that 50% of faculty are registered Republicans.”). Supporting the Enlightenment values enshrined in the U.S. Constitution doesn’t seem like a slippery slope to me.

          1. The U of C free-expression principles are consistent, but not necessarily synonymous, with the First Amendment. In any event, I think the commonweal would best be served by allowing private universities some leeway to act as laboratories for formulating their own solutions to some of these issues. (Plus, I fear what might happen under the precedent of federal intervention if the worm turned in the wrong direction.)

            1. Requiring freedom of expression in return for federal funds seems only fair. Now that the FCC is reducing their internet regulations, that should free up Ajit Pai to oversee the regulation of communications on campus.

    3. Fortunately, the “all-out assault on higher education” is already in progress in places like Wisconsin. Half the professors are part of the climate change hoax or liberal fascists, so why not take away their money.

  3. Yesterday regular commenter Craw posted a link to a transcript. It was frightening to see what they are really after – in this regard they are intent on indoctrination not education.

    The only reason anyone there apologized is because they were caught. There will be no change in the way schools are run, except perhaps to bolster the rules they make to protect themselves from this happening again – I refer to them being caught. They will not stop training the next generation of Fascists.

  4. For a Finn, there’s a special reason to think of these battles as somewhat exotic.

    In the Finnish language the third person singular pronoun has always (well, for a thousand years at least) been “hän” for both sexes and all genders.

    1. Moi!
      I’ve mentioned more than once that there are languages (Finnish particularly) that exist perfectly comfortably without gendered pronouns. Or articles, for that matter.

        1. Finnish is one of my favorite languages. Tricky, to be sure, but it has its perks. Learning how to pronounce the alphabet and where to inflect will go a long way! Now, if only I could get my hands on some leipäjuusto, I’d be a happy camper.

          1. Darn! You both beat me to it. My Finnish is not especially good and I’ve lately been wondering why I picked it back up given there are only six million or so Finns. Well, now, it looks like Canadians will soon be speaking Finnish too so I can go up there to practice! What a clever way to colonize a country. The heck with all that invading and conquering territory business.

            Hyvää viikonloppua!

            1. Well, half of the Canucks speak French, where, of course, possessive pronouns reflect the gender of the thing possessed and NOT the gender of the owner. Thus it is impossible for them to be sexist. Though (as innumerable anguished learners of the language know only too well), it is very difficult to remember the genders of everything.

              (I just give up and call things ‘le’ or ‘la’ at random).

              I note that Polynesian languages also often don’t have gendered pronouns. My wife, who is fluent but not expert in English, also resorts to using “he” or “she” at random, with sometimes amusing results.


              1. Because Canada is officially bilingual, it is a common misconception that half off Canadians speak French. Only 20% of Canadians have French as their mother tongue, however.

  5. What a shame, and unfortunately Wilfrid Laurier University is not an exception.

    Note that in the TVO debate, prof. Matte stated that it is not correct that there is such a thing as biological sex, and this is supported by research in medicine (he teaches trans studies, therefore I doubt he can even appreciate what a scientific paper is). In 2017 one can state this kind of absurd falsities without causing hysterical unstoppable laughing.

    Also, Peterson was labelled as a fear monger and hate monger when he warned that bill C-16 and Ontario human rights codes would be weaponized exactly in the way you hear in the recording.

    1. Ya. I’m a tentative fan of Peterson for his courage (I disagree with him on many things and simply don’t have much time or interest for his religious views). His university told him there would be consequences and sure enough, there are consequences.

      There is a lot of pretending that there would be a “very high bar” for “violence” (this was said by Peterson’s debate opponent 1 year ago) but we see it dropped so casually. Merely stating opinions or even showing people who share the wrong opinions is advocating or committing violence. Absolutely insane.

      Of course, it’s also insane as you said that people can say sex isn’t a real thing on live TV and be taken seriously.

      Fun fact: When Gad Saad (and Peterson, others) went to the senate to contest C-16 back in ~April he was accused of being pro-genocide by one of the politicians there.

