Update, 21 November, 22:00: Wilfrid Laurier University’s President and Vice-Chancellor, as well as professor Nathan Rambukkana, apologised to teaching assistant Lindsay Shepherd in two open letters.

So, here’s what happened. Meet Lindsay Shepherd, a 22-year-old graduate student and teaching assistant at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Canada. In the context of teaching her students about pronouns, she showed a clip from a program broadcast by Ontario’s public broadcaster TVOntario, featuring professor Jordan Peterson articulating his views on the gender pronouns matter specifically, and the left-wing politicization of the Humanities in general. The full episode can be viewed here.

What unfolded subsequently, of course, did nothing but confirm Peterson’s claims about these faculties’ political climates.

After a complaint had allegedly been made, Shepherd was called in to discuss her ‘problematic’ use of the clip, by professor Nathan Rambukkana, professor Herbert Pimlott and Manager of Gendered Violence Prevention Adria Joel.

The full 43-minute conservation can be heard in the SoundCloud player below.

Criticism is focussed, as becomes clear from a recording she secretly made, firstly on one of the actors in the clip, Professor Jordan Peterson. Her supervising professor, Rambukkana, starts off by describing Peterson as being in league with the ‘Alt-Right’ and using fallacies to delegitimize him. Shepherd, after listening to the accusation, then asks him:

But, the thing is… can you shield people from those ideas? Am I supposed to comfort them and make sure they are insulated away from this? Is that what the point of this is? ‘Cause to me, that is so against what a university is about. So against it. I was not taking sides, I was presenting both arguments.

In response, she is told she needs to think about the teaching climate she is creating by showing a clip that was broadcast by a Canadian public broadcaster, and is later on accused of creating a ‘toxic’ climate by not, essentially, condemning the position taken by Peterson. All this, on the basis of complaints, apparently so confidential, that Shepherd isn’t told their substance, or even the amount of complaints.

Rambukkana (around 9:30 into the recording) accuses Peterson of ‘doxing’ critics and students, with the aim of getting death-treats sent to them and compares showing the clip to ‘uncritically’ showing a speech “by Hitler or Milo Yiannopoulos“.

A later segment of the discussion (starting around 22:00) has Shepherd being accused of breaking university policy, with Adria Joel, acting manager of the ‘Gendered Violence Prevention and Support‘ program, accusing her of being transphobic:

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. Like, do you understand how…’

Shepherd: ‘Sorry, what did I violate in that policy?’

Joel: ‘Uhm, so, gender-based violence, transphobia, in that policy. Causing harm, uhm, to trans students by, uh, bringing their identity as invalid. Or their pronouns as invalid…’

Rambukkana: ‘Or something…’

Joel: ‘Potentially invalid…’

Shepherd: ‘So I caused harm?’

Joel: ‘…which is, under the Ontario Human Rights Code a protected thing and also 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, like? 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… I don’t know, 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 uhm…’

Rambukkana:’That’s kind of the problem.'”

Rambukkana then continues by laying out the ground rules for using something shown on Canadian Public television (!) in class. Basically, it has to be framed as morally objectionable. Listen to the clip and hear a Canadian university professor misrepresenting Patreon (23:51) as a

site that funds Jordan Peterson (…) alt-right, white supremacist website that basically uses… that gets funding for these projects (…).

before explaining that, basically, everything that doesn’t agree with him, has to be labelled objectionable. To not morally condemn something, is to give the impression that those ideas are nurtured, according to Rambukkana. This is a university professor, who feels he has to talk down to his students and explain to them, what their opinion should be, and that this is the only way to not be transphobic.

Meanwhile, on Twitter, both Shepherd and Peterson have started commenting on the issue at hand, including an interview with the website Global.

The university, accused by Shepherd as organising a ‘Kangaroo court’ refused to comment. Here’s to hoping nobody ever shows that clip in a university classroom.