This is like a problematic idea that we might want to unpack

Ok there’s this: Laurier university starts independent probe after teaching assistant plays clip of gender debate.

Oh no, not clip of gender debate!! Say it isn’t so!

Lindsay Shepherd, a graduate student at Wilfrid Laurier University, said she ran afoul of school authorities after she aired a clip in two tutorials of a debate on gender-neutral pronouns featuring polarizing University of Toronto professor Jordan Peterson.

The excerpt from TVO’s current affairs program The Agenda shows Peterson, who has famously refused to use gender pronouns other than “he” or “she,” defending his position against a professor who argued it was necessary to use the pronouns that a person prefers to be called.

As I just mentioned the other day, I don’t see Peterson as a serious or interesting source, but that’s way beside the point here. Shepherd was doing a “here are examples of opposing points of view on this subject,” not a “here are two of my very favorite thinkers for you to admire.” Peterson is conspicuous for his views on gender and pronouns, so it would make sense to use him for one pole.

The excerpt from TVO’s current affairs program The Agenda shows Peterson, who has famously refused to use gender pronouns other than “he” or “she,” defending his position against a professor who argued it was necessary to use the pronouns that a person prefers to be called.

Shepherd said she was chastised by her superiors for failing to condemn Peterson’s remarks outright and told her neutral approach to the clip was tantamount to remaining neutral on other objectionable views such as those of Adolf Hitler.

The university would not confirm what was said to Shepherd, but said it had enlisted an unidentified “neutral third-party professional” to “gather the facts” of the situation.

Well guess what, there’s a recording, and excerpts from it have been published. (Shepherd is very clear and her inquisitors are farther away and much less clear, so I assume it’s Shepherd who both recorded the inquisition and gave it to the press.)

I urge listening to it. It’s a little over 9 minutes, and it’s deeply disgusting.

I transcribed some. Do listen, though, to get the full sanctimony and confidence of her torturers.

Man: “It is discriminatory to be targeting someone due to their gender identity or gender expression. So, bringing something like that up in class, not critically – and I understand that you’re trying to, like –

LS: “It was critical. I introduced it critically.”

Man: “How so?”

LS: “Like I said, it was in the spirit of debate.”

Man: “Ok. In the spirit of the debate is slightly different than being like, ok, this is like a problematic idea that we might want to unpack – “

LS: “But that’s taking sides.” [1:48]

[skip ahead]

Man: “You’re perfectly entitled to your own opinion, but when you’re bringing it into the context of the classroom, that can be problematic.” [3:02]

Woman: “Let me mention the gender violence, the gender and sexual violence policy…doesn’t mean just violence but that does include targeting folks based on gender, so that includes transphobia, biphobia, homophobia, all those sorts of things are protected under the policy.”

She doesn’t mean “protected,” obviously, she means the opposite.

It’s awful. Awful. She’s there alone and they’re accusing her of all this nonsense, full of smugness and disapproval.

Back to the Star:

For Shepherd, the incident has raised fundamental questions about the purpose of a post-secondary institution.

Silencing unpopular opinions is not true to the spirit of an institution that purports to encourage intellectual exploration, she said, adding that launching a third-party investigation only reinforces that impression.

“This was an opportunity for the university to be like ‘it’s true, we should be able to have a debate, we’re sorry it became an issue and we’re happy to foster debate in the university environment,’ ” she said. “Instead, they’re being weird about it.”

Shepherd said the lesson to her communications tutorial class was focusing on the complexities of grammar.

Shepherd said she was trying to demonstrate that the structure of a language can affect the society in which it is spoken in ways people might not anticipate. To illustrate her point, she said she mentioned that long-standing views on gender had probably been shaped by the gender-specific pronouns that are part of English’s fundamental grammatical structure.

The clip of Peterson debating sexual diversity scholar Nicholas Matte, she said, was meant to demonstrate ways in which the existence of gender-specific pronouns has caused controversy.

Shepherd said a student complained about the clip, which she showed to two tutorials of roughly 24 participants each. In response, she said, her supervisors censured her for airing the clips, told her she was “transphobic” for playing them and said she ought to have spoken out against the positions Peterson expressed during the excerpt.

They’ve told her she has to submit lesson plans and put up with people spying on her classes any time they feel like it. She’s strongly considering leaving.

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