      1. I appreciated Peterson’s analysis on the implications of Bill C-16, the Ontario human rights code and the Canadian obsession for hate speech, but I consider him completely delusional when he starts talking about archetypes and religion. However many people on the left use the fact that he is obviously a religious conservative to call him alt-right and Nazi.

        My position is that I would trust a religious conservative like him to allow me to live in a free society, but I wouldn’t trust authoritarian progressives postmodernists like the three inquisitors here, despite the fact that they hide behind social justice and niceness to the oppressed.

        1. Yeah that pretty much sums up my views on him as well. I tried to understand what the hell he was trying to say on Sam Harris’s podcast and found it was difficult to follow. He certainly isn’t as clear a thinker as Sam that’s for sure.

          1. Indeed, when it comes to religion it seems to me that he has elaborated a pseudo-articulated nonsense to rationalize his need of the christian god. In that conversation with Sam Harris the only thing I could understand is that he came up with a self-serving redefinition of “true” that allows him to build his theological castle.

            Very smart, competent and articulated when he talks about his field, which of course doesn’t imply that he is always right. But as I said, he gives me the impression of having a fundamental appreciation and respect for freedom of speech, which makes him just an intellectually interesting individual to whom I often disagree, rather than an authoritarian buffoon that I fear would threaten my existence and the one of future generations.

      1. In the portion that I heard, they wouldn’t say exactly, and said something along the lines of “1 or multiple complaints…”

    1. In that ten minutes they dithered on this point though. It was not clear to me there was more than one – they kept saying things like, “one or more,” like they were protecting one student.

      For a group that is so worried about students being bullied, I thought it was appalling that this was a 3 against 1 situation. Shepherd is still a student herself.

      1. …they kept saying things like, “one or more,” like they were protecting one student.

        I noted that too, and agree that she was clearly being bullied.

        “I remained very neutral” “and that’s kinda the problem”


        1. I liked how Lindsay pressed them on this point, asking why the number of people who complained needs to be kept secret. It’s a great point, and the panel grilling her lost all credibility with me when they wouldn’t tell her. Really, it made me wonder whether anyone actually complained. If they became aware that she played a video that Dr. Peterson was in it would probably be enough for them to go after her (he’s so controversial here in Canada that control leftists get triggered just hearing his name).

  6. manager of Gendered Violence Prevention and Support

    Are we sure this didn’t come from the pages of Orwell’s 1984 and the thought police?

    This is very disturbing. I suggest Sheppard move on to somewhere else because her career wont advance with these lunatics.

  7. Since I already commented earlier on this I will mention another brave person with the guts to stand up. Recall a few months back when our great leader pronounced on Twitter that Transgenders would be banned from the Military. Well now a second U.S. District Judge has halted this ban. In the 50 plus page finding he said this:

    A capricious, arbitrary and unqualified tweet of new policy does not trump methodical and systematic review by military stakeholders qualified to understand the ramifications of policy charge. We can thank a few U.S. Judges for this country not becoming a total dictatorship by a vile, repulsive and nauseating president.

  8. But should one be forced to do that? Isn’t that a violation of freedom of speech?

    Here, south of the 49th parallel, one could no more be compelled to use a pronoun than one could be to take a loyalty oath, or to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, or to participate in the opening benediction at a public proceeding. It would be prohibited by the First Amendment under the “compelled speech” doctrine — which Wikipedia describes (rather euphoniously, I think) as “the contrapositive of protected speech.”

        1. I stand corrected, you two. As penance, next time the Blue Jays are in town, I promise to stand and sing “O Canada!” at the top of my lungs.

            1. It’s a railway station in London. Winston Churchill’s funeral train departed from there. There is a (doubtless apocryphal) story that Churchill himself had specified the arrangements because “Then de Gaulle will have to salute me at Waterloo”.


              1. @Ken

                Yes, probably seen from the adjacent Waterloo Bridge across the ‘dirty old river’ – the Thames. ‘Waterloo Underground’ is Waterloo Underground station a.k.a. the ‘Tube’, adjacent to the main line station.


