The newest controversy to take place on a university campus has ended in an apology from the university. This is an important victory for the champions of free expression and free inquiry on campus, as it shows that postmodernist activist/administrators are not always able to hide behind university policies and wait for the fast-moving news cycle to direct the forgetful public eye away from their activities.
The events, in a nutshell;
- Lindsay Shepherd, a graduate student and teaching assistant at Wilfred Laurier University, showed a clip of a debate on genderless pronouns featuring Jordan Peterson in a class she was teaching. This debate had aired on a public Canadian station, and was widely known to have occurred. A “lively, but friendly” class discussion ensued.
- Following the class, a student complained to the university administration that they felt uncomfortable.
- In response, Lindsay was called into a meeting with two professors and an employee of Laurier’s “Gendered Violence Prevention and Support” program. After the Orwell/Kafka-inspired group attacked her character, implied she broke the law, and reduced her to tears, she was then sanctioned by her supervising professor. She was instructed to clear all of her lesson plans with him before each class, and was told that university officials may be sitting in on future classes.
- Lindsay recorded the meeting, which made its way to national media and set off a firestorm of criticism.
- In an unprecedented turn of events, Laurier issued an official apology to Lindsay.
It’s not rare that this happened; it’s rare that Wilfred Laurier University apologized.
Yale. Harvard. Evergreen State College. University of Toronto. Claremont McKenna College. Middlebury College. Reed College. McMaster University. UC Berkeley. University of Washington. The list of postsecondary institutions that have tolerated the suppression of free speech goes on, and on, and on.
What makes the situation with Lindsay Shepherd so significant is that the university issued an apology, and issued one FAST. In many of the above cases, it’s been students disrupting guest lectures and protesting academics, not professors and administrators intimidating people within the university. These situations happen often, but this is the first time it’s been recorded for public consumption.
Lessons to learn from Lindsay’s situation:
Postmodernists are cowards; they operate behind closed doors and in mobs
For people who claim to care a lot about power dynamics in society, postmodernist activists sure like to use power to their advantage. It took two university professors and a university administrator to talk with Lindsay about her teaching practices and insist that she was being transphobic and “problematic”.
Even though it must have been incredibly nerve-wracking for Lindsay to be in that situation, she held her ground and had the presence of mind to record the multiple ways in which her advisory group (read: interrogation panel) attempted to guilt, shame, and intimidate her into apologizing.
These people are weak individually, and even in groups they’re intellectually feeble. Don’t be intimidated by them.
Bad university policies cannot survive public scrutiny
As I said in a previous article, the only thing a university can be reliably trusted to care about is their institutional reputation. If something that happens on campus poses a significant-enough threat to a university’s public standing, they will take steps to fix it.
In Lindsay’s case, she was awarded an apology from both Wilfred Laurier and one of the professors who spent almost an hour intimidating her. Make no mistake; this has more to do with public relations than doing the right thing. Laurier’s strategy is to get this issue out of the public consciousness as soon as possible, and then do as little as possible while hoping next year’s enrollment won’t be affected.
At least Lindsay has been vindicated, both in the public eye and by Wilfred Laurier’s leadership. That’s a big win, and hopefully she can rest easier knowing that she can teach her lessons without supervision from now on.
Also read: How can we hold university administrators accountable for abandoning intellectual diversity?