The Corner

PC Culture

Lindsay Shepherd Is Suing Wilfrid Laurier University — Here’s Why

Lindsay Shepherd (The Mark Steyn Show via YouTube)

You may remember hearing about Lindsay Shepherd, a former Master’s student and teaching assistant at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. Well, she’s been back in the headlines this month after filing a lawsuit of $3.6 million against Nathan Rambukkana, Herbert Pimlott, Adria Joel, and Wilfrid Laurier University.

Shepherd came to international attention in November 2017 after she was interrogated by the aforementioned Laurier panel for showing her class a TV clip of a Jordan Peterson debate, as part of a discussion on grammar in Canadian society.

In the course of the interrogation — which Shepherd had the foresight to record and make public — Rambukkana likened Peterson to Hitler, lied by saying that a student complaint had been filed, and further suggested that Shepherd had violated Canada’s human-rights code. The incident became a global free-speech scandal. The university released several official statements, including open apologies to Shepherd.

The president of Wilfrid Laurier wrote, “Let me be clear by stating that Laurier is committed to the abiding principles of freedom of speech and freedom of expression. Giving life to these principles while respecting fundamentally important human rights and our institutional values of diversity and inclusion, is not a simple matter.”

Rambukkana also admitted wrongdoing. He wrote, “I believe you are right that making a space for controversial or oppositional views is important, and even essential to a university.” (Even essential!) He also wrote, “Maybe we ought to strive to reach across all of our multiple divisions to find points where we can discuss such issues, air multiple perspectives, and embrace the diversity of thought.” Maybe indeed.

But despite these statements, the university seemed not to have learned its lesson. Writing about Shepherd’s lawsuit in the Toronto Star, David Haskell, also a professor at the university who has defended Shepherd throughout her ordeal, explained:

Why then did Lindsay finally feel pushed to take legal action? Because the university allowed an internal action to proceed against her. And, upon threat of severe academic penalty, they forbade her to discuss the details publicly.

What can be said is that the action is a harassment complaint filed by a grad student in her program with ties to the faculty who have opposed her. Lindsay’s lawyer calls the claims in the suit “inherently incoherent” and suggests the university itself is acting in “bad faith,” given that it allowed the complaint to proceed even though coursework in the MA program has ended and Lindsay and the complainant are no longer on campus together.

Through this entire affair, Lindsay has tried to play by the “old” rules of the dignity culture. She bore the insults of others with a thick skin and was willing to fight her own battles. But with this last straw, she’s realized that to survive a contest with the university she must play by its rules, the new rules.

Jordan Peterson also thinks the university needs to be held accountable. With the same lawyer as Shepherd, Howard Levitt, he’s adding his own $1.5 million defamation lawsuit.

Levitt told National Review that “the University accepted a frivolous complaint against [Shepherd] by a student from the ‘rainbow coalition’ and advised her that she would be in trouble if she spoke about that complaint to others or tweeted it, etc.” Shepherd herself cannot discuss the grad student’s harassment claim for legal reasons. However, she told NR, “I didn’t want to [sue]. I really didn’t want to. I thought it’s going to look like I’m out for vengeance which I’m not. And I also don’t really care about the money.”

Shepherd says that if her suit is successful, she will donate money to the Society for Academic Freedom and Scholarship and to Heterodox Academy.

And here’s what’s so chilling about the entire affair: This was not some conservative student on her soapbox. Shepherd’s politics, such as they are, remain largely unknown. This was a moderate student who simply tried to live out the university’s objects according to its own mandates. She tried to practice academic freedom only to find out it didn’t apply to her.

It’s hard to decide which is worse about the ugly ideology so hell-bent on pursuing her — its viciousness or its hypocrisy.

Madeleine Kearns is a William F. Buckley Fellow in Political Journalism at the National Review Institute. She is from Glasgow, Scotland, and is a trained singer.

Most Popular

Sports

It’s Time for Colin Kaepernick to Move On

Colin Kaepernick. Remember him? Below-average quarterback. Above-average poseur. Not “activist,” not really. Activists actually say stuff. Kaepernick almost never says anything. He’s like the Queen or most popes — you have to read the deep-background musings of supposed members of his inner circle to get ... Read More
U.S.

What The 1619 Project Leaves Out

“The goal of The 1619 Project, a major initiative from The New York Times that this issue of the magazine inaugurates, is to reframe American history by considering what it would mean to regard 1619 as our nation’s birth year,” The New York Times Magazine editors declare. “Doing so requires us to place ... Read More
Elections

Trump and the Black Vote

"Donald Trump is a racist, white supremacist, white nationalist. So are his supporters." Some version of that refrain is heard almost hourly somewhere in mainstream media. Democratic politicians seem to proclaim it more often than that. Listening only to the Left, you'd conclude that more than half a ... Read More
PC Culture

Courage Is the Cure for Political Correctness

This might come as some surprise to observers of our campus culture wars, but there was a time, not long ago, when the situation in American higher education was much worse. There a wave of vicious campus activism aimed at silencing heterodox speakers, and it was typically empowered by a comprehensive regime of ... Read More
U.S.

The Age of Miscalculation

On August 7, 1998, more than 200 people were killed in terrorist attacks on U.S. embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya. Americans learned three names most of them never had heard before: Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden, and al-Qaeda. On August 20, 1998, President Bill Clinton ordered a ... Read More