  9. Apparently Lindsay will be on Dave Rubin’s show – I know a lot of people on this site don’t like him – but this may be worth watching.

    I’m glad that the various national news outlets have taken on this story.

    BTW, there is a much better University here in Waterloo just down the road 🙂

    1. That should make the people shut up who say that Rubin interviews only alt-righters, but it won’t. He interviewed me, after all! Oh yes, I forgot that I’m now an alt-righter and white supremacist to some Leftist morons.

      1. That’s okay – the leader of BLM here said that Justin Trudeau is a white supremacist too so you’re in good company.

      2. The “Culture War” narrative is rubbish, but when I recall correctly, Dave Rubin (and certainly many of his guests) are cultivating it themselves. Under that narrative, he is overwhelmingly one-sided.

        Once that is in place, the two sides are the Regressives or often “The Left” as a whole versus a smooth gamut that goes from “Classic Liberals” via trolls and Kekistanis straight to the Very Far Right. This is unfortunately true, especially on YouTube.

        The narrative is wrong, but not many speak out against it. It serves both the CTRL Left and the Alt Right, which became the “focus” and prototype of each “side”, with strong polarisation drawing people into their respective community.

        It arguably follows a template established already in Sokal’s day against him, when Andrew Ross et al declared that realism was a Right Wing epistemology, and leftists proper were postmodern relativists like himself and his magazine. Sokal objected to this narrative strongly (and correctly).

        Unfortunately, “realist leftists” (I’d put us and many readers in that camp) are too silent. Most candidates react to the narrative not by challenging it, but tend to distance themselves from “the Left”.

        1. The “Culture War” narrative is rubbish, but when I recall correctly, Dave Rubin (and certainly many of his guests) are cultivating it themselves. Under that narrative, he is overwhelmingly one-sided.

          This is very common in right wing media: focus on the ugly fringes of “the left” and suggest it is characteristic – liberalism is Middlebury students physically attacking Charles Murray.

  10. After listening to the recording, my impression of the meeting is that the professors through force of numbers and their supposed wisdom tried to convince Shepherd that she was doing something wrong in that an unspecified number of anonymous students felt “unsafe” in her class. Shepherd did not give an inch and as the meeting progressed the professors became more desperate in trying to undermine her arguments. I got the feeling (and its nothing more than that) that some of these professors were simply going through the motions in presenting their reasons why what she did was supposedly toxic. Do they really believe the blathering nonsense they were spouting?

    1. I felt the same. They expected her to buckle with the bullying 3 versus 1 situation where all three have more power. When she didn’t, they couldn’t really give her any reasons why she was wrong. It is shocking that one even reverted to the Hitler Defence – aka the Defence of the Defeated.

      I personally think we should use a person’s preferred pronoun once we’re informed of it, and constant refusal to do so is ignorant, harassment, and bullying imo. But it’s a new issue for lots of people and needs discussion.

      The class discussion was about using “they” as a singular pronoun, so the class should be aware of the arguments of people who refuse to, or don’t want to, do that. Playing the video was entirely appropriate in the context of the tutorial.

      1. I disagree that not using a preferred pronoun is harassment. In a personal conversation I use the persons name or a variation of you.
        In a conversation about a third person where pronoun use would be common, it’s a descriptor of an individual between two or more people. You don’t get to tell anyone how to refer to you when talking to other people.

      2. “I personally think we should use a person’s preferred pronoun once we’re informed of it, and constant refusal to do so is ignorant, harassment, and bullying imo.”

        Fine. Then the person should be congenially willing to wear a nametag to that effect, as opposed to expecting anyone to memorize it.

        1. YES!!!!

          Speaking as someone who is not good at remembering people’s names, even, how the hell am I expected to remember their preferred pronoun? Should I also be expected to remember their nationality, religious affiliation and sign of the zodiac? All of those things are just as relevant to their identity.


