Most of you know know about Lindsay Shepherd, the graduate student at Canada’s Wilfrid Laurier University (WLU) who was threatened by her advisor and her University for showing a short clip in class of Jordan Peterson’s views on using different pronouns for different genders. Her university has apologized, as has her advisor, but it created a big kerfuffle in Canada, with most people being outraged that she was treated so poorly and harassed so mercilessly. Fortunately, the facts came out because Shepherd was savvy enough to tape her inquisition and to take it to the press. She’s since been all over the media, and that, of course, has simply emphasized that the Termite Feast has reached Wilfrid Laurier.
But is she off the hook now? Not according to columnist Christie Blatchford at the National Post, who talked to Howard Levitt, a Toronto employment attorney who’s defending Shepherd pro bono. According to Levitt—and this has been widely reported—there was no formal complaint on record against Shepherd for her behavior in class. Here’s an interaction between Levitt and WLU’s lawyer, Rob Centa, hired by WLU to investigate the whole affair:
Levitt. . . wrote Rob Centa, the lawyer Laurier hired to conduct the investigation, last weekend, asking for the details of the complaint or complaints made against her.
In reply, Centa told him “I do not believe there is a document that contains a ‘complaint’ made about Ms. Shepherd nor is there anything I would describe as a formal complaint under any WLU policy.”
What’s disturbing, though, is that Centra claims his investigation is not about free speech or academic freedom, but about employment:
Centa also answered Levitt’s question about the terms of his mandate by saying it is an employment-related matter.
“It’s certainly ominous,” Levitt told the Post in a phone interview Wednesday. He said it sounds like the university is taking “a backend run” at her, and that he’s advising Shepherd not to meet Centa.
“I think it’s a trap,” Levitt said.
And Blatchford adds that Centa himself “says he has been ‘retained to an independent, confidential fact-finding exercise with respect to employment-related matters’ arising out of the Shepherd tutorials.”
If there wasn’t a complaint against Shepherd, then why did her inquisition take place? Blatchford adds this (“Robinson” is an associate professor at WLU and program coordinator of its “Human Rights and Human Diversity” program):
Yet with Centa saying there was no formal complaint, and the [WLU] policy saying only official complaints can generate an investigation, Robinson asks, “If there was an official complaint, why isn’t Lindsay being provided with a copy of it? And if there wasn’t … why is the university conducting an investigation of Lindsay’s tutorial at all?”
Levitt says he’s not before had a case quite like this. “This is the new age,” he said. “Political correctness is descending into all strata of society.”
Well, if someone’s employment is still under investigation, it better not be Shepherd’s—not after WLU and her advisor apologized for how she was treated. The “employment” should be that of the inquisitors: two professors as well as Adria Joel, WLU’s manager of Gendered Violence Prevention and Support.
I don’t think anybody should be fired over this, but the three inquisitors should be reprimanded and told how to act in cases like this. For if Lindsay Shepherd is fired as a teaching assistant, it would be to the eternal shame of Wilfrid Laurier University. And although it would make Shepherd even more of a free-speech hero, I think she’d prefer to keep her teaching job.