      3. “…we should use a person’s preferred pronoun once we’re informed of it, and constant refusal to do so is ignorant, harassment and bullying imo.”
        I ‘dunno’ on two levels:
        One could -and I do- argue that one should not be forced to use phantasy pronouns like ‘zis’ or ‘zip’ or whatever (that would be bullying). If not ‘he’ or ‘she’, an ‘it’ should suffice 😆.
        The second level is more of a dilemma. If I have to call Caster Semenya ‘she’, I’m forced to endorse the position the IAAF has taken, which I do not. Is not choosing ‘gender’ over biological sex necessarily bullying or harassment?

      4. “I personally think we should use a person’s preferred pronoun once we’re informed of it, and constant refusal to do so is ignorant, harassment, and bullying imo.”

        Yes, me too. But I also wonder if it is really such a good idea to assume that making up arbitrary personal pronouns is the best way forward?

        Perhaps have a committee of linguistics experts work on a proposal for a simple neutral amendment to language that everyone could (potentially) agree on and progressively adopt of their own free will over time?

        As it stands, it is hard not to suspect that part of the goal is to have a complex unpredictable set of rules that can never be completely known, so as to cause strife / misunderstanding / entrapment which can then be exploited for political power play and to oppress others who don’t travel to work on the same ideological bus.

        The issue regarding Bill C-16 is not anything to do with pronouns or discrimination, it is a very badly written law straight out of an Orwellian nightmare.

        1. I admit I find all the made up personal pronouns a bit much, and it’s not something I’ve ever come across in my personal life. When I wrote that I was thinking of whether someone wanted to be he, she, or it, which is what I’ve experienced with friends and colleagues. Continuing to refer to someone as he when they want to be a woman and called she is, imo, pretty nasty.

          And it’s not like most of us know very many trans people, and it’s not hard to remember someone wants to be known as she from now on. I don’t see what the big deal is myself. They’re still the same person you’ve always known and whether they’re nice, nasty etc doesn’t change.

    2. Do they really believe the blathering nonsense they were spouting?

      I don’t know, but I’ll bet there’s a significant subset that don’t, and it comes down to tribal affiliation and retaining their job.

      Which group is more loathsome, the true believers or the tribalists? My gut is the latter.

      1. Tribal affiliation, I agree, is detestable (in this context). Retaining ones job, on the other hand, is a far more complex issue.

        Personally, I choose to loathe the ‘true believers’ more. Mostly a reaction to the mindset that somehow gives a pass to all sorts of nastiness if it’s a ‘sincerely held belief’. To steal a phratse from Hitch, fuck that.


  11. “Well, repeated refusal to use a preferred pronoun seems to me to be harassment, and that shouldn’t be tolerated”

    Everyone please take note;
    my preferred pronoun is “Your Majesty”.

    1. I’ve yet to run into this situation, but following your lead, I would say that if someone insisted that I refer to them by a specific pronoun that I find silly, I will respond by saying “Certainly, and you can refer to me as M’Lord or Master.”

    2. Sorry, Eric, but we’re looking for THIRD person pronouns, so you’ll have to choose between “His Majesty” or “Her Majesty” and now we’re back to square one.

      “Zher Majesty?”

  12. The bright side of all this is this is a young person who opposes the totalitarian behaviour of the Left and the alumni stood by her, threatening to withdraw funding so a large group of people oppose this sort of behaviour. Sadly, I suspect many are not on the Left.

    1. I read through a lot of the Twitter replies she received. Some were obviously from far right libertarians and similar, and read as if they were Peterson fans.

  13. Well, repeated refusal to use a preferred pronoun seems to me to be harassment, and that shouldn’t be tolerated.

    Did you really mean this? This seems to me an extreme and deeply illiberal statement.

    If person ‘Z’ insists that other people refer to him/her/it in the third person with the pronoun “zir”, a repeated refusal to use that non-existent word constitutes harassment?

    All of these people, without exception, are addressed with the same personal pronouns – ‘you”, “your”, and a few other variations that depend on context (that fact that these pronoun people keep using the word “address” incorrectly is a peeve of mine).

    What these illiberal types are trying to do is control how people refer to someone, in the third person, in conversations with someone else.

    That’s not just a violation of free speech. It’s an attempt to compel specific speech. No one has such a right, and to suggest otherwise, as you seem to be doing in the quote above, constitutes a promotion of totalitarianism.

    If I were the kind of person who didn’t believe transsexualism was a thing (which I’m not), and I insisted on referring to people with the pronoun appropriate to the sex they were born with, that would make me rude at worst. It would never, ever, constitute harassment.

    1. I have a transgender friend, and she wants to be accepted as a women, thus I find it hard to believe that most transgender people care about this made up pronouns.

      I think this comes from the socalled “Nonbinary, genderfluid” crowd.
      I do not believe this has much to do with actual transgender people.

      1. There are people who would insist on referring to her as he. If someone continually did that in a work situation, I would consider that harassment or bullying, depending on how it was done.

    2. Yes. It may not be illegal, and I haven’t thought about that. But if a transgender woman, say, wants to be called “her,” and a professor calls her “him” repeatedly as a form of belittlement, I think that might be seen as harassment. It certainly creates a hostile environment for the transgender student.

      1. That’s not the real point of contention though. (Peterson has said in such a situation he would use ‘her’ to be courteous. His objection is to being forced, not to choosing to use the words.) Can I force you to say ‘zer’, ‘wer’, or any word I choose? I hope your memory is good! My reductio, posted in a comment here, is to demand the usual first person pronouns. You must refer to me as “I” or “me” and my ideas as “my” ideas. That demand is enforceable under these laws and regulations.

      2. Transgender people make a huge effort to look like the gender they transitioned too, and I agree that one should respect that and thus use the appropriate he/she pronoun.

        However the point is that the movement behind Bill 16 argue that gender is a social construct (in the debate Nicholas Matte argued that biological sex does not exist) and that people can on an ad-hoc basis choose their gender pronoun, hence the term “gender fluid”.

        What Peterson objected to is that people can take offence if someone do not use absurd and arbitray pronouns like Ve, Ne, Spivak, Xe etc which typically comes from the postmodernist types who claim to be Gender Queer, Gender Fluid, androsexual, demiromantic, bicurious, two-spirit etc – you get the point.

        It has nothing to do with transgender people who identify with being make or female and where normal pronouns like he/she apply.

        1. “Transgender people make a huge effort to look like the gender they transitioned too,”

          Well, if they’re doing that, then it’s easy enough to remember which pronoun to use, their request/demand is superfluous.

          Where I’d refuse is if they demand that I use (and remember) a non-obvious pronoun. I usually try to be polite but I just can’t be arsed to remember some arbitrary term of their invention.


  14. I have encountered a couple of people who asked me to use their own personal pronouns and I will say I was like you, Dr PCCE, in that I was civil. In the one or two instances where I had to use the pronoun they wanted, I did. But I did it with the same amount of respect for their mental health as I would if they asked to be called Napoleon Bonaparte.

    In future, if asked, I will try to be civil and address them as they wish. But I will say that if someone insists on me using their own special pronouns, I’d probably treat them like they think they are Bonaparte. The insistence on plural or sexless pronouns (in English, anyway) is a kind of mental illness and it does not deserve any more -or less- respect than any other form.

              1. Oy! I was born in Hastings! (And my name isn’t Harold. Or William).

                Don’t you oppress me!

                (I’m not sure how I’m being oppressed, but – feelz).


          1. Wasn’t it Kitchener that used to be named Berlin? (I should know this since I live here). We do have a decent Oktoberfest here by the way.

            1. I think it was Waterloo County. Not sure if Waterloo the city was distinct from Kitchener back then or not.

  15. When she pointed out that the pronoun controversy has already been widely aired in public, she was told that some ideas are too “problematic” to be introduced into the classroom.

    Jesus H, that’s backasswards! If there’s any place where one should expand one’s horizons, where everything should be on the table — where no ideas are verboten, and none de rigueur — it’s on campus during one’s college years. If not there and then, where and when?

  16. Sometime after the three minute mark, the man tells her that she’s entitled to her own opinion, BUT… (and goes on to say that she can present only their opinion).

    1. And the video ends with her saying that she remained neutral, and the man replying, “That’s kind of the problem” (perhaps an unfair edit – anyone know what he said next?).

      1. One would hope he fell silent, having realized the monumental stupidity of his statement. One also doubts that is the case.

  17. My preferred pronouns are ‘I’, ‘me’, ‘my’.

    Now think this through. When you wish to refer to Craw in the nominative you MUST, on pain of law, use the word “I”. In object cases you must use “me”, and refer to what is Craw’s as “my”.

    So I, Craw, say “I think Trump is peachy keen.” You must refer to my belief by sayin something like “I believes Trump is peachy keen” or ‘My opinion is that Trump is peachy keen.”

  18. Section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms says that:

    Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms . . . (b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication . . . .

    Unfotunately, Section 1 says it:

    guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.

    And that is an exception big enough to drive a truck through. Free speech as long as most people support it. Few nations have had the courage that the Founding Fathers did when they crafted the First Amendment. Most (all?) other democracies are really free on sufferance.

        1. I wasn’t aware of that. I see it now:

          33. (1) Parliament or the legislature of a province may expressly declare in an Act of Parliament or of the legislature, as the case may be, that the Act or a provision thereof shall operate notwithstanding a provision included in section 2 or sections 7 to 15 of this Charter.

          Where sections 2 and 7-15 are the ones that define individual freedoms and legal rights. Quel dommage.

    1. This, IIRC, was added to the Constitution when Pierre Trudeau brought it home in 1982. It was controversial at the time. I can’t recall why it was put in there now.

      1. In the sausage making the “not withstanding” clause was a concession Trudeau made to appease several provinces, including Quebec. Quebec has invoked the clause often. Saskatchewan just did, to keep funding RC schools.

    1. I’ve seen quite a few Peterson videos – I can’t think of any where he appeared unhinged. Passionate, absolutely, but not unhinged.

    2. There are a couple of clips where he does appear to be a bit of a raving looney at first glance.

      And the Sam Harris talk on the nature of truth and reality seems bizarre and confusing.

      Yet, now that I am making progress working my way through his online lectures, I think part of that impression is down to it being difficult to express a significant body of underlying ideas (that are not commonly known to the average listener) in very few sentences.

      To get where he is coming from takes a fair amount of listening effort, but a lot of it is very rewarding.

      I think it is fairly clear when he is being scientific, expressing psychological concepts that have reasonable (but unprovable) utility/validity and merely speculating.

      Contrary to rumour, his bible talks are (so far) from a secular psychological and metaphorical perspective with comparison to other ancient texts.

      He seems to reject (as naïve) both the idea of the bible as literal history and the idea that it is simply made up nonsense and fairy tales.

      His ideas might even account (in part) for why some people find ancient religious texts so compelling and believe them to be “the word of God” (awe inspired by unarticulated sub-conscious recognition of universal metaphorical truths that may have some underlying biological basis in fact).

      I also think much of the anger and passion expressed in some videos towards the post-modernists/neo-Marxists/Ctrl-Left is justifiable, not just on his own terms, but in a way that is fully backed by the publications, social media posts, media articles and publications of the Ctrl-Left; plus material downloaded from official education bodies, policies enacted at Google, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

      Once you delve deeper into these matters it is very hard not to be alarmed and angry. I’ve now seen stuff that has kept me awake at night for weeks at a stretch. Most people have yet to scratch the surface.

      1. And Lindsay Sheperd should file a complaint for bullying and creation of a toxic work environment. Let them taste their authoritarian medicine.

  19. … the U.S. is succumbing to a lunatic, right-wing President, our universities are succumbing to a Regressive Leftism …

    Resist both with every fiber! (But let us not lose sight of which poses the imminent, existential threat, to ourselves and to our allies.)

    1. Amen to that. The regressive left will grow up or join the real world and change. The lunatic only goes when forced, preferably in handcuffs.

        1. Well, when the little kids get out of college and join the workforce I think they adjust. I cannot speak for those who stay in the school forever. Look at all of us of a certain age and what we were doing in the 60s. That did not last and neither will this.

          1. Depends on what you mean by things “lasting”. I would suggest that a great many of today’s religious-right seniors had a nice grounding in the Jesus Freak movement, which began among the 60’s Hippies. The people running today’s universities were trained by those of us who of that “certain age” from the 60’s. I think we’re all still awash with ripples and waves from those days.

          2. Yeah, maybe this is just a passing college-kid fancy, like streaking, or eating goldfish, or cramming into a phone booth, or wearing white bucks or a raccoon coat. At least, isn’t it pretty to think so?

    2. It’s not just universities succumbing to regressive leftism. I’d say it reflects the current zeitgeist of the left, including true believers, well-meaning but naive PC liberals, and grifters looking to capitalize.

  20. I think it was Jonathan Heidt who said that this “conversation” was something between Orwell and Kafka. I couldn’t agree more, but also a bit of inquisition, I would add, with a taste of the Stalinist fake trials.
    I am seriously thinking that someone has to write a novel or a play based on one of this absurd stories we read and hear. Something like “The Trial” by Kafka, but with all this SJW crazyness in mind. I fear, however, that it would be difficult to tell whether it would be a work of fiction or non fiction.

    1. Someone did. See Philip Roth’s The Human Stain (2000).

      Unfortunately, things have gotten even worse on campus since.

  21. Folks,

    Check out that video of the “infamous” Jordan Peterson debate, at 28:50. The Host asks one of Peterson’s opponents, the transgender studies professor, to clarify his position on having accused Peterson of “abusing” students by not using the preferred pronoun.

    The exchange that follows between this fellow and Peterson couldn’t prove Peterson’s point more vividly, validated the very alarm bell Peterson was ringing in that discussion.

  22. This is like neutrally playing a speech by Hitler

    I could totally imagine playing a speech by Hitler neutrally in a class, especially in a discussion class about Nazi ideology. I wouldn’t want to pollute the students thoughts with my own biases (which are against Nazi-ism, in case anybody was thinking of calling me a fascist).

    1. Exactly my thought on reading that line. Not only can I imagine it, I think it would be stupid not to do just that.

      I’m sure these professors would be completely against any discussion of Nazi ideology in a college classroom in the first place, let alone an entire course on it. They seem to think we must rewrite history in order to protect future generations.

  23. What impresses me is how apt this pronoun war was to the point Shepard was trying bring out. This was a tutorial section for a first-year communications course “was trying to demonstrate that the structure of a language can impact the society in which its spoken in ways people might not anticipate. To illustrate her point, she said … that long-standing views on gender had likely been shaped by the gender-specific pronouns that are part of English’s fundamental grammatical structure. [quoted at Ophelia Benson’s blog B&W]

    Of course, this is not a new idea. Take Mark Twain on “The Awful German Language” —

    “To continue with the German genders: a tree is male, its buds are female, its leaves are neuter; horses are sexless, dogs are male, cats are female — tomcats included, of course; a person’s mouth, neck, bosom, elbows, fingers, nails, feet, and body are of the male sex, and his head is male or neuter according to the word selected to signify it, and not according to the sex of the individual who wears it — for in Germany all the women either male heads or sexless ones; a person’s nose, lips, shoulders, breast, hands, and toes are of the female sex; and his hair, ears, eyes, chin, legs, knees, heart, and conscience haven’t any sex at all. The inventor of the language probably got what he knew about a conscience from hearsay.”

    1. I’ve always gotten a kick out of Twain’s comment that “[w]hen a German dives into a sentence, you won’t see him again until he emerges at the other end with the verb between his teeth.”

      1. Love the Twain quote! Being a real-time interpreter of German ( at the UN or such) much be quite the challenge. I’d probably forget what the subject was before the speaker got to the verb.

  24. “Well, repeated refusal to use a preferred pronoun seems to me to be harassment, and that shouldn’t be tolerated. ”

    Using the requested “he/she”, OK, but ze, hir? Sorry, that’s ridiculous. You cede too much power to random individuals if you allow them to enforce their idiosyncratic preferences on you.

    I actually don’t see much point in gendered pronouns anyway. Why don’t we have different pronouns to describe hair color?

  25. It’s not completely clear whether this law criminalizes those who refuse to use a person’s chosen pronoun—”him”, “her”, “zir”, “it”, “they”, and so on

    I don’t know the details of this law but it sure sounds like a trainwreck. What happens when people raised in this bubble go outside the bubble? The rest of the world is going to sound savage and insulting to them.

  26. For all the alleged “fear mongering” done by Peterson, here is an entertaining video taking an excerpt of his debate from 1 year ago (where his lawyer opponent says there is a “very high bar” for violence) followed by an excerpt from the interrogation showing how easily violence is called upon as the problem at hand.

  27. Listening to this triggers so many emotions! I thought Canada was the sane North American country. Sad to see that it shares some of our problems, though not Trump. It is also clear that, in the minds of her accusers, making students feel uncomfortable trumps everything. Finally, it makes me glad that my formal education is in my rear view mirror.

    1. Canada is the nice couple living in the apartment upstairs from the biker’s clubhouse where they cook meth in the bathtub. It’s a lovely, commodious apartment, with great views of the provincial parks from the wrap-around porch, but the heating and hot water are spotty in the winter. And the racket coming from below is atrocious.

      1. The racket is becoming unbearable! Please keep it down a bit. It’s hard to think up here. Plus it’s cold and I have no hot water.

  28. Any of us can insist on certain language or behaviors by others if they want to interact with us. None of those interacting are required to do what is insisted. If I want to be considerate, I may use the preferred verbiage. If I object to it, I don’t have to continue the conversation or remain in the presence of the other person. The person insisting can also terminate contact if I won’t accede to their requirement. It is also possible to use other terminology if discussed and agreed upon. “My way or the highway” is not the only solution.

    Remember the old saying: “You can call me anything you want, but don’t call me late for dinner.”

  29. “This is like neutrally playing a speech by Hitler,” he tells her.

    Which professors should feel free to do, in the appropriate class setting.

    In fact, this is very important for liberalism. It would play right into the hands of holocaust deniers and history revisionists to never reach or watch Hitler’s actual speeches. Because then nobody could ever point out that yes, he did say those things. And yes, he did write those things.

    The same is true here (albeit to a less important and less offensive extent). Its very important that the opinions of those who oppose civil rights be heard directly, so we can hold their feet to the fire when they lie about it later. So that we can show fence-sitters that no, this is not some minor difference from a nice guy, this is an actual and direct attack on the rights of actual people.

    1. Honestly, I thought about that fellow’s statement and looking back, I think I was free to read all about Hitler in university without a professor making a judgement or comment. I guess all my professors were Nazis.

      1. I recall an event sometime around 1990… A neighbor was visiting (she had young kids, we had young kids) and became alarmed when she saw a copy of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William Shirer. Looking back on it… she was completing her PhD in the English Department. I suppose she’s running a department somewhere now, protecting the students from exposure to history books.

        1. I think my friend had to read Mein Kampf as part of a history course. You realize what a doofus Hitler really was when you read that.

          I was exposed to all of that stuff at an early age and through my education. Maybe I’m a Nazi/White Supremacist without knowing now.

    2. ” “This is like neutrally playing a speech by Hitler,” he tells her.

      Which professors should feel free to do, in the appropriate class setting.”

      After all, the History Channel does it ad nauseam.


  30. She herself claims that she’s on Matte’s side, but wanted to inspire discussion in her class.

    AFAICT, Shepherd has only said she believes it’s fine to use ‘they’ in the singular.

    Matte accused Peterson of committing “violence” against trans people, and claims that ‘misgendering’ ultimately kills people.

  31. I’d have to dig it up, but Peterson (for what it is worth, IMO it is irrelevant) is wrong that this “compels speech” from a legal perspective.

    As for the Nazi thing, years ago some students (like me) and faculty (Bunge, for one) worried that a McGill historian of philosophy wasn’t giving proper historical context when he taught Heidegger. Sometime after I left, he started using parts of _Triumph of the Will_ as part of the remediation of this. I wonder what *that* would do these days